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South Dakota  

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Cathedral Spires from the north.


South Dakota may not be the first place that comes to mind for world class climbing, but few places are blessed with the amount of varied and classic climbing present in the Black Hills. The Needles in the southern hills is host to runout face climbing on impressively skinny spires, the largest of which can be 3-4 pitches long. Mt Rushmore is home to hundreds of well protected sport routes, and perhaps has the best concentration of memorable, high quality 5.6-5.9 sport routes on earth. Old Baldy near Mt Rushmore is the premier bouldering area in the hills - spectacular enough to inspire Kurt Smith's film: Friction Addiction: Black Hills Gold.

Moving north, the granite fades away to limestone canyons and the odd chunks of sandstone. Falling Rock near Rapid City provides a nice pump on vertical edgy limestone. The Rock Maze along Nemo Road has juggy steep sandstone bouldering, and few crowds. Rapid City sports good bouldering and toproping on sandstone outcrops in the center of town. There is also Victoria Canyon, just minutes outside Rapid City on Sheridan Lake Road; which hosts impressive limestone sport climbing.

The crown jewel of the northern hills is Spearfish Canyon, which has a huge concentration of high quality sport routes in the 5.10 - 5.13 range in a lovely canyon. In the winter, Spearfish Canyon has a number of good ice climbing routes as well.

And lastly, just over the state line in Wyoming is the iconic, monolith, Devil's Tower.

Climbing Season

For the All Locations area.

Weather station 10.0 miles from here

2,283 Total Routes

['4 Stars',415],['3 Stars',1057],['2 Stars',564],['1 Star',182],['Bomb',10]

The Classics

Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for South Dakota:
Sprire Four   5.4 4a 12 IV 10 VD 3c     Trad, 2 pitches, 210'   Cathedral Spires : Spire Four
Second Hand Rose Arete   5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b     Sport, 1 pitch, 155'   South Seas : Hornets Nest
Weird Water   5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b     Trad, Sport, 1 pitch, 140'   Marker : Middle Marker
Gossamer   5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b     Trad, Sport, 1 pitch, 40'   Monster : Picture Window
Conn Diagonal   5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b     Trad, 3 pitches, 300'   Outlets : Outer Outlet
Needle's Eye   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c X     Trad, 2 pitches, 100'   Needles Eye : Needle's Eye
Star Dancer   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Sport, 1 pitch, 100'   Marker : Middle Marker
Waste Knot    5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Sport, 130'   TOWERS OF TEETH : EPHEL DUATH
Cerberus   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Trad, 1 pitch, 70'   Tenpins/Switchbacks : Tricouni Nail/Cerberus
Garfield Goes To Washington   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Trad, 3 pitches, 400'   Emancipation : White House Wall
Kamps Crack (Classic Crack)   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Trad, 1 pitch, 120'   Outlets : Inner Outlet
Waves   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Sport, 2 pitches, 180'   South Seas : Shipyard Rock
Threading the Needle   5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Trad   Needles Eye : Needle's Eye
God's Own Drunk   5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Trad, 2 pitches, 320'   Cathedral Spires : Khayyam Spire
Baba Cool   5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a     Sport, 1 pitch, 70'   Chopping Block : Chopping Block
East Gruesome   5.10- 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a R     Trad   Cathedral Spires : East Gruesome
Yippey-Kay-Yay   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b     Sport, 70'   The Mohican : Lady In Red
Barber Route   5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b X     Trad, 160'   Tenpins/Switchbacks : Superpin
Pulling Teeth   5.11- 6c 22 VIII+ 22 E3 5c     Trad, 1 pitch, 140'   Cathedral Spires : Eyetooth
Mr. Critical   5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c     Sport, 1 pitch, 140'   South Seas : Hornets Nest
Browse More Classics in South Dakota

Featured Route For South Dakota
Fool of a took

Fool of a Took 5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a  SD : Custer State Park : ... : Near Downs
A super fun moderate that starts with some face climbing to a high bolt leading to a steep hand/fist crack. Follow the crack to its end at a ledge, step onto the face following a flake to a second bolt. Crystal pinch your way past more bolts to an exciting arete finish. You may want to sling the top horn for the follower to protect the final moves before the traverse to the anchors. Numerous cruxes and amazing exposure at the end....[more]   Browse More Classics in SD

