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Routes in Palisade Head

A Feathery Tong T,TR 5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b
A Sinner’s Last Gift T 5.11d 7a 24 VIII 25 E5 6a PG13
A mind Forever Voyaging A3+ PG13
Aching Alms T 5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b
Arms Race T,TR 5.11c 6c+ 24 VIII- 24 E4 6a
Bluebells T,TR 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
Bridges over Troubled Water T,TR 5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b
Choice of a New Generation, The T,TR 5.11d 7a 24 VIII 25 E5 6a
Christmas Tree Crack T,TR 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Danger High Voltage T 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Don't bring a knife to a gun fight a.k.a. "Gun Fight" T 5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c
Double Breasted Anchor T,TR 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Driving in Duluth T 5.11a/b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c R
Ecclesiastes T 5.12 7b+ 27 VIII+ 26 E6 6b PG13
Echoes S 5.11c 6c+ 24 VIII- 24 E4 6a
Ex Nihilo T,TR 5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b
Fall of Ascomycetes, The T 5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c
Flight School T 5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b
Fool's Progress, The S 5.12a/b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6a
Gales of November, The T 5.13 8a 29 X- 30 E7 6c
Genetically Correct T 5.10a/b 6a+ 19 VI+ 19 E2 5b
Great Bird Chimney, The T 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b
Grunge Off (aka Goliath's Finger Crack, see below) T,TR 5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a
Happy Happy, Joy Joy S 5.13- 7c+ 29 IX+ 29 E7 6c
Hidden Agenda T 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
Hidden Treasure T,TR 5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c
I Could've Been a Contender T 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Iron Maiden T,TR 5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c
Jim's Crack T 5.10- 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a PG13
KGB T,TR 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b
Laceration Jam T 5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b R
Lapidarian T,TR 5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c
Long Distance Commute T,TR 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Lord of the flies (free) AKA: Comrades in Slings (aid) T 5.12b/c 7b+ 27 IX- 27 E6 6b PG13
Mabley's Traverse T 5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c PG13
Mack the Knife T,TR 5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b
Mann Act T 5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c R
Mr. Lean T,TR 5.11d 7a 24 VIII 25 E5 6a
Night Vision T 5.11d 7a 24 VIII 25 E5 6a
No Sugar, No Baby T,TR 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
Old Men in Tight Pants TR 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Oz - (AKA The Road To Emerald City) T 5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b
Palisaid T 5.13a 7c+ 29 IX+ 29 E6 6c
Phantom Corner TR 5.12 7b+ 27 VIII+ 26 E6 6b
Phantom Crack T,TR 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
Poseidon Adventure T 5.11d 7a 24 VIII 25 E5 6a PG13
Praise the Many Seraphim T 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Presents T 5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c
Pussyfoot T 5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a
Quetico Crack T,TR 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Rapprochement T,TR 5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b
Scars and Tripes Forever T 5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b
Socket Wrench T,TR 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Soli Deo Gloria T 5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a
Sound of One Hand Jamming, The T,TR 5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b
Squab T 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b
Sunny and Sheer T,TR 5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a R
Superior Arete T,TR 5.12c 7b+ 27 IX- 27 E6 6b R
Superior Crack T,TR 5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Swimsuits and Harnesses T,TR 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Swizzlestick Legs T,S 5.11c 6c+ 24 VIII- 24 E4 6a
Urge to Mate T,TR 5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b
Warrior's Last Dance On Earth TR 5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a
Water Babies T,TR 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Wise Guys T,TR 5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a
Withering Heights T,TR 5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c
Yellow Feather T 5.11c 6c+ 24 VIII- 24 E4 6a
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Palisade Head is the most serious and richest crag in Minnesota. With very few climbs easier than 5.8 and the bulk of climbs harder than 5.10, this is the place in Minnesota to hone your hardman skills. Between several off-width, hand and heinous finger cracks, crystal faces, or stunning arête's, there should be enough variety here to please almost anyone!

