Type: Trad, 500 ft, 7 pitches, Grade II
FA: unknown
Page Views: 8,467 total · 41/month
Shared By: Jay Knower on Apr 9, 2002
Admins: Burton Lindquist, Doug Hemken, James Schroeder, chris tregge

You & This Route

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An alpine route at Devil's Lake? Turks Head Ridge, with the Wiessner Wall finish is seven to nine pitches long. Sure the pitches are short, but its all we've got.

To approach, walk north past the cabins on Tumbled Rocks Trail until you can see a tower about 50 yards above the trail. This is the first pitch (5.3). Descend the tower, and continue on long, mostly unbroken ridge to the base of Wiessner Wall. Continue up Wiessner in two pitches and complete the longest route in Wisconsin.

Pitch two (5.6), an ugly wide inside corner, protects well with big cams. The third pitch, a left slanting finger crack is the crux (5.8) and difficult to protect. It is short, though, and the 5.6 face to the right might afford the leader some respite. After this, it is 5.4 climbing to the top.

For what it's worth, I have usually climbed the ridge in this order:

Pitch 1: The Tower, 5.2

Pitch 2: The Dirty Inside Corner, 5.6

Pitch 3: The 30 Foot Wall, 5.8 or 5.6

Pitch 4: The 15 Foot 5.1 Groove

Pitch 5: The 40 Foot Inside Corner/Ridge, 5.4

Pitch 6: The short Rightward Diagonalling Crack, 5.4

Pitch 7: The Double Cracks, 5.5

Pitch 8: Wiessner's Chimney, 5.4

Pitch 9: either Wiessner's Face, 5.7 or The Crack Above The Tree, 5.2

I feel as though, when climbed this way, you maximize both the quality and the quantity of the climbing. There are, however, numerous variations possible.


Standard Rack--Maybe some big cams. Gear to set belays.


Tom Anderson-Brown
Madison, WI
Tom Anderson-Brown   Madison, WI
I did Turk's Head Ridge this weekend with Jan Brown and I really enjoyed it! We did the 5.5 and under variation and in my opinion the experience is highly recommended. Give it a try. It does somewhat resemble alpine climbing although the pitches are [much] shorter. May 28, 2002
Joe Block  
From the author of that topo:

It is in NO WAY authoritative. As anyone who has climbed this beast knows, it's less of a "route" and more of a "pick your own way" type of climb. Please add additions/subtractions/modifications. I made that topo as an attempt to give those new to the climb a general idea of what the ridge we're all talking about is.

Does anyone do this thing in the winter, preferably during nasty stormy conditions, or is it just me (I doubt it's just me)?

And, if you're going to climb this (not necessarily for speed) you must finish on the 5.7-ish face route on Wiessner, not the 5.2 cheater (which I use, admittedly, at times). A spectacular finish.

A possible modification to the gear list: I don't think there's a need for anything larger than 1.5 inches. Maybe on top of the last pitch, but you can use the rock spike or sling one of the monster blocks behind the face (not the loose boulders).