Photos of South Dakota Slideshow Add Photo
Rapid City
Rapid City
Classic skinny Needle's spire.
Classic skinny Needle's spire.
Nate Renner sticking the throw on Powers That Be. ...
Nate Renner sticking the throw on Powers That Be. ...
Behind spire Five.  Is there any room left for new...
Behind spire Five. Is there any room left for new...
Sea cliff climbing in Nemo?
Sea cliff climbing in Nemo?
Sweet hands and fingers over a couple of roofs 10a...
Sweet hands and fingers over a couple of roofs 10a...
Susi's Garden: New route in White House Wall, in E...
Susi's Garden: New route in White House Wall, in E...
Reggie on DT not in SD but a good shot I thought.
Reggie on DT not in SD but a good shot I thought.
Black Hills Limestone.
Black Hills Limestone.
The Harney Range from Breezy Point including West ...
The Harney Range from Breezy Point including West ...
Estes Creek
Estes Creek
Rocky ridge
Rocky ridge
Topping out on East Gruesome
Topping out on East Gruesome
pain in the glass - stateline boulders
pain in the glass - stateline boulders
looking south from spires
looking south from spires
Saturday, Nov 3rd at 7:00 PM  THE GASLIGHT
Saturday, Nov 3rd at 7:00 PM THE GASLIGHT
This is Kieth doing Pratt's crack on Photographer'...
This is Kieth doing Pratt's crack on Photographer'...
75 feet down 125 left to go on this monster link-u...
75 feet down 125 left to go on this monster link-u...
Sylvan Lake & Outlets
Sylvan Lake & Outlets
I ran into this guy at Hippie Hole over the weeken...
I ran into this guy at Hippie Hole over the weeken...
Estes Creek
Estes Creek

Show All 130 Photos

Only the first 24 are shown above.

Comments on South Dakota Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Aug 16, 2014
By David Monger
Sep 29, 2006
Horribly, another Black Hills legend has fallen. Loretta Muehl was REAL. She was one of the most talented people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. I knew her as an incredible artist,teacher and sailor. I only new Loretta for thirteen years but her generosity and kindness were unequaled and her views on life constantly entertained me. If you are a frequent visitor to the hills you have undoubtedly heard "Renn Fenton" stories. I would like to quickly share a "Loretta" story. As I said earlier Loretta was real and my favorite example of this was the plaque that she kept on her desk at school that read "what you think of me is none of my business". My only solace in this tragedy is knowing that she is with her beloved Paul now. Loretta, thanks for all of the good times, you will be missed more than you will ever know.

Dave,Sumer and the Girls
By Aaron Costello
From: Rapid City, SD
May 10, 2007
Check out the Black Hills Climber's Coalition Website, it's finally being updated! bhclimbers.com/
By Peter Arndt
Jul 25, 2007

In 1967 Peter Cleveland led Superpin (5.10d or 5.11 X) which at the time was arguably one of the boldest climbs in the country. The story of how Cleveland send belayer Ron Cox out to the road so he could view the success and not the failure (death fall) is a classic in the history of North American rock climbing. It is well documented in Pat Ament's book "Wizards of Rock".

I do not know the exact date in 1967 so perhaps the 40 year mark has come and gone.

Cleveland went on to put up very hard climbs at Devils Lake (Wisconsin).
According to Ament in 1967 or 1968 Peter did a top rope ascent of "Death Lead 2000" (unrated) but possibly America's first 5.13. In 1968 Cleveland put up "Bagatelle" 5.12, a true Devils Lake testpiece.

Cleveland still lives here in Baraboo and can be seen cragging at the lake and still "pullin down hard".

Congratulations and Happy Anniversary to Peter. (Perhaps this could be mentioned at the upcoming Pumpfest 2007 in the Hills)
By joelhagan
From: Rapid City, SD
Jan 3, 2008
Check out the profile of the Herb and Jan at the end of the new Climbing. They've been getting lots of exposure in Climbing, Alpinist, and NPR. It's nice to see some Black Hills explorers/icons getting recognition. Pretty soon they'll be wearing shades and signing autographs!
By Greg Parker
Mar 3, 2008
Hello all. I have a bunch of old climbing footage from the Canyon and Baldy that I've been converting to digital. I thought I would throw some of the more interesting stuff onto YouTube. The digital conversion kind of sucks, but I figured there might be a few of you out there that would be psyched to see it. So far, I only have a couple of vids up; one of me on Gale Force (13a) and one of Jeremiah on F5 (12d/13a) at the Thunderhead. I'll continue to post more videos as I get the time. The link for Gale Force is as follows, and I think you can then find the other videos through my username, Sidekickstinky. Hope you enjoy!