The Southern Ramparts are generally closed early in the season for Falcon nesting. Keep an eye out for posted closure signs and respect closures to avoid conflict with the Park.

Climbs in the Amphitheatre tend to be the most popular and crowded and are also most easily visited by tourists. Plenty of crack systems to be found along the entire top of the Head to build anchors. If you are not feeling confident, a pair of ascenders is a good idea.

Getting There

About 2 Miles before the turn in for Tettegouche State Park

67 Total Climbs

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Location: Palisade Head Change
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Classic Climbing Routes at Palisade Head

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Quetico Crack
Trad, TR
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Danger High Voltage
Trad 2 pitches
5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Superior Crack
Trad, TR
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
Phantom Crack
Trad, TR
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
Trad, TR
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b
Mack the Knife
Trad, TR
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b R
Laceration Jam
Trad 3 pitches
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b
Scars and Tripes Forever
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b
Trad, TR
5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b
Urge to Mate
Trad, TR
5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b
A Feathery Tong
Trad, TR
5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c
Hidden Treasure
Trad, TR
5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c
Don't bring a knife to a gun fig…
5.11d 7a 24 VIII 25 E5 6a PG13
Poseidon Adventure
Trad 2 pitches
5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b
Oz - (AKA The Road To Emerald City)
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
Quetico Crack
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c Trad, TR
Danger High Voltage
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c Trad 2 pitches
Superior Crack
5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c Trad, TR
Phantom Crack
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Trad, TR
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Trad, TR
Mack the Knife
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b Trad, TR
Laceration Jam
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b R Trad 3 pitches
Scars and Tripes Forever
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b Trad
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b Trad, TR
Urge to Mate
5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b Trad, TR
A Feathery Tong
5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b Trad, TR
Hidden Treasure
5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c Trad, TR
Don't bring a knife to a gu…
5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c Trad
Poseidon Adventure
5.11d 7a 24 VIII 25 E5 6a PG13 Trad 2 pitches
Oz - (AKA The Road To Emera…
5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b Trad
More Classic Climbs in Palisade Head »

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I grew up in Duluth and returned many times to climb at "The Head"....but never with locals.

Looks like from some of the attached photos, you guys are finally allowing people to use chalk. Is this true? I could tell you so many funny stories how aghast some people would treat me and finally ask, after seeing my chaulk bag, "you don't intend to use that here, do you?" ...I admit, I always respected your ethics and I didn't use it there.

Anybody placing any bolts out there? Or is this just too far away from the trad arena? I have never been into top roping, but every trip out there, people would look at me very strangely if I was actually leading something. Never once, did I see any other climbers out there leading anything, always these amazingly elaborate top rope set ups with like 20 carabiners and miles of slings the gumbies were tripping over. I finally figured out why, once I was out in front....the routes were so often difficult or cumbersome to protect and bolts were as scarce as in the Gogarth (Wales). It actually felt a lot like the Gogarth...but anyway, how is it? Does vigilante law still prevail and are drillers still hung up upside down with weights and dragged from an Iron Ore Boat out to the Duluth Harbor? Don't get me wrong....I love the Gogarth, but it's alot easier to protect than Palisade Head, both on the route and topping out.

I often hoped I would run into Pagel somewhere and I'd be able to ask him and ride him a little, but I never did. Gee, he didn't even come from Duluth or Northern Minnesota, but he sure ran the herd hard in Minnesota!! Aug 30, 2006
JJ Schlick
Flagstaff, AZ
JJ Schlick   Flagstaff, AZ  

Chalk... well... yes... the chalk ethic on the north shore was more or less a by product of cultish frenzy, seperatist delusions, and egomania. A power trip if there ever was one. There are, of course, no legal ramifications for dipping into the white gold now and then on the north shore, nor any environmental data which would support that chalk is in any way a threat to that ecosystem. Unless you count the flamboyantly sensitive egos of the locals.

