Type: Trad, 280 ft, 2 pitches, Grade II
FA: Tony Soler, Art Lembeck, Herb Conn, Ray Moore, Chris Scordus '51
Page Views: 26,884 total · 134/month
Shared By: Andrew Gram on Jul 17, 2002
Admins: Peter Gram, Mike Snyder, Jake Dickerson, Taylor Spiegelberg

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Access Issue: June Voluntary Climbing Closure and Seasonal Raptor Closure Details


Soler is a wonderful two pitch route climbing twin fingercracks in a dihedral. It is probably the easiest summit route on the tower that isn't wider than hands, and may feel easier than the 7s and 8s to those who don't know how to jam.

Follow the ramp around a prominent corner. Soler starts in a dihedral right of a bolted route and two cracks left of TAD. Climb a long sustained pitch past some slightly broken rock at the very bottom to a hanging belay at a couple of bolts. Pitch 2 is more of the same to a large ledge at the base of the Meadows.

Pitch 1 is generally given 5.8 and 2 is 5.9-, but I can't tell them apart. Probably rated that way because you are already a little pumped when starting pitch 2.


Lots of medium and large stoppers, small to medium cams - nothing bigger than a 2 camalot.
Pitch 2 is what makes this such a classic. The hand crack you follow up pitch one narrows to fingers and finally, about 20 feet or so from the top of the pitch, to barely accepting of your smallest pro. At this point, you finish with stemming and whatever you can find to grab in the dihedral. You're either going to find out how well you placed that last ballnut, or you're going to top out feeling really good. Aug 15, 2002
Tony B
Around Boulder, CO
Tony B   Around Boulder, CO
One of the things I thought was really super-cool about this route was how long the pitches were without being particularly hard. Most of the climbs at DT are either broken into short pitches or are 5.11. This one is one of the few climbs with big long cruisers with good pro. It's kind of like skiing a 5000' drop blue run with no moguls on a perfect powder day- If that's your limit, it can be great fun, but no matter what grade you are at, you'll enjoy the climb! Dec 2, 2002
Andrew Gram
Salt Lake City, UT
Andrew Gram   Salt Lake City, UT  
Thats strange Tony - I can think of dozens of long pitches under 5.11 that are fun and sustained. In the 5.9 range alone, check out Walt Bailey and Assembly Line. TAD, Bon Homme Variation, El Cracko, and most of the other climbs at the tower also fit this description. The only route I can really think of with short pitches is Durrance. Dec 3, 2002
Tony B
Around Boulder, CO
Tony B   Around Boulder, CO
At devil's tower, "short" is shorter than 100'. At least that's my yard-stick. I agree that you've named some other routes that have long pitches below 5.11. Walt Bailey Memorial is only as tall as a single pitch of Soler, however, and climbs Like Assembly Line is mostly a "Green Run" with a few blue moves. I think that those are more cruxy though and are less sustained at a particular grade, and thus not cruisers. That was in my mind when I wrote the comment, but didn't make it to paper. Admittedly, I didn't climb many of the 5.9's there. Dec 9, 2002
Frank Sanders
Devils Tower, WY
  5.9- PG13
Frank Sanders   Devils Tower, WY
  5.9- PG13
Probably sounds idiotic, but I'm certain that I've climbed this route more than 100 times...and I'm still looking for any excuse to climb it once again !!! Its got it all; great locks, great pro and a stellar hanging belay right in the middle !!! The first free ascent of the route went to Layton Kor and Ray Jaquot in 1959. What a Plum they picked !!!! Mar 22, 2006
John Gunnels
Gillette, WY
John Gunnels   Gillette, WY
You're quite right, Frank. If you only have time for ONE route... this is it... Apr 8, 2006
Nathan Toothman
Mokuleia, HI
Nathan Toothman   Mokuleia, HI
A memorable climb, don't understimate the length of the first pitch, you can easily run out of gear so either bring a lot or space it out. A climb of the highest quality.

Lots of good features on the right hand side of the dihedral for the first half of the first pitch but it goes away the closer to the anchors you get and gets pumpy, no moves easier than 5.8 but none harder. Apr 11, 2006
This route is stellar. An awesome dihedral with awesome finger and hand jams. Apr 16, 2007
Paul Huebner
Portage, WI
Paul Huebner   Portage, WI
Did route in 1989 and from what I remember of it, for me the key was stemming occasionally just to rest, especially near the top of P1 and mid to near the top of P2. Per it's name, be prepared to be grilled by the sun. Very nice hanging belay vs. not much of anything on TAD. Jul 26, 2007
Tyler Smeenk
Laramie, WY
Tyler Smeenk   Laramie, WY
I agree with Mr. Sanders and Mr. Gunnels, this is a climb that you must do at the Tower. I did feel that the 2nd pitch was noticeably harder than the first, maybe it had something to do with being tired from the first pitch, but if felt more technical to me. I would rate P1 at 5.8 and P2 at 5.9+. With regards to the stellar hanging belay, I think my lifelines were too short to enjoy the hanging belay much. It could have been the way my harness fits also, but the next day both my thighs were fully covered in bruises. I think a longer lifeline would have helped aleviate the situation, so just some word to the wise. Still an absolute classic, not to be missed route. Jul 7, 2008
Doug Hemken
Madison, WI
Doug Hemken   Madison, WI  
A New Route on Devil's Tower