By Michael Houdyshell
From: Rapid City, SD
Apr 17, 2008
Just opened up the latest issue of Climbing. I always love to see some more local guys getting their due. Nice work, Jason and Luke.
By Brent Kertzman
From: Black Hills, SD
Jun 24, 2008
Another climbing legend passed on today. Paul Duval died of injuries sustained when he rappeled off the end of an unequalized rope at Moonlight Ridge in the Needles of SD today. He had set up a rappel using someone elses rope that had multiple markings and it appears that he short roped one side due the selection of the wrong rope marking which he assumed was the middle mark. It sounds like he died very quick. Our prayers go out to his family, Karen and all of us who loved him. Paul was a very humble and gentle man. His contributions to rock climbing were numerous. We will miss him.
By Mike McNeil
From: Spearfish, South Dakota
Jun 25, 2008
Well said Brent. I only met Paul a couple of times. Once was with you at the Gash and the other was at the needles on Father's Day this year. He seemed very motivated and sincere. We were doing Pratt's Crack on Photographer's and we chatted for about a half hour. He told me about all the development in Mexico and even though I hardly knew him he invited me to stay with him if I was ever down in Mexico. I took some pictures of Kieth and Rich while on Pratt's from across the the valley and he ended up being on it at the bottom chatting with friends. I will try to post it latter. I am glad I got to spend some time with him. Mike
By John Gunnels
From: Gillette, WY
Jun 25, 2008
Just met Paul 2 weeks ago in the Needles Eye parking lot. In the short time we spoke, it was clear to me that his reputation of being a GOOD MAN was accurate. His soft spoken nature and eagerness to share his passion for climbing was welcomed and appreciated. Wish I'd have met him years ago...

My wife and I will climb all this weekend in the Needles and do as many of Paul's routes as possible...

God Speed...
By Peter Arndt
Jun 28, 2008
Climbers "Free Camping" in the Hills?

Looking for some Beta on "Free Camping" in the Hills. I have camped at Wrinkled Rock adjacent to Rushmore and it was fine. However I did hear something about another area (closer to Sylvan Lake?) that road tripping climbers camp at.

Can any Black Hills climbers hook me up? Would be much appreciated by this touring Devils Lake climber.

Post here or fire me off an e-mail through Mountain Project.

Peter Arndt
By bruggby
Jun 29, 2008
I wish to extend my condolences to Paul Duval's love Karen and his family. There was a fella from Montana who showed up within seconds, minutes, i don't know, who gave mouth to mouth to Paul until search and rescue showed up. I didn't get to thank him properly or find out who he was. Hopefully someone knows him and could let us know. Thanks too to Dustin from California for his assistance with the cpr.
Bill Ruggieri
By vernon phinney
From: pocatello, idaho
Jul 12, 2008
Brent, thank you for the information of Paul Duval. I had hoped to join up with him and climb again in the Needles; but guess it will have to be in spirit now. Enjoyed many outings with Paul and will miss him. Paul was indeed a very giving and sociable climber (from the old school!). He enjoyed and respected the climbing in the Hills along with many of the original climbers from the 60's/70's/80's.

I tried to call you, Brent, but could not access a telephone number - email me at dakota_griz@yahoo.com when you get the time. Cheers! Vernon Phinney
By Tim Kline
From: Littleton, co
Jul 31, 2008
Anybody know who stripped out the bolts at the Ice Box area in Spearfish Canyon? I went up there last Friday and found that several if not all of the routes were chopped. Anybody have any idea on who or why this is?


By Joshua Dreher
From: Bremerton, WA
Oct 24, 2008
There is a great video of Luke Kretschmar climbing in the VC on the momentumvm.com website.
By joelhagan
From: Rapid City, SD
Jan 29, 2010
Great Scanned article in my Photo Albums titled "Herb Conn article from June 1953 issue of Appalachia" Good early overview of the Outlets all the way to the Spires. Almost an early mini-guide with a great little map. Thanks and happy climbing, Joel
By Andy Busse
From: Rapid City, SD
Mar 17, 2010
Hello to All,

We have again for the last time, set out to complete a new version of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial Rock Climbing Guidebook. I am currently unemployed and not in school for the first time in 10 years; this project will be completed this spring/summer 09-10-11-12????.

We would like to extend an invite to any developers to submit their contributions if they would like them published or be recognized for their work. Please email me at busseandrew@yahoo.com.

Areas to be included in the new version will encompass the terrain from Horsethief Lake to Raspberry Rocks.


