JasonH on Bagatelle in June of 07. Jason sent thi...
Bagatelle is arguably the best hard route in Wisconsin, and definitely THE hard-man (or woman) route at Devil's Lake. At the time of its first ascent, it was one of the hardest routes in the country. Since then, Bagatelle has been the standard of difficulty at the Lake, and has been led (Tom Deuchler, first lead) and even soloed (Mike McCarron). Most are overjoyed at even a toprope ascent.
Start up the thin face to the left of Cracking Up and Epiphany. With the exception of the far left side (Phlogiston), everything on the face is in-bounds--a testiment to the thin, barely climbable nature of the face, and a rarity at the Lake. Climb up thin sidepulls and sequential footwork to the "Sword Fighter Move". From there, use a sloper (yes, a sloper!) and finish on the hardest 5.10 moves you will ever do. Now, begin to be overjoyed.
Hmm.. Best Hard route in Wisconsin??? Very possible, but I'd say it would be a tough call between Bagatelle and Whiskey A go-go at Petenwell Rock...Very sweet 12D/13A
By Jay Knower Administrator From: Campton, NH Oct 21, 2002
Not to quibble over ratings, but I talked to the first ascentionist, and he believes Whiskey a Go Go deserves a solid 5.13a rating. Apparently those who have downgraded the climb only did so after a protracted effort on it. Onsight the thing, then you can downgrade it if you wish.
No way this is 13a. I was on a roadtrip and stopped here for a break from driving and both my partner and I flashed the thing - and I've never onsighted harder than 12c. I had heard Devil's Lake was supposed to have soft ratings, but 13a would be softer than a baby's ass. On lead, maybe, but c'mon, it's just a toprope (but mad props to whoever led the thing).
I can't speak for the route, as I wouldn't know, but I can tell you this. Devil's Lake does have very soft ratings. I'm not a great climber, as I struggle with 5.7s at Devil's Lake. Still, while struggling with 5.7s at Devil's Lake, I was able to do 5.9s on better rock. Better meaning rock with friction. I've done 5.9s in CO, CA, and SD to name a few and I didn't struggle with those 5.9s as much as I do with the 5.7s at Devil's Lake. What I do know, is that the difference between 12c and 13a is practically nothing. Another thing I know is that rating isn't an exact science. As a matter of fact, it isn't a science at all. Some people may think that a 11d was really hard, while others feel it was really easy.
By Jay Knower Administrator From: Campton, NH Jun 23, 2003
To clarify: I wrote that Whiskey a Go Go is 13a, not that Bagatelle is 13a. I think that the 5.12c/d (top-rope) rating is pretty accurate for Bagatelle. On lead, most would consider any rating beyond "hard and very scary" irrelevant. Stephen, there is a huge HUGE difference between 12c and 13a. Consider the difference between Ceasarian Tower (5.12c) and Ice (5.13a+). On Ceasarian, one can actually see the holds.
I always believed that Bagatelle's split c/d rating pertained to the peculiarities of the upper crux. If you are tall enough, you can lever very high off a right sidepull. This allows you to throw to the jug, thereby bypassing the crux sloper hold and making the move 12c. If you are shorter, say about my height (5'10" on a day when my head is held high), you have to use the sloper with your left hand, and cross with your right hand to the jug. This forces you to put almost all of your weight on the sloper, a 5.12d effort because we all know how "good" DL slopers can be.
Some say that the split rating depends upon whether or not you use the right corner with your right hand to fascillitate stepping off the ground. This is trully bunk as there has been a great deal of "ewosion" since the first ascent, and we all know that F10c equates exactly to 5.12c/d.
Ah, yes, Jay. However, that is a comparison between two routes. I have sat and watched, in awe, as friends of mine climb the upper 12's and 13's. They say there isn't much difference at all. Only when rock type is different. I could see the holds equally as well. They were all very, very small.
Like I said, it's all a matter of opinion, really.
