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South Dakota Climbing
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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. With a strong history formed around many of the great pioneers of climbing.
In the 1930s On his way to free climb Devils Tower Fritz Wiessner stopped by and did several notable ascents in the area. Check out Oltons shoulder at Mount Rushmore the formation gets its name from the 1936 Original Route in which Fritz stood on Percy Olton's shoulders as a point of aid to gain the starting crack. Another story is on what was thought to be the first ascent of inner outlet. Fritz was climbing and noticed a ladder made from logs on the way up. Disgusted he knocked it off thinking he was bagging the first ascent.
Herb and Jan Conn some of America's first dirt bag climbers were passing through to Devils Tower and the Tetons. They were impressed with the natural beauty of the Hills. They liked the easy access and many unclimbed summits. They ended up settling in the Hills and mapping and recording the Black Hills climbing.Through the 1940s-1950s they established 219 first ascents in very bold style. This included a 60ft rope, tennis shoes, pitons, carabiners and bowline on a bight for a (harness). The Conn Diagonal is worth checking out as well as East Gruesome both should be on the top climbs list of the midwest. Remember the Conns always down climbed everything and never rappelled. It was good practice for the times when you get in over your head and needed to downclimb.
The Needles in the southern hills is host to run out 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. Outside of Rapid City offers a few obscure bouldering and rope climbing crags.
FALLING ROCK Small limestone crag near Rapid City provides a nice pump on vertical edgy limestone. The rock is a little chossy when compared to other limestone crags in the Hills but a couple of fun routes exist here. Some are even mixed routes.Expect majority to be Top Rope with a handful or sport / mixed routes. Gorgeous views of Rapid Creek and the surrounding hills and even a couple of bouldering problems. Please pack out all trash! Lots of teens tend to party here be the better person and don't litter!
THE ROCK MAZE along Nemo Road has juggy steep sandstone bouldering, and few crowds. The rock maze gets its name from the labyrinth made from the sandstone corridors.You could spend a day just in the maze itself bouldering. This is the premier (most traveled and developed) sandstone area in the Hills. With a good 200 established boulder problems ranging from V0-V9
VICTORIA CANYON (THE VC) just minutes outside Rapid City on Sheridan Lake Road; which hosts impressive limestone sport climbing reminiscent of Rifle. Steep shelf like climbing on beautiful blue limestone. There aren't very many moderate options as the rock tends to climb in the 5.12 to 5.13 range. You can camp right above the canyon as well, it is in National Forest Land. No water or open fires prohibited. Make sure to have a positive impact and pack out EVERYTHING. The narrow canyon sees a lot of traffic and is ecologically sensitive so please stay on trails and don't trample vegetation. Leave No Trace Ethics.
SPEARFISH CANYON This is the crown jewel of the northern hills. It has a large number of high quality vertical to slightly overhanging routes in a lovely picturesque canyon. The highest concentration and best climbing tends to clock in around 5.10 to 5.13 on some of the finest limestone around. 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, crack riddled monolith, Devil's Tower.
CAMPING IN THE SOUTHERN HILLS
There is camping at Mount Rushmore. This can be found at the Wrinkled Rock climbers camp. There are 4 platforms for tents and it is also open to primitive camping as well. NO OPEN FIRES PERMITTED! Please clean up after yourselves and show the monument that we can keep a clean camp ground. There is no water provided at this campground. Bathroom facilities are done by a single out house bathroom.
The Wrinkled Rock Climbers Trailhead is located on State Highway 244, adjacent to the west boundary of Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
Granite Sports in Hill City and Roamin Around in Rapid City are the main gear shops in the Hills. They offer an assortment of clothing options, Climbing gear, Guidebooks, Shoes, Ropes, etc! The staff is super friendly and are always willing to answer questions. Check their websites out here:
NORTHERN HILLS CAMPING ( SPEARFISH AREA )
Spearfish City Campground
404 South Canyon Street
Beautiful shaded campground nestled on the banks of Spearfish Creek and on the outskirts of town. Spearfish Creek is one of the best trout fishing creeks in the Black Hills. This campground has amenities such as, restrooms, free showers, soda machines, ice machines, fire wood, internet access and a sewer dump. It has 61 full sites, 56 hook up sites and 150 non hook up camp sites. The campground is open year round starting in May-Sept. Full amenities will be available. In the "off" season the campground is open for a minimal fee and no amenities. http://www.cityofspearfish.com/departments/city_campground/index.php
Rod and Gun and Timon and both located up Spearfish Canyon Near Roughlock Falls next to Little Spearfish Creek. These are both FS operated pay campgrounds with few sites and minimal services. However, they are in a beautiful setting and offer faster commutes to most areas. https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/blackhills/recreation/camping-cabins/recarea/?recid=25899&actid=29
I-90, Exit 12, West eight blocks to the Canyon Street stoplight (second light), turn left and go nine blocks south on Canyon Street past the Spearfish City Park and across the bridge.
High Mountain Outfitters
740 N. Main St.
Spearfish, SD 57783
10am - 7pm
10am - 5:30pm
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