I went to school at UMD for a year and a half in the middle 90s. Thumbing through Pagels guide book and scoping routes I came under the impression that I would surely find some hardy souls to partner up with and get some business done. You can imagine my dismay after finding out that 99% of the climbing community would or could not lead much of anything. Since I wanted to lead this obviously lead to dilema. To chalk, or not to chalk. After much internal debate I finally came to a workable and exceptable solution. I would use chalk only if leading. There it was, simple and concise. I would like to say this was the end of my ethical struggle, but alas my solution only lasted at most a week. After listening to the arguments of those who oppose the use of chalk I quite simply found them to be baseless and trite. That is my opinion.

The important thing to remember here is this; If a local ethic serves a purpose, or a greater good then it is up to time and the climbing community as a whole wether or not that ethic is to endure. I do not respect the chalk ethic on the north shore. That is my choice. What happens down the line is up to the individuals in the community. All I know is, if I am sticking my neck out on the line to do new routes there on gear (most of which are difficult), then I am going to carry the added tool of chalk in a bag. To me, it is stupid not to, especially at the Head and Shovel. These crags are continuously blasted by storms, and the utter neglect of many of the more difficult routes would lead one to suspect that they would never get greased up. I have been threatened and slandered over this issue, but at the end of the day, I am more concerned about the quality of the routes climbed than I am about wether or not I used chalk. Lets just say it doesn't keep me up at night.

There is a growing number of modern testpieces to be found at the Head which will test both your fitness and nerves. We will try to post more of these as time goes on. Bolts are found on some of the free routes here and there, though not many. The Head just doesn't lend itself to great face climbing. The best lines always follow a natural weakness. Echoes and the Echoes Extentsion are notable exceptions.

Routes to do-

Don't Bring a Knife to a Gunfight 11b pg James ?
Road to Emerald City (top pitch) 12a/b pg Dave Groth
Sol de Gloria 12b pg Groth first lead
Aching Alms 12b g Seth Dyer
Sinners Last Gift 12c r JJ Schlick
Lord of the Flies 12b/c g Groth
Palisaid 13a pg13 Groth
Superior Arete 12c tr Groth
Birds of a Feather 12a pg JJ Schlick
And, of course, Mr. Lean 11d pg
Posieden adventure 11d pg

Some of these made it into the falcon.

Peace- JJ Aug 31, 2006
1Eric Rhicard
1Eric Rhicard   Tucson
Hey Guys, I learned to climb in MN in 1975. We didn't use chalk then. We didn't use friends, or brass nuts then either. In the early 80s I spent a great day top-roping with Dave Pagel at the Head. He is a great guy and a lot of fun to hang with. In deference to him I did not use my chalk and was a able to ascend many of the harder routes of the time. Had we been leading you would still be able to see the cloud. It is now 2006 and the thought of not using chalk seems absurd to me. I don't plan on leaving my cams behind. Climbing is a personal thing, climb it with or without, have fun, live and let live. Thanks for any new routes too. Sep 20, 2006
I've looked around online and have the WI/MN guidebook for Palisade and can't seem to find the info i'm looking for. Does anyone know of any routes that would be good practice for multi-pitch clean aid? Mainly looking for C2- or less and was wondering if there was anything up there that could be done multipitch at that grade? Thanks for any help Jul 2, 2007
randy baum
Minneapolis, MN
randy baum   Minneapolis, MN
climbs north of north tower are closed april 1 - august 1 due to peregrine nesting. the closure does not includes climbs on north tower. Jun 23, 2008
S. Stember
St. Paul, MN
S. Stember   St. Paul, MN

Multi pitch lines are basically non existent in MN with a handful of exceptions at Palisade, Shovel, and a contrived link up at Taylors. None of these exceptions are that long. With that being said, I might recommend Laceration Jam to Christmas Tree Crack as a good option for a clean aid lead. That would definitely be a "C1" line. May 8, 2009
Peter L Scott
Pequot Lakes, MN
Peter L Scott   Pequot Lakes, MN
From the mid 80's to the 90's my friends and I climbed here A LOT.

