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M&M Hill - Crane Lake

Minnesota > Jeff's World (MN/CA b…


There is a history of climbing at this cliff and evidence of fixed anchors from years gone by. All listed FA's should be considered First Known Ascents.

Memorial Day 2015, I was looking for an alternate climbing trip that would provide some solitude and adventure. At the suggestion of Jeff Engel, I ended up in Crane Lake, MN, at a cliff that seemed relatively untouched. Jeff had previously spotted some rusty button head hangers in one spot while briefly touring the area, but did not know the extent of the cliff's history.

I arrived at the cliff with 30 bolts/hangers and three days to work with them. I toured the cliff and promptly set about working. While exploring and cleaning one line in particular, I found the old hangers Jeff had spotted. Later, I would discover a spray painted number 4 at the base of one of the lines I had been cleaning masked by decades of lichen growth.

At the end of Nelson Road is Nelson's Resort, an 80+ year old fishing resort now in its third generation of family ownership. After my second long day at the cliff, I went to Nelson's for a hot meal and a cold beer. There, I would reveal who I was, my connection to the Engel family (who are summer locals in Crane Lake), and my project in the woods. Jerry, the resort owner, began telling me of a church youth group from Texas in the late 70's and early 80's that had a summer camp in nearby Orr, MN. They would water ski, camp, and drive their school bus to Nelson Road where they would climb up and down the cliff in the woods.

Locals would see multi colored helmets going up and down the rock and someone coined the name M&M Hill, as if the helmets were colorful candies floating on the cliff. Once I heard this, I knew the name of the crag was set. Any previous notions I had about naming it were out the window. History is meant to be preserved.

During my next couple of visits to the resort for food and drink breaks, I would be casually offered a job that would lead me back to Crane Lake to spend the summer developing routes by day and slinging drinks by night. That is where we stand now. Since arriving back at the resort in June 2015, routes have continued to go up weekly. Additional route developers are making brief visits to lend me a hand as they are able and a new (to us) Minnesota crag is taking shape.

M&M Hill is made from the oldest rock in the world (or so I keep being told). It is granite and gorgeous. Where the routes lack incredible heights, they make up for it in beautiful rock and movement. Every route so far has been full value, whether 30' tall or 60.

M&M Hill (located on the US side of the lake and not requiring boat access) is also your gateway to Jeff's World in Canada (also listed under Crane Lake). If you don't have a boat, you can rent one at Nelson's. As this season progresses, we are also working on a taxi service to Jeff's World, so boat rental may not be necessary in the near future. Or, bring your own boat. You can pay to dock it at Nelson's or to launch from there.

Crane Lake also has DWS opportunities that will be listed under the Crane Lake section and can be accessed by motor boat or canoe/kayak (depending on distance from launch point and your paddling ability).


Historical write up in process - updates coming sporadically.

Under development and rediscovery in 2015.

May 2015 - heavy on gnats and ticks
June 2015 - heavy on gnats, ticks, mosquitoes, and flies
July 2015 - bugs are calming, weather is cooling; climbing conditions improving!
August 2015 - bugs decreased significantly
September 2015 - perfect conditions!
October 2015 - stayed for first couple weeks. days were fantastic, nights were cool, bugs were non-existent

Getting There

Search for Nelson's Resort in Crane Lake, MN and get directions there. M&M Hill is on the east side of Nelson Road, south of Nelson's Resort.

Keep a low profile at the Hill for now by parking in the gravel pit 0.8 miles after the turn from Crane Lake Rd to Nelson Rd. Walk half a mile or so down the road to one of three License Plate Paths for quick access to the Hill.

Beta map; RED is the gravel pit - park there. BLUE is reserved parking - please do not park there. YELLOW is the crescent moon shaped M&M Hill.

The first path is marked with plate TYP-563 and leads to Willie Wall. The second path is marked with plate PND-923* and leads to the C-Section. Just before this path dumps you out into the Lower C-Section, there is another plate, (insert). If you turn right at this plate, you'll follow it to the Upper C-Section. The last trail is marked with plate 400-BAL and leads to the northern areas including The Slabs.

License Plate Path PND-923

  • *Please do not park on Nelson Road. It may be tempting, but it is not safe. The license plate PND-923 is from a rolled car and was attached to that tree before I ever got here. It is an annual event on Nelson Road, if not more frequent. Drivers on this road are drinking, texting, and sometimes trying to set new speed records from the statue at the corner of Crane Lake Rd and Nelson Rd to the resort. They are doing anything but paying attention to your car on the soft sandy shoulder of the road (and shoulder is generous, this is a narrow two lane dirt road).

Turn off to the gravel pit.

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

View of the license TYP563 from the road. Look really hard into the bushes in summer.
This takes you to Willie wall.
Trailhead GPS 48.2421833,-92.4624861
[Hide Photo] View of the license TYP563 from the road. Look really hard into the bushes in summer. This takes you to Willie wall. Trailhead GPS 48.2421833,-92.4624861
View from the top of M&M Hill
[Hide Photo] View from the top of M&M Hill

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

[Hide Comment] Hey - are any of these routes accessible via hiking? Novice climber here and most comfortable with top-roping at the moment. May 22, 2017
[Hide Comment] Bill - yes. Some (most, probably) of the anchors can be accessed from the top and the hike up is pretty casual. But, I would caution you to take care and anchor yourself to something before approaching any edges to set up your top rope. Also, please use your own quickdraws or other anchor set up when top roping. Have fun! Post pictures. May 22, 2017
[Hide Comment] Sean - thanks for the beta and advice. I'll be sure to use my own gear on the top bolts. Are there any routes on the M&M wall or elsewhere in the area you would say is a good lead for someone still gaining confidence and experience? Looks like Sabbatical is the lowest rated in the area.

Also- thanks so much for pioneering this area and sharing the info. Really looking forward to exploring the zone this weekend. May 23, 2017
[Hide Comment] We will be heading to this area next week. We haven't climbed much recently, and we are excited to get on the wall in a beautiful area. What are the current conditions? Are the routes in good shape? Do we need to be concerned about anything? Thank you for any help and/or advice. Jul 28, 2018
[Hide Comment] Lancer - I live in the Twin Cities, so not sure of current conditions up north. Historically, August is when the bugs and seepage start to back off some. However, I would still suggest being prepared for mosquitoes and black flies with bug sprays and long sleeves/pants as needed.

I haven't climbed any routes at M&M this season and can't speak to overall conditions. As with any outdoor climbing, check out the bolts and rock before climbing on them, beware loose rock, and feel free to report anything unsafe you find while you are up there. I typically make it up to the area later in the fall and can try to address anything that needs attention.

Have a great time! Jul 30, 2018
[Hide Comment] Thanks Sean. I appreciate the info, and hopefully, I will have nothing but good things to report. Jul 31, 2018
[Hide Comment] I have nothing to report. We had too much rain, so climbing wasn't possible. We didn't hike in from the parking spot because climbing wasn't an option and the bugs were awful. This was a really wet year. Aug 27, 2018
Savannah Hunnicutt
Milwaukee, WI
[Hide Comment] Looking to incorporate some climbing in with a BWCA canoe trip - available camping on Crane Lake? Apr 25, 2019
Taylor Krosbakken
Duluth, MN
[Hide Comment] For camping near M&M Hill, a good option is Echo Lake. Its about 20 min away. Apr 25, 2019