Andy Busse
By joelhagan
From: Rapid City, SD
Feb 14, 2011
Added a couple historic articles by the Conns (1953 and 1955) and Lawrence G. Coveney (1936) to the photo albums in my profile if anybody is interested.

By Tricklepickle
Jul 16, 2011
The Needles Guide book by Zach Orenczak and Rachael Lynn/Extreme Angles Publishing was the least informative guide book I’ve utilized. I would avoid at all costs. It is a very beautiful book that does has humor but should be reserved for only a coffee table. The locals refer to the book as “the toilet paper” guide book but the glossy pages make it even inconvenient for that. Gear advise, routes, and ratings have been known to even be wrong. Instead of using the pages for photos of routes and areas they thought it to be more important for numerous pages of cartoons. South Dakota Needles: Adventure Climbs of Herb and Jan Conn. by Lindsay Stephens is an amazing book. (light, to the point, and full of useful beta such as accurate topo’s). This is much more cost effective and has many more routes. Also, stop by Sylvan Rocks for great beta, conversation, and great locally comprised guide books.
P.S. Extreme Angles Publishing does other areas such as Devil’s Tower, Vedauwoo and more. I made the mistake of purchasing the Devil’s Tower one as well. I have the same feelings for its level of info quality to cost ratio like their Needles book. If anyone sees Zach tell him I want my $70 back for the two “guide” books.
By Mikel Cronin
Aug 29, 2011
Spearfish Canyon, The VC and other Black Hills Limestone guide book is being shipped out this week. I should have books ready to send out first week of Sept. Cost is 28.00 and 4.00 shipping. Either contact me directly or goto blackhillsclimbingguide.com for more info. If you buy from me 5% goes back to the bolt fund for bolt and anchor repair.
By Brent Kertzman
From: Black Hills, SD
Feb 4, 2012
It is with great sadness to inform everyone that Black Hills climbing & spelunking legend Herb Conn passed away on 02-01-12. He was 91 years old. Herb requested no services. He was a very gentle & humble person whom was always willing to share beta, maps or a story. May God bless... R.I.P. Herbie. My prayers go to his wife Jan.
By Jason McNabb
May 2, 2012
New Climbing Wall in Rapid City?

Rapid City is having an open house on the concept plans for the new Horace Mann Swimming Pool as well as the indoor recreation center on Thursday night, May 3rd from 5-8 at the current Swim Center at 125 Waterloo. You can come anytime during that time frame.

If you would like to see a new indoor climbing wall built in that new rec center, the planners NEED to hear that the climbing community wants to see it built. In order to see that the wall becomes a main component of the building and stays in the design we NEED to have climbers show up and make sure they let their desires be known. This is only concept planning so there isn’t a detail drawing of what the wall would look like we just need to make sure it stays in the concept. Thanks and hope you can make it.
By Mike McNeil
From: Spearfish, South Dakota
Mar 1, 2013
2013 BHSU Outdoor Week Schedule
March 22-28, 2013
All week people can stop into the Student Engagement Center to learn about outdoor activities in the local area; check out Ann Porter’s 2-D Design class’s art installation by the lower lobby on the north east end of the Student Union; and see classic pictures of outdoor activities on the website and around campus from the Case Library.

Friday, March 22: Outdoor Week Kick- Off - 2-5 p.m.
• Disc golf demonstration with the BHSU Disc Golf Club.
• Afternoon outdoor activities sponsored by BHSU CRUX, the Student Success Center, Wellness Committee, and Residence Life. Meet at the cul-de-sac in front of Student Union to carpool to recreation sites.
• Slack lining competition sponsored by COLP – 2-3 p.m. in front of the Student Union.

Saturday, March 23:
• Disc golf service project – 9-noon in front of the Student Union – participants will help prepare the new Spearfish Canyon Disc Golf Course for this summer’s state championships.
• Staff and faculty snowshoe at Big Hill under the Waxing Gibbons moon – 7:30 - 9:30 p.m. Email Brenna.Olds@yellowjackets.BHSU.edu or call 605-642-6027 for reservations. Snowshoes will be provided.

Sunday, March 24:
• All-day cultural hike with AISES, the Multi-cultural Committee, and Scientia – 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. in front of Student Union.

Monday, March 25:
• Clean-up of Skeletal Remains/Community Cave with BHSU CRUX and the Access Fund – 3:30-5 p.m.