By Steve Sangdahl From: eldo sprngs,co Mar 24, 2005 rating: 5.12d7c28IX28E6 6b
just some historical info, pete,s acsent probaly was the hardest route in the states at the time.when tommy led this he supposedly used ground down rurps for pro and maybe some knifeblades. his belayer bill russell supposedly dragged a mattress up there as well,and probably some cheap swill too.mike mcarren,s solo is one of the proudest ascents at dl. Edit : I will rephrase my comment above about Mcarren,s solo. As my brother of fuk-nes Dave G points out the first ascent of Son of Great Chimney was one of the proudest ascent at the lake . I led Son of Great Chimney with Rob Lemon about 2 weeks before I moved to Eldo unfortunately I top roped it once so did not do it as pure as Pete but it did not seem that hard...... just scary! In my opinion Mcarren,s solo was an amazing feat of pullin down and made perhaps the "best" use of the sometimes massive amounts of top roping involved in getting Bagatelle wired enough to lead it or solo it. Hell , even to just top rope it involves a lot of effort especially for us back in the day as we would ALWAYS lower to the ground IMMEDIATELY no matter how far up you were and no hang dogging to check out the moves. Made us stronger but also caused quite abit of frustration when you fell off the crux for the umpteenth time. Peace and fuk-nes SteveS.
By Jay Knower Administrator From: Campton, NH Nov 2, 2005
Bagatelle was a standard-setting climb when Cleveland did the FA. Check out where this climb (and others at DL) reside in the spectrum of hard rock climbs:
Holy crap! I was already impressed by the legend of Pete Cleveland, but after looking at the website Jay mentioned I'm even more in awe. Very cool that Pete put Devil's Lake in the hard climb history books!
How does this thing start? Do you climb up the middle of the face?
By Tom Mulholland From: #1 Cheese Producing State! Aug 1, 2012 rating: 5.12d7c28IX28E6 6b
I prefer the start straight up off the eroded ground. It may add another cruxy move, but I don't think it's harder than .12d, at least by DL standards. And of the three people I've seen on this route (Dillon Colon, Erol, and myself), we all did the ground start.
By Dylan Colon From: Eugene, OR Aug 5, 2012 rating: 5.12d7c28IX28E6 6b
Getting off of the ground was quite possibly the hardest individual move of the whole route for me, but it goes.
BETA ALERT: My method was to get two small crimps around head height, and a crotch-splitting high step with the right foot on the obvious flat hold, pull statically off the ground onto that, and stab up right to a good hold. This move was low-percentage, but since it's the first move falling off of it isn't nearly as heartbreaking as falling off up higher.
Hey Tony, I believe most would say the arete is off. I know of several climbers who used a high left foot and some form of weird pinch with the thumb inverted with the left hand to start. I watched Dylan (previous comment) get a really high right foot and use the crimps to start. I would second that the hardest move on the climb is getting off the ground. I have yet to accomplish it.
The 1978 Swartling guide lists Bagatelle at F10C (5.10+), and Phlogiston at F11 (5.11). Just goes to show how ratings have drifted over time.
By JJ Schlick Administrator From: Flagstaff, AZ Sep 7, 2013
Actually what it shows is how isolated Devils Lake was at that time in rock climbing history. That, and the Inability for the authors of the early guides to comprehend such difficulties at the times these routes were first done. The world could barely understand routes at this level, and aside from Pete, I don't know if the CMC could even fathom it. It really wasn't until visiting climbers got on these lines that the true difficulties were confirmed and awed at. There was an old article with Todd Skinner and climbing Bagatelle? Anyone remember this story?
By JJ Schlick Administrator From: Flagstaff, AZ Nov 28, 2013
I was first introduced to the philosophies and practices of the DLFA in 1993 by Dave Groth. I was young and naive, and he was sober as a two year old in his early thirties. Fortunately for me he was fit, and itching to climb whenever his domestic duties allowed. Over the course of a few years I had heard all the great stories as we rattled down the highways in his beat up old mini van. I still have a lot of images of Dave screaming over the steady wind and road noise with a La Croix sparkling water in his free hand spilling this way and that. It was Pete this and Rich that, and now, looking back, seems like a list of names and dates, routes and grades, crags and undone lines. It was the low down on the who's who, and who to watch out for. Thinking back on it I find it quaint that at one point climbing was so small in this country that you could keep it all in your head more or less. Especially if you traveled, drank, and liked to tell and listen to stories.... However, from everything I had heard, if the DLFA ever had a prophet, it was Tommy Deutchler. And it was easy to see the inspiration on Dave's face when it came to the smooth panel of stone we call Bagatelle.
