Elevation: 6,572 ft
GPS: 43.844, -103.543 Google Map · Climbing Area Map
Page Views: 19,583 total · 136/month
Shared By: Josiah Reams on Jul 9, 2007
Admins: Andrew Gram, Peter Gram, Greg Parker, Mike Madsen, Mark Rafferty


A high concentration of sport and mixed routes in the 5.6 to 5.10c range. Not very tall or attractive spires but A nice reprieve from the run-outs and head games of many climbs in the needles. The crag is far enough away from the needle's eye parking lot that you shouldn't get any harassment from tourists. Moonlight ridge is separated into three sections: "The Galaxy",Thin Fin" and "The Point/Beside The Point". The only place in The needles where the FA parties went against the ethics of standard ground up practice.

Getting There

Follow needles highway from sylvan lake to the needles eye parking lot. One can either park here or at one of the small pull-outs just before the parking lot. Quickly gather your gear from your car before you are attacked by tourists and take the trail on the north-western corner of the needle's eye parking lot.

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Classic Climbing Routes at Moonlight Ridge

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
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joelhagan Hagan
Rapid City, SD
joelhagan Hagan   Rapid City, SD
I've been to moonlight ridge and enjoyed some of the climbs. I would however like to know some more specifics as to the routes and the means which they were bolted. Rap bolting is perhaps against Needle's ethics, but using power drills is illegal. Personally, I'm a bit disappointed because the people involved seem to be return visitors to the Black Hills who you think would have a little more respect for rules and history. The bolted Conn Route on "the Galaxy" is especially disconcerting because of the climbing history the Conns brought to the Hills. Jul 9, 2007
Too bad you're disappointed Joel, Would you rather sit home and think about rules and history, or would you rather climb? Jul 10, 2007
joelhagan Hagan
Rapid City, SD
joelhagan Hagan   Rapid City, SD
I'm climbing ton's Mike. I would also like to be able to continue climbing in the Black Hills and if regulations aren't followed areas can be shut down, thus limiting everybody's climbing so a few can put there name on "new" routes. It's all about having fun, being safe and following some of the simple rules set out by CSP. Jul 11, 2007
By all means Joel, have fun, be safe (climb the bolted routes), and follow the rules. Jul 11, 2007
I'm glad development is still going on in the Needles, it's nice to see some new safe routes to climb. I was surprised however at some of the routes that are now bolted that we had climbed in the early 90's without the bolts. Specifically Dancing in the moonlight, Darth Vader (or split decision right variation - can;t remember sitting here at home after 2+ month), and Chantilly Lace.
I know it's very hard to try to figure out if something is a new first ascent in the needles due to the amount of rock and number of people just passing through (we figured they weren't when we did them so we never said anything, nor did it matter to us).
I'm not proposing to change anything as they are much safer with the bolts and more will climb them, I was just surprised to see things we climbed without the bolts now bolted.

We looked for John when we were there but I guess he hadn't made it out yet for the summer.

Kevin Sep 3, 2007

I too free soloed Chantilly Lace and half a dozen others but we have this unusual notion that a 5.6 route should be climeable by a 5.6 leader not just someone who leads much harder but puts up easy routes with dangerous runouts...so we bolt them. And of course, we had no way of knowing others had free soloed the routes.

Lucky for us someone the caliber of a Michael Reardon didn't come through the Needles twenty years ago and free solo everything 5.12 and under, describe them in a guidebook, and insist no one ever use gear of any kind to repeat the routes.