By Arthur C. Lembeck

Thirteen parties had mounted the Leaning Column of the Durrance Route, which is a pebble toss from the (first ascent) Weissner Route, before Tony Soler and Ray Moore arrived at Devil’s Tower on the morning of August 29th. Obviously a look at others of the long fluted columns was the reaction of this redoubtable pair. Fresh from “standard conditioning exercises: in the Black Hills Needles (courtesy J. and H. Conn Rock Climbers Finishing School), they made a tour of the truck-sized talus, and by afternoon had ferreted out many
vertical blind alleys.

At 4 pm when Art Lembeck arrived, they had left a doubled climbing rope hanging in one Gerry expansion bolt and several pitons, and were very much through for the day. Worm’s-eye views from the ground of where they had been looked even worse that the high ones, and it was decided to make a try on some other section next sunup.

Supper at the campground was enlivened by a family of three friendly skunks, three friendly kittens masquerading as skunks, and one year-old boy who wanted to be friendly with all six. By a narrow margin, general social ostracism was prevented, and everyone retired for the night. At some indeterminate time, Herb Conn drove in from Custer, making the climbing team complete.

Next morning before sunrise, the Optimuses (we use that brand of gasoline stove because it sounds so encouraging) were buzzing merrily cooking a four-way breakfast. Well fortified with food and carrying armfuls of hardware, climbing rope, cameras and six canteens of water,
we stumbled up the trail to the far side of the Tower.

While Tony and Art were retrieving the rope, pitons and bolt of the previous day’s reconnaissance, Herb and Ray began working on a lead farther east. Here sloping faces and a jumble of talus allowed an easy ascent to near the height of the Leaning Column. By the time the
four were together again, Ray and Herb were resting from having pushed the rope over half its 120-foot length. The first 30 feet were 3rd class and the rest 5th class. Two ropes were tied together, and Tony and Art took turns with pitons and struggles. Fifty-five feet above the talus, a wide crack in the left side column begins working toward the angle piton crack which forms the principal joint-plane between the columns. Seventy feet up, the left crack became the piton crack as the right-hand crack widened out. For 40 feet this status continued.

A short bulging overhang was then passed as a layback and then 40 more feet of mostly layback. Pitons had to be inserted while the climber was in a semi-layback position, holding on with one hand. It was on this section that Tony fell from 12 or 15 feet above his piton, sliding to a graceful stop on Ray’s dynamic belay. (The piton was an Army angle rescued after years in Seneca Rock; the carabiner an Army aluminum.) Above this point, the slope became slightly less and the twin cracks more cooperative.

During the earlier sections of the climb, the lead had been changed by using the rope as an elevator. The lower pitons were removed by the descending leader. With climbing ropes knotted together, a different system had to be devised because the knots were too bulky to pass through the carabiners. Tony, who was leading at the time, tied into a piton, and Ray Prussiked up the climbing rope, removing pitons en route. Then Ray tied into a piton and Tony continued.

Layback piton pounding was just too much, so Tony used six pitons for direct aid, balancing up to use each piton as a foothold from which to drive the next higher one. A beautiful maneuver to watch.

The 23rd piton was placed in a horizontal side crack on the left, overhanging column which had widened, it seemed, to the proportions of a wall as we ascended. This crack was the first one on the climb which would take pitons, except for the two main vertical cracks. Here the left column was broken enough to form a belay platform, the first on the climb. It was reached via a short traverse and retablissement up the overhanging column. There were now 240 feet of rope between the leader and belayer. The 'retable' was onto an outward-sloping, splintered column top with a shallow fingergrip crack a few feet back. Other sections of the column requiring three more pitons for safety led to the top of the Big Ledge near its eastern end.

Prussik knots soon saw the party joined on the Big Ledge, and, unroped, the four scrambled up the rock jumble to the summit. The late hour made the stay on top a brief one just for registration, a task Ray performed while the others swatted at the clouds of flying ants which inhabit the grassy, cactus-sprinkled mesa.

