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By Doug McGraw
Jan 14, 2014

Kicking around some job opportunities. To those who live or have spent lots of time near the black hills: pros and cons? Is there year round climbing if you're psyched? How is the potential for hard trad (say 5.13 and up)? Pretty good climbing community? Gym anywhere? There's a job covering Fort Meade (near Sturgis) and Hot Springs. What are some nice places to live? Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.


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By Andrew Gram
Administrator
From Salt Lake City, UT
Jan 14, 2014
Andrew Gram

I grew up in Rapid City, and go back every year or two to visit family. Haven't lived there full time since the mid 90s though, so others may have a better read on the place.

You can almost always climb year round except during a few storms. There is a bit of ice and mixed climbing too.

There is a ton of potential for bold hard trad lines, and quite a few exist in the 5.12 range. There aren't many pure crack climbs around except at Raspberry Rocks and Devils Tower up in WY. There is quite a bit of hard 5.13 and up sport in Spearfish Canyon, Rushmore, and other areas cropping up around the hills. Tons of potential if you are psyched.

Rapid City is the main city in the area, and is a pretty nice place. Bouldering right in town, and good limestone very nearby. The smaller towns tend to be tourist traps, so Rapid is the only place I would really consider living. Very cheap cost of living.

Pros:

Great unique rock climbing. Rushmore/the Needles are great unique granite, Spearfish Canyon and a bunch of other areas are good limestone, Devils Tower is close with terrific crack climbing. Some ice in the winter, great bouldering at Rushmore, the Needles, and some sandstone escarpments near Rapid City.

Great mountain biking.
Good fly fishing.
Good x country skiing.
Cheap cost of living.
The school system is surprisingly good.
For a small town, the restaurant and bar scene is Rapid is pretty good.

Cons:

Small town not close to anywhere else.
Flights are expensive and a bit inconvenient, and Denver is a long drive.
The ski resorts are small and not very good.
The politics are extremely conservative - on the nutty side(can be a good thing too i guess depending on your leanings).
Very touristy during the summer.


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By Doug McGraw
Jan 14, 2014

Thanks, Andrew -incredibly helpful!


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By D.Buffum
Jan 15, 2014
Orgasm Direct, Devil's Lake, 5.11a  c. 2008

To me, it is very important to know and understand the community where I live. If I were moving to Rapid City, I would want to know about the neighboring communities. Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is adjacent. It is one of the most impoverished areas of the United States:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pine_Ridge_Indian_Reservation


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By Brent Larsen
From Spearfish, SD
Jan 15, 2014
EBM, 5.11a <br />Sunshine Wall, Spearfish Canyon. <br />South Dakota.

I lived in the Black Hills for most of my life and graduated high school here. Like most kids I thought the small town life sucked and needed to get away. I spent a decade away from home, moved back, and realized how much of a gem this part of the world is. Climbing year round is definitely possible on both limestone and granite. It seems that very difficult climbing is becoming the norm thanks to the visions of some very progressive, young people who are putting up lines that were once unimaginable. For the most part South Dakota has a lot of friendly people, albeit it could be argued that our society and cultural values (in general) tend to be very conservative. I can't speak for everyone but don't expect much in terms of culture that doesn't revolve around cowboys and the merits of rural living. We are not Colorado. Plan on spending a lot of time at home watching TV during the evenings since the night life in most towns is nonexistent (especially in winter time) unless you like to line dance or go bowling. Opportunities to see really good live music are almost nonexistent as well. Plan a trip to Red Rocks if you need a good concert. Spring climbing tends to be awesome but watch for thunderstorms. Fishing can be off the hook in the spring and early summer but mountain bikers have a definite mud season at this time. The real climbing and outdoor magic starts mid to late June and stays awesome till the middle of august. About this time the heat begins to become unbearable and the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally traffic really starts to become irritating. The locals tend to flee to other states so they may escape the August tourist take over. After the motorcycles leave SENDTEMBER is climbing heaven and fall is spectacular until the snow flies in November and you are back to using snowshoes. Our climbing community is full of solid people. Our climbing gyms are below average but the cure for that is bouldering at Baldy. I've lived other places and any town in the Black Hills area (Rapid City included) tends to be great for people like me who make just enough money to be broke. No one I know makes jack squat for money but our low cost of living makes it possible to make a dollar stretch a long way. I appreciate living in Spearfish because it has a college town vibe and has a higher concentration of people who are not "normal" for South Dakota. I'd be wary about living in Hot Springs if the V.A. goes away that place will become a ghost town. Sturgis is a nice town but has less culture and character than Spearfish or Rapid City. Good luck and get a hold of me. I'm the guy with the BBQ and a lot of extra hot dogs and hamburgers at Poverty Gulch.


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By ERolls
From Custer, SD
Jan 15, 2014
Devils Tower Summit

I'll vouch for everything Brent has said. I will add that if you lose or quit the job you're thinking about you will end up with min. wage or looking to move.(not a lot of options here) I'm self employed and make about a third of what I can get almost anywhere else.