We have had nothing but compliments on Moonlight Ridge from dozens of climbers passing through, and the Ridge has become one of the most visited areas in the Needles. Sep 9, 2007
Mike there is gear on the routes we climbed, we did not free solo them. Like I said I have no issue with the bolt, it was just suprising to see them. Dec 12, 2007
I deeply hope that this climbing community says whooaa
to this kind of bolting in Custer state park. I climb ground up in this area
and I support the ethics of leaving adventure climbing for those willing to meet the rock on it's level.... not yours. The rules for new routes in Custer are" ground up with a hand drill.
I say these things because there is a lot of rock, why here ?
Is this really worth it? please just try to stick to the rules and regs, the future of climbing is hard trad. Where ever it is and not already bolted, ohh yeah, right Here's one place.
Yes I care deeply over this issue, and the pristine place we call Custer state park. sorry if I come off strong,I care & it needs to be said, out loud. Mar 13, 2008
joelhagan Hagan
Rapid City, SD
joelhagan Hagan   Rapid City, SD
Well said Christian. Mar 13, 2008
Hello Ya'll,
I am just sitting here in my little Apt resting my %^&$ed up foot. I have some time to kill so I thought I would give my 2 cents about Custer State park. As far as I can tell Custer State park, has, is, and will always be a hot spot for Ethical debates. Minor as they may be in the grand scheme of things, people seem to get completely wrapped up in what is ethical and what is not ethical. Maybe the golden years of climbing in Custer State Park were clean and "ethical". I say maybe, because surely some things happened that were unethical. When did the unethical practices start? Some may say that when a certain club put a big Orange cross on top Sore Thumb Via bolt ladder. Others could argue, that it went to #$@! as soon as the Bosch from God was used. I personally think as soon as anyone pounded anything into the rock, the rock was beaten and defaced. Sometimes this is done with respect and sometimes it is done simply because, and blindly, with nothing but Ego as a driving force. I don't think climbing Rocks is wrong! Nor do I think placing bolts, pins, ect is wrong. One thing is for sure, the most pure style of climbing is without a safety net. Climbing Freesolo however, has its problems. We all Know you either succeed get hurt or worse. These reasons are why we rope up and try to be as safe as possible. Most of us don't want to give it up to luck, get hurt, or die. So we have a basic instinct to preserve. Sadly though other instincts arise like Greed, Pride and Impatience.These reasons are why poor style is developed. In the past many questionable things have happened, the list is long and very petty. I think we just all need to think a little more before we act on the wrong instincts. In this world we live in today, does it really matter how some bolts are placed in the rock, and as for the other side of that token do we really need to bolt every rock we see just because. On a closing note if you plan on bolting in Custer State Park. For god sakes put up some good routes in good style. Mar 19, 2008
Brent Kertzman
Black Hills, SD
Brent Kertzman   Black Hills, SD

My motive is to educate not stir the pot. I've been climbing here since 1974. It seems like we as climbers have branded ourselves as hard working, fringe dwelling, hard partying, hard playing, cheapskate, dirtbag adrenaline junkies in general. One artifact of being fringe dwellers is the lack of agreement for ground up vs top down bolt placement in the Needles. To me this is not an ethical debate but more a stylistic disagreement... aren't ethics reserved for politicians.

Climbers have been rap bolting in the Needles for two decades. Most of the rap bolted routes have been placed by climbers who have significant ground up first ascent history in the Needles. These climbers have stuck it on the line on the lead for a long time and as a group made a decision to rewrite Needles history and work top down after the loss of power drilling privileges.

Just like everyone else climbers break the law every day with acts as simple as speeding. We don't close highways due to speeding. Do hunting and fishing areas get closed due to poachers? The point is if the law is broken and someone is caught illegally power drilling then those individuals must suffer the consequences not the community. My personal thanks go out to CSP land managers whom view climbers as a valid user group and support our sport.

I must ask Joel if he has first hand knowledge of power drills being utilized at Moonlight Ridge? Furthermore why must you air that type of a topic in a portion of the website designated for route information? Can we move this topic over to "Forums". This issue is recurrent in "Forums" for other areas. This portion of the website should be used for route info, history & beta not as a forum too air dirty laundry to the world. Do you want us labeled as a community of moronic bickering, quarlsome, greedy individuals?

Moonlight Ridge was developed five years ago. Why the need too beat an old dog to death? From my perspective no one wins and our community only further polarizes. There are so many opportunities within the whole Harney Range for hand drilled new routing activities. I agree why stir the pot up in the Needles when there is so much more to be had outside CSP. In the end it all still boils down to freedom of choice. Isn't climbing still supposed to be fun? Mar 20, 2008
Mike Madsen
Rapid City
Mike Madsen   Rapid City  
What and Who bolted the short "sport" lines on the boulder up the hill farthest formations up hill from parking. Looks like 2 sport lines that look more like boulder problems... Jan 14, 2016