Maybe it was the tone of reverence with which even his name was approached, but Tommy always stood out in a crowd. Even at that point in time, I could tell that Tommy was a fucking legend. A modern legend, tangible and breathing. A hero to his people, and a source of inspiration. Someone who had been willing to put it all on the line, for better or worse, in the name of personal exploration.... And as a result he broke through boundaries in the sport. Tommy in his prime was one of those guys who could freeze time. He could make history stop and take notice of this sleepy little Midwestern crag, and the people who haunted it's glassy purple walls.
The last time I saw Tommy was a long time ago already. We we're at the DLFA site at Green Acres, and he made an appearance with the lure of free fuckness. I don't know if he ever remembered me from one bonfire to the next, and he didn't seem to care if he didn't. We were talking about life, well he was talking about life and destiny, about choices and moments in time. Forks in the road type stuff. His mutterings were passionate, and furled the wrinkles of his brow against his skull. They looked like small canyons in the firelight.
Somehow his lead of Bagatelle came up, and his face blossomed like the desert after a monsoonal rain, but due to our mutual states of inebriation, I couldn't make out most of what he said. Though at the end of it, he cleared his throat and straightened his crooked back. "No one, can ever take that away from me", he said with the brightest eyes I'd ever seen on his face. "Those motherfuckers", he added for good measure. I agreed with him, that indeed, no one could. He looked hard at me for a moment to make sure I was understanding what he was laying down. Then he smiled, and in that moment climbing was the most important thing in life, both for this aging man looking for meaning, and a young man looking for hope.
As Dave Groth said at the recent DLFA Movie premiere in Madison, "I think a body of work speaks for itself". Bagatelle has been capturing people's attention and imagination for thirty some years, while the number of leads can still be counted on your fingers. Tommy's lead in the late seventies was some of the most bad ass climbing being done anywhere in the world at that time.... Three decades later, the thing is still an icon of Devils Lake technical climbing, and of the few bold souls who have braved its gravitational wrath on the sharp end. Right on Tommy, right on gentleman.
And Right On JJ. Nice words. Just the thing I needed to read and think about today.
By Steve Sangdahl From: eldo sprngs,co Dec 6, 2013 rating: 5.12d7c28IX28E6 6b
JJ, Nice essay about the man ,the myth,Tommy D. He was quite the character and well versed in a wide range of subjects. His favorite topics were women, climbing and MUSTAFA ! Most of the stuff about women and Mustafa are unprintable here and were often hilarious to us clubbers. You could tell he had read a lot of the classic literature also ,which was a bit beyond our limited intellect at the time. The first top rope of Bagatelle in 1969 by Pete Cleveland would rank right up there with some of the hardest stuff being done in the states. Not sure how long Pete worked on it before sending. The first lead was in 1981 by Tommy D and he was belayed by Bill Russell , the first "self proclaimed" president of the DLFA (and a damn fine one at that). They did this midweek when no one else was around so it wouldn't be a friggin circus like when he led "All the Way" . Makes sense as the climb would require TOTAL concentration. Rumor has it that he used ground down rurps and knife blades for pro as well as dragging a mattress to the base to protect the start. No doubt old Bill brought some cheap swill to boot! Always give credit to your belayer, no matter what! Of note is the fact that Bill R. Moved to start his "new" gig in Yosemite in 1982 the year after this was led. His gig.......full time dirt bag climber! He is still at it some 30 years later and has truly led the life of a dedicated climber. Bill was an excellent Prez of the DLFA also. During the 10 days of fuk-nes we witnessed him puke no less than 3 times in 24 hours! Sorry I digress. Like I spewed forth in the All the Way thread , Tommy,s lead of that climb pushed us down the path of hard climbing . We started to work on JUST top roping Bagatelle and found it to be ALOT harder than All the Way. Once I finally top roped Bagatelle I realized that I would never lead it and was way LITE compared to Tommy. It's lack of adequate protection and tenuous crux at mid height was more than I could see myself leading. Ever! As I said earlier Tommy was a unique character and added much to the Devil,s Lake scene, history and weirdness as well as inspiring us young DLFA misfits to pursue the fine art of pulling down on some of "God,s own rock" . And giving some of us a good kick in the pants down a life long road of climbing with all it's adventure and many unique friendships. Peace and fuk-nes Steve S. NOW PUKE!!!!!