The Durrance Route was selected for the descent, traversing the far end of the Big Ledge and then dropping in several rappels to the Leaning Column and below.

The actual climbing had begun at 7:30 am, the descent shortly after 5, and camp was regained at 7:30 pm, a delay being caused by a rappel rope which jammed halfway down the last pitch. Twenty minutes were spent retrieving it, and the gathering darkness made progress to camp somewhat slow. Twenty-four of the twenty-six pitons used were angle pitons (those used in rappelling were not included in this count). The climbers are grateful to Win, to Wade Marshall, and to Mr. McIntyre, the Superintendent of Devil’s Tower National Monument, for their services, especially in explaining to the numerous visitors why we were climbing; that we weren’t risking our necks—much--; and just how that rope got up there in the first place.

This article originally appeared in Volume XVIII, #3, January-March 1952 Mountain Club of Maryland Bulletin. Aug 1, 2008
Andy Laakmann
Bend, OR
Andy Laakmann   Bend, OR  
Good stuff. I placed gear from thin to #3 camalot - though you could get by without the #3. Sep 15, 2008
Joe Dawson  
I am surprised no one has mentioned this, so I will. Toward the top of the second pitch the crack is choked with some loose rocks and blocks. I stood under them for a few minutes and tapped them and looked at them and tapped at them and said to hell with them and went left onto the face to avoid them. If you pull one of these off, there is a good chance your belayer is going to get it. The face climbing on the left is more like a ramp and I dont think any move was harder than 5.7 and it can be protected. I did use a blue Alien (0.3 inches) to protect one part of this section and it looked like the only option.

The party before me said they went straight up the crack through the loose rock and wished they had done otherwise. The party after us broke left onto the face to avoid the loose stuff. Jun 1, 2009
Johny A
Aurora . CO
Johny A   Aurora . CO
How long has the bolt belay been there? I don't remember it. Mar 19, 2010
Tim McCabe
Tucson, AZ
Tim McCabe   Tucson, AZ
There were 2 button head bolts for the first belay when I first climbed this route in 87.

You could easily build a gear anchor most anywhere on the climb. As I recall the first pitch is long but the bolts are placed to give a small ledge to stand on. These bolts weren't really necessary but they are nice as it helps one spread out at the belay and not have both the climber and belayer stuck in the crack.

At one point in the early 90's a climbing ranger wanted to upgrade them. Are they still button heads? I told him I thought it was a bad idea. I figured that if the bolts were better someone would get the bright idea to rap from there. My thinking was that it would suck to show up for a sweet 2 pitch climb, that is already crowded, and have to wait on people who only want to do one pitch. Jul 25, 2011
Peter L Scott
Pequot Lakes, MN
Peter L Scott   Pequot Lakes, MN
I first climbed Soler in the early 80's.Having climbed the route 15-20 times I clearly remember the belay station. Also having personal experience with it beyond just clipping it. I'm guessing the climbing rangers name was Chris Holbeck. He's an old friend of mine. In the early 90's he was a ranger at the Tower. Having drilled a number of bolts, he asked me to replace the station. I thought it was a good idea. I made the suggestion of only replacing one bolt,leaving one for nostalgia. If one felt nervous with one old and one new bolt they could back it up with gear in the crack.

The next day I went out to do the deed with NPS's blessing. I pulled the old button head and Leeper hanger with a small crow bar. It came out with such ease it frightened me. I had clipped hundreds of these set ups all over the country. I hand drilled 3/8" x 4" hole and placed a Rawl bolt with a shiny new hanger. Then filled the old hole with epoxy and rock dust mix.

I still have the old bolt and hanger. Will post a photo on this page. Would love to see a recent photo of the station to see how the job held up.

Oh, after the job was done a storm moved in from the west. The Tower was hit by lightning twice during that storm. But that's a whole 'nother story. Sep 22, 2011
Tim McCabe
Tucson, AZ
Tim McCabe   Tucson, AZ

Sounds like you only replaced on of the bolts, IMO that's enough. Like I said above this doesn't need to become a one pitch climb. There's plenty of routes that people just do the fist pitch of. Usually its because the second pitch is way harder this is not the case here.

As for the old bolt pulling out easy not too surprising considering how old it was. But also remember that no button head bolt is meant to take an outward pull.

Anyway good job with the one bolt repair job.

Clearly people should continue to add a piece in the crack to their anchor. Nov 7, 2011
Lyons, CO
Dankasaurus   Lyons, CO
Stellar route that I've led once and followed once...but...

P2 has some dangerously rotten rock, and there is no escaping if it is dislodged.