Scott Brockmeier and myself cleaned and did the FA of many routes. We have never received credit for these. Not that it's somebody's fault but Dave Pagel was aware of this. Seems he gave Chris Holbeck as reference and some how got the credit. Chris is an old friend of mine and can confirm the only FA he did was Double Breasted Anchor.

Here's a list and credit
-Swizzlestick Legs 5.11c Peter L Scott and Scott Brockmeier
-A Feathery Tong 5.10d Scott Brockmeier and Peter L Scott
-Fools Progress 5.11 Scott Brockmeier and Peter L Scott
-False Prophet 5.11 Peter L Scott and Scott Brockmeier (Falcon guide route 46 unnamed)
-Urge to Mate 5.10c Peter L Scott and Chris Holbeck
-Double Breasted Anchor 5.8 Chris Holbeck and Peter L Scott
-Metamorphosis 5.10b Scott Brockmeier and Peter L Scott
-Hiawatha does Gitchagumee(sp) TR 5.9 Suzanne Johnson and Peter L Scott (This route lies on the face around the arete to the right of No Sugar, No Baby)
-Echoes 5.11b Scott Brockmeier and Peter L Scott

Echoes Ext. was originally bolted by Tom Ramier and called Happy Happy Joy Joy. He never completed the project

False Prophet was bolted. The bolts were pulled by the North Shore Climber Nazis. Yes, I have some animosity towards these folks.

Most of the routes Scott and I put up were mixed gear routes. We were labeled "sport" climbers by the north shore climbers. I think our climbing resumes defies that. Scott and I climbed over a hundred routes at Devils Tower. We also climbed El Cap together 3 times. Including Nose in a Day. Scott climbed El Cap several times more.
We climbed in countless trad areas around the country. We also clipped our fair share of bolts. All we wanted to do was climb, bouldering, sport, trad, and alpine. It was all good.

As for chalk. Local ethics are created by locals. I have climbed at Palisades Head over 500 days. Cleaned and bolted as needed. Was involved in several FA (If you've ever cleaned a new route at P H you know just how much work that is). I've climbed there every month of the year. Including aid climbing in January when it was 10 below zero. I have no idea how much trash I hauled up that cliff. Trundled numerous loose blocks from established route. Repouned fixed pins.
If this doesn't make me a local I don't know what would.

I always used chalk (judiciously). So as a local I say feel free to use chalk. That's my local ethic.

If I ever climb at P H again and somebody on their 4th top roping trip to the head scolds me for using chalk, I'm going to be tempted to throw them over the edge.

O.K. I got that off my chest! Sep 20, 2011
Sam Daley
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Sam Daley   Minneapolis, Minnesota
Awesome Scott, thanks for all the hard work! It inspires me to hear about other climbers putting in that extra effort to enjoy something they love. Not to mention it is a refreshing counter point to the lazy attitude generated by gym culture.

P.S. I love your stance on the chalk ethic. Sep 21, 2011
Lou Hibbard
Eagan, MN
Lou Hibbard   Eagan, MN
Not mentioned in previous comments is the abundance of poor rock at Palisade Head. I certainly respect those who lead here but for me it was always just a toprope playground to hone skills for leading on better rock elsewhere. After climbing over 60 routes here I have personally thrown down thousands of pounds of rock, usually on the rappel down but sometimes on the climb itself.
Not a good area to push your limits on lead unless you are very experienced, although some of the routes are much cleaner than others.
When toproping here or at Shovel Point consider using a static rope with a slingshot belay. The rope goes from the belayer (on top) through a solid anchor above and back down to the climber(belayer tied in to anchor separately). Although using a static rope is commonly considered a no-no because of the greater danger of shock-loading the anchor, in actuality if the belayer doesn't allow a huge loop to develop the catch will not be that hard. The belayer gets pulled into the anchor, dissipating the forces.
I always felt much safer with a static rope on sharp or loose rock while toproping. They are so much more cut and chop resistant. Nov 11, 2011
Ryan Steel
Twin Cities, MN
Ryan Steel   Twin Cities, MN
I understand the no-chalk policy. However, is it acceptable to use chalkless chalk or organic chalk? I'm about to climb up at Tettegouche for the first time, and I just want to make sure that I don't upset anybody, hurt the rock, or upset the peregrines and others in the local habitat (and I don't really want to start/continue the chalk vs no chalk debate, I'm just asking a practical question).