Tuesday, March 26:
• Plein Air Painting: Paint a panel of the BHSU campus with art instructor Desy Schoenewies – 12-2:30 p.m. Sign up for times at Jami.Schoenewies@BHSU.edu.
• Astronomy lecture with Fran Bagenal, professor of astrophysical and planetary sciences in the laboratory for atmospheric and space physics at the University of Colorado-Boulder – 4-5:30 p.m. Jonas 305.The talk is sponsored by Scientia.

Wednesday, March 27:
• Plein Air Painting: Paint a panel of the BHSU campus with art instructor Desy Schoenewies – 1-3 p.m. Sign up for times at Jami.Schoenewies@BHSU.edu.
• Steve Bartlett will talk about graphic design – 10-11 a.m. in Jonas 207. Open to the public
• Outdoor Photography Clinic with professional photographer Jeremiah Watt – 11-1 p.m. in front of the Student Union. Sponsored by Shutterbuzz and BHSU CRUX. Contact Steve Babbitt at Steve.Babbitt@BHSU.edu to sign up.
• Presentation by Jeremiah Watt – 1-2 p.m. in BJA-008, basement of Jonas. Open to the public.
• Steve Crusher Bartlett slide show and BHSU Outdoor Week fundraiser – 6:30 – 9 p.m. at Crow Peak Brewery, cost is $10. Sponsored by BHSU CRUX and the Black Hills Climbing Coalition.

Thursday, March 28:
• Plein Air Painting: Paint a panel of the BHSU campus with art instructor Desy Schoenewies – 1-3 p.m. Sign up for times at Jami.Schoenewies@BHSU.edu.
• Outdoor Week Contest Winners will be announced on BHSU BUZZ – 2 p.m.

Easter Weekend – head out on your own outdoor adventure.
By adamgable
From: Laramie, WY
Jun 19, 2013
My family and I will be in the keystone area for a week. We have two small children. Where is the best, close to the road bouldering in that area that is family friendly. Any info would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
By Jerry W
From: Rapid City, SD
Jun 21, 2013
A new bolt on Freak's Fright! That bolt was way overdue for replacement -- nice work, Chris!
Now, about that bolt on Orchrist... (I know, I know... shopping for a drill & hammer)
By Andrew J 133
From: Richmond, VA
Sep 12, 2013
Hello all, I will be staying with some good friends in Hill City from 9/14 to 9/21 and will be looking to climb as much as possible in the needles/rushmore area. I trad climb up to 5.8+, sport 5.10+, am very safe, and love to lead climb! Hit me up if your interested :)
By Jason McNabb
Oct 14, 2013
Come check it out!
Come check it out!

Come check out REEL ROCK 8 and see the latest releases from Big UP Productions and Sender Films!

Presented by Black Hills Climber's Coalition and The American Alpine Club Friday October 25th at 7:00 p.m. at The Elks Theatre in Rapid City.

Tickets: Advance Box Office: $12.50
Door: $15.00

There will be swag given away and auctioned off, and the best part is, that all the money raised will result in more bolts replaced and trails serviced at your local climbing areas.
By AT Bergdale
From: Rapid City, SD
Nov 20, 2013
Found two shoes along baldy trail yesterday. A white cava and a green 5.10 anasazi lace. I left them at granite sports so they wouldn't get ruined by weather. They will be there waiting for you!
By Jason McNabb
Dec 17, 2013
Hey Everyone!

The BHCC and Access Fund member drive is off and running:


Please spread the word today-phone, email, Facebook, whatever. Tell climbers in your community to join or renew with Access Fund and your LCO today for 20% off. And tell them about your work and why their membership matters.

More members ultimately means more access, more aging hardware replaced, more trails serviced, and more community events, so thank you again for your help with this drive.


The BHCC Board
By Jason McNabb
Jun 23, 2014
Trail work with the Access Fund is the best cross training a climber can do. Get out here and help us tune up Custer State Parks trails. Meet in front of the General Store in Custer State Park 9am on June 28!!! Please wear close toed shoes and long pants are recommended. We have a supply of gloves and tools, but please bring your own if you have them.
Trail Day June 28th
Trail Day June 28th
By Dustin K Johns
From: Dallas, Texas
Jul 25, 2014
I'll be moving in the Rapid area in October and am looking forward to getting involved with the climbing community in the area! If anyone has recommendations for routes or winter time training areas I would gladly take them.
By mikey g 123
Aug 16, 2014
hello, we have climbed the rushmore area a few times in the past and are coming again for a few weeks and were wondering if anyone knew of any free camping in the area besides the south seas place, because we will have a camper. Any information will be nice, Thanks!
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