Please, please be careful at the top of P2! I was almost destroyed by a homeplate-sized chunk that exploded in front of me as I hung, helpless, at the belay. Just this past week. After dodging the rocks, and watching them crash down into our packs with a sickening smacking sound, I watched softball-sized bomblets rain down directly onto the tourist path, with nearby human meat-popsicles, oblivious to my screams, standing around like prairie dogs.

The dangerous loose plates are almost unavoidable, directly after the P2 crux, and you're on top of them before you know it. Sep 10, 2012
Wilson On The Drums
Woodbury, MN
Wilson On The Drums   Woodbury, MN
Great climb! I'll echo a little of what others said and add a little bit of my own two cents. First and foremost if you're not solid at Tower grades (regardless of the climb) get ready for a wee bit of a challenge. Keep your head in the game and keep moving fast. I haven't led much at the Tower and what I've done has been easy, like the first pitch of El Cracko, and a couple of the pitches on Durrance. My theory is that if it's 5.9, expect every move to be 5.9 (like if you've done a climb that is 5.7 but its got a thin 5.9 section as the crux, expect a Tower 5.9 to be like the thin 5.9 crux, the whole way. like the whole 150/200ft way haha. Of course this is an exaggeration, but that's the best way I can explain it). With that being said I jumped on the first pitch to go for the onsite and made it about 30ft short of the anchors before I finally had my belayer take to allow me to fully rest. I would say the first pitch slowly transitions from 5.7 to 5.8 to 5.9. There's a lot of good stopper placements in the BD 10-12 range as well as a lot of .75-.5 BD C4 placements. I aided the second so I can't confirm the grade. As far as what others have said, BEWARE of loose rock. There are some pretty big chunks ready to come down and it's hard to avoid them. Pitch one ends with the hanging belay; pitch two ends with the option of belaying out left at the anchors of HollyWood and Vine or heading up and building an anchor. Rap off the top bolts for El Cracko when you're done. Finally check yourself for TICKS! I found two on myself today after this climb and my partner found one on him, also two weeks ago I followed Walt Bailey and I found one on my foot on the way home. Have fun and climb safe! Mar 30, 2013
Great climb! LOTS of loose rock in the crack at the top of P2--ended up going left on the face to avoid it. Quite a few rocks came down while we were waiting at the base of Soler, including a watermelon sized one that apparently came from the Meadows. Wear your helmet! Sep 29, 2014
lee hansche
goffstown, nh
lee hansche   goffstown, nh  
P1 of Soler was the best pitch of my trip out there. Long and stellar! Jul 22, 2016
lee hansche
goffstown, nh
lee hansche   goffstown, nh  
With all the talk of this being a finger crack I was surprised to find there were quite a few hands/thin hands sections. The fingers were wide for the most part with a couple of good solid locks thrown in, a tips move or two at the top. Great variety really, not what I was expecting from what I had read but every bit as fun as promised. Jul 22, 2016
Knoxville, TN
paul.adams.3   Knoxville, TN

looks like tony soler was a well traveled climber Sep 2, 2016
K Gustafson
  5.9 PG13
K Gustafson  
  5.9 PG13
An OK crack. It was difficult to enjoy given the choss throughout. Thus, I gave it a safety rating. Without the choss, I could see how it would be a 3 star route. Wear helmets and be careful not to pull off loose rocks, especially near the end of pitch 2. This route is a ticking time bomb until a belayer gets seriously hurt. Sep 19, 2016
Adam Block
Colorado Springs, CO
Adam Block   Colorado Springs, CO
Some awkward placements at the end of the first pitch. Whichever pitch you lead will feel 9- and the one you follow will feel 8+. Fun Jams with less stances than Walt Bailey so your feet will burn by the end! Rapped off of Hollywoods anchors in two with a 70M. Aim RIGHT for Soler Eclipse's Anchors. Mar 18, 2017
Matt Wenger
Matt Wenger   Bozeman
Route description says nothing bigger than 2". I found some 3" cams very helpful, especially right below the top of P1 belay bolts. Absolutely amazing route. Would do again anytime! May 15, 2017
Emerson Takahashi
Casper, WY
Emerson Takahashi   Casper, WY
For what its worth- I also brought along and placed a couple #3's throughout the route. I'm a trad n00b though, so what the hell do I know?

I did very much enjoy leading the route, good edges on the face every now and then to take the weight off your foot-jams, and hands felt secure jammed in the crack. Pleasant jaunt up to the summit! Jul 26, 2017
T Bloodstone
Minneapolis, MN
T Bloodstone   Minneapolis, MN
Are there anchors on P2? I climbed it with Roscoe in September, 2017, and we didn't see any anchor for P2.

As for gear, I used two #3 cams on P1. It really helped. Oct 17, 2017