Any thoughts or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks! Aug 23, 2013
Question: are there chain anchors here, or do you have to build anchors for all the routes? I am not completely sure what MountainProject's definition of a Toprope route is. May 30, 2014
Dave Rone
Custer, SD
Dave Rone   Custer, SD  
Jessica, there are no permanent anchors for top roping any Palisade Head routes, you have to build your own. Bring a standard rack and some very long chord/runners. Sometimes you use cracks, other times trees, sometimes both. It's also a good idea to have a piece of carpet to put between your anchor and the edge of the cliff, it is very sharp in some places.

Shovel Point does have some permanent anchors, but only above a couple routes. Again, you'll need some very long runners. May 31, 2014
Thank you Dave. So it sounds like there are pretty limited options here and elsewhere around Duluth without a trad rack, is that right? We'll be visiting town for my cousin's wedding in August and looking to do a little sport climbing. Maybe I need to check in the Forums for more info. Jun 5, 2014
Kris Gorny    
Jessica,you can also try Sandstone . Roughly 1 hour drive south of Duluth along I-35 (so same distance as Palisade). The area has quite a few bolted routes equipped with anchors and the access to the top is easy (trail). Jun 6, 2014
thanks Kris! Jun 7, 2014
Duluth Mn
BIATHLON   Duluth Mn
Bolts are few and far between in Duluth. Currently I can only think of 5 routes. As previously mentioned your best bet is Sandstone. Jun 14, 2014
Kris Gorny    
Banning is super bad for mosquitoes. But it's somewhat of an anomaly because of the pond, which breeds all sorts of insects and it is near the cliffs.

Palisade is not nearly as bad, but the black flies will chew your ankles. Bring bug spray. Mosquitoes come out mostly in the evening. And then it gets nasty as well. Jun 25, 2014
I’ve been climbing here a lot the last several years and have absolutely fallen in love with this crag. What a stunning area! That said, I’m always aware of the politics that can overshadow climbing here. I’m glad to see the prominent first ascensionists discuss their chalk ethic above, and display it with their photos (anyone notice too that the new guide book, even with it’s no chalk essay, has EVERY photo at Palisade with someone using chalk!).

I’ve thought long and hard about this myself, and wanted to share my personal thoughts to add to Peter’s great comments:

Seeing as every climber I’ve seen there uses it, and I've asked at the State Park and the rangers said they don't care whether or not climber use chalk (ie, not an access issue), the ethic seems to be losing any ground it once held. In addition, all major developers of the classic trad leads used chalk, setting a standard for others to follow.

That said, I would totally respect it on a matter of access. Or of course, on “Leave No Trace” grounds IF the routes weren't entirely stripped of lichen 20 years ago BY CLIMBERS (BIG trace), there wasn't a paved parking lot 30 ft from the cliffs (BIGGER trace) and a HUGE radio tower 300 ft tall right on top of it all (REALLY BIG trace!). Seems like it's a trivial matter in this context, plus it has no ecological impact (scrapping lichen and paving roads do). On top of all that, much of the rock is white, most tourists never even see the cliff walls (eliminating “the aesthetics argument”) AND it’s washed clean by massive Lake Superior storms, rain and wind regularly. …Therefore, I am personally comfortable having dry hands on route. But if you still find yourself in a state of contrition, then you can always haul up some trash from the base (cause there is sadly a bit down there). Mar 30, 2015

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