IMO, living in SD is not a career, culinary or entertainment choice but more of a laidback outdoor lifestyle choice. YMMV

-E


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By Andrew Gram
Administrator
From Salt Lake City, UT
Jan 16, 2014
Andrew Gram

D.Buffum wrote:
To me, it is very important to know and understand the community where I live. If I were moving to Rapid City, I would want to know about the neighboring communities. Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is adjacent. It is one of the most impoverished areas of the United States: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pine_Ridge_Indian_Reservation


Pine Ridge is adjacent to Rapid City in the sense that it is located in the same state. Making a decision about living in Rapid based on Pine Ridge would be along the lines of making a decision about living in New Paltz because of the projects in the South Bronx. The historical and current treatment of Native Americans and their land is a sad and shameful story everywhere in the country. In places like South Dakota, the story is much more visible because not all of the Native Americans have been wiped out or forcibly removed from the area like in most of the rest of the country.

D.Buffum - you might note that the only county in Wisconsin(Menominee) that is all reservation land makes the top 50 poorest counties in the United States list, and is not much further from Madison than Wounded Knee is from Rapid City.


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By Steve Levin
From Boulder, CO
Jan 16, 2014
Sundevil Chimney, Titan

I'm an enthusiastic visitor to the Black Hills. There is a grand variety of rock climbing, the locals are welcoming and talented, and what a beautiful place. Maybe avoid it in August when it's motorcycle high season, but the rest of the summer it's such a nice break from the Colorado Front Range mania.


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By rgold
From Poughkeepsie, NY
Jan 16, 2014
The traverse out to the Yellow Ridge on the Dogstick Ridge link-up.  Photo by Myriam Bouchard

I'm surprised to hear that August is so bad. I and quite a few others spent 2 or more weeks in the Needles every August for ten years or so. The two times I was there in June the weather was much worse.


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By Jeff House
From rapid city sd
Jan 16, 2014
Wind river range 2013

Just moved here from Mn a few weeks ago. Brent hit the nail on the head it seems.


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By Mark Orsag
Jan 16, 2014

I spend a lot of time up there in the summers but would defer to people like Brent Larsen and Andrew Gram (whose knowledge of Hills climbing clearly exceeds mine). But I might have a few things to add... On the 5.13 trad issue, I'm not sure. I'm in early my fifties and a sport climber. I have climbed 5.10 in the Hills and 5.11 elsewhere on my best days, so I don't go looking for what would be world-class trad climbing-- nonetheless, the amount of rock out there in the Hills is INFINITE. Areas that require any amount of hiking are almost always undeveloped, and I know that there is at least one unsent line in the Rushmore area that would probably meet your criteria. The gym situation isn't great. There is a small bouldering gym with some worthwhile thought-provoking lines at the Rapid City Athletic Club that change regularly-- bring a pad because their floor is not forgiving ( my back found that out the hard way last November). My father-in law is a resident at the VA in Hot Springs; last I heard, they were NOT moving that sprawling facility to Rapid City as was initially planned-- so no "ghost town worries" in the near future.


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By Mark Orsag
Jan 16, 2014

I would also say that Rapid City has improved as a town in the last decade and become a bit more Colorado-like... you can find yoga, some nice shops, and at least one really good Indian restaurant. Still some limits as Brent noted... but nothing in life is perfect.


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By Tim McCabe
Jan 16, 2014

Only a couple of things to add, I lived in Custer and Hill City as well as Poverty Gulch back in the 90's.

Spring can be wet around the Needles, Rushmore but that's perfect weather at the Tower for the most part.

The Sturgis Rally lasted for about 3 weeks back then, people showing up early and then some who stay late. It's the roar of Harely's for 22 hours a day. As has been pointed out it's a dirt poor area so the Rally is a huge deal, influx of cash, and the area would be hard pressed to live with out it.


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By Brent Kertzman
From Black Hills, SD
Jan 16, 2014

I myself am a fourth generation western South Dakotoan who has moved away and come back several times. This place can be kind of backwards and quirky at times. Likewise things are ultra conservative here. The pace of life here is kind of slow. Rapid City has become a bit more of a rat race in recent years. The job market here can be quite dismal. The cost of living here is really not that low. Real estate and rentals keep going up in price. Retailers quite often take advantage of a lack of competion and inflate prices here. You can be in Denver within six hours to get your big city fix and shopping.

There is a lot of opportunity for hard trad routes all over in the greater Harney Range, not just at Raspberry Rocks or Devils Tower. The weather is quite un-predictable here but many years you can climb year round. Some years we have winter and others not so much. Some years it just rains and rains and rains. Lately we seem to suffer multiple day wind storms (prairie hurricanes). There is a pretty solid climbing community that welcomes humble new comers. It is quite easy to find solitude and not have to wait in line for routes here. There is great diversity in the number of routes and styles of climbing this area has to offer.

Overall this is not a bad place to settle down and call home.


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