Jul 4, 2002
Jay Knower
Campton, NH
Jay Knower   Campton, NH  
Joe, If you climb the "true" second pitch--the inside corner to the left of the tower and below what you call the "30 foot wall"--big gear may be helpful for the wide crack. I think it is a shame to skip this pitch, or should we call it a pitch-let? It is more of a boulder problem, and the moves are scary and insecure for it's sandbag 5.6 rating. The Swartling guide lists the pitch as an alternative to the tower and calls it a "20 foot overhanging dirty inside corner". Sounds classic, eh? Jul 7, 2002
Joe Block  
I actually have that "pitchlet" listed as an alternate in a write-up that Tom has on Turk's Ridge. I believe he's going to post it at some point. It basically follows the description in The Guide, but adds more variations at the top of the Ridge. And as you know, having climbed the ridge, there really are a few good variations down low as well, variations/pitches The Guide seems to omit. Sometime this fall I plan to get out there with my GPS and a digital camera and finally nail down a good description of the ridge, the stuff below Turk's Head, and the stuff below and to the south of the Needle.Thinking about the second pitch (to the right of the tower), you're right, it does take some big gear.I've been climbing Turk's Ridge for a decade now and it's still hard, at times, to nail down a good descirption of the area. I was happy as hell to see yours, though, knowing that someone else actually really likes the formation. Jul 7, 2002
Joe Block  
Jay,If/when Tom posts my descirption of Turk's Ridge, it would be great if you modify it to reflect your true second pitch down low. I see that what I call the 2nd pitch would be the third, by your description (which I think is better).Or, Tom, if you're reading this (which I suppose you are), I can just resubmit that route description to reflect Jay's detailed descriptions down low on the ridge (and then my descrpition seems to fill out the upper pitches). Jul 7, 2002
Joe Block  
We're pretty much on the same page. My description just combines several of your pitches into one pitch (but I can't look at your description with the way this posting page works, so...) Wandering right towards the top (about 100 feet below the base of Wiessner) takes you into a rather interesting and undocumented area directly below Turk's Head. I'm pretty sure if you go right after the 40 foot "ridge" section (going from memory here) it's possible to link up into some more continuous climbing until you reach the base of the "little" tower in front of Turk's Head. You know you've gone right too soon if you end up in a big talus field (some interesting variations in the winter there, though, and a little bit of ice on occasion). Jul 8, 2002
Tom Anderson-Brown
Madison, WI
Tom Anderson-Brown   Madison, WI
Check out Joe Block's terrific article on Multipitch climbing in the "Features" section of the site. Click on the "Community" button to the left in the sidebar, then click on "Issues" at the top of the page. Thanks a lot Joe for this great contribution! Jul 11, 2002
Joe Block  
Having just spent two days tromping around the ridge, I've discovered a few things.First, Tom, if you can lighten the photo of the whole ridge, it will reveal a bit more detail. I can provide another photo with the modifications if necessary.Second, the rock to the right (north) of the ridge is much more extensive than I thought. It's all undeveloped (and pretty overgrown this time of year), but surprisingly vertical. It is broken into short pitches, or steps, but is rather wide.There are actually three distinct bands of rock that make up the ridge.

1. The uppermost band extends from the Cleo Amphitheater to the Wiessner Wall to Turk's Head. 2. The middle band extends from the "40 foot ridge" on the south to the broken walls and towers on my topo.3. The lower band extends from several buttresses south (and above) the first tower to a series of overgrown and just less-than-vertical walls to the north.

The abovementioned "fixed" photo really helps you see this description. Once you see it this way, the ridge's terrain is much easier to decipher. Tackling the northern side of the ridge (the right side) is more committing, offering less walk-arounds and trickier third-classing. The "40 foot ridge" section forms the southern side of this band, and is quite impressive. The left side of the ridge (south) is the least committing and easiest route.Now that I've wandered a bit more around there and modified the picture, I can see an easier way to write up a route description, providing hints on pitches to link up. I suspect in the winter the ridge could be done in three long pitches (with some hard climbing), separated by scrambling.The interesting part is the fact that there is, as far as I can tell, a fair amount of virgin rock north of the ridge. The "middle band" particularly offers up a possible continuation of the route via a traverse underneath Turk's Head. I don't know where it ends up, but I suspect it peters out in the wide basin between Turk's Head ridge and Prospect point. (The top of the bluff drops a bit at this point)(The drawn overview map in The Climber's Guide hints at these sections of rock. It's much clearer in the older, '79 edition)I'll post a better description of the pitches in a few weeks. Aug 6, 2002
Paul Huebner
Portage, WI
Paul Huebner   Portage, WI
This is a fun solo, especially in the winter, when there's no snow for skiing. I avoid the 5.8 on the 30-foot wall and opt for the 5.6. I also like to finish on Turk's Head (5.5), instead of Wiessner's. Aug 11, 2007
Erik Olson  
Had a great time on a shorter variation of this route. It was dirty and wild. I loved it! The variation was a low angled slab to the right of a wall that had the left to right angling crack that looked about 5.8ish. And went up through a series of ledges for about 120 ft to a ledge N of Turks Head. It was low grade probably like a 5.4 or something, but man was it dirty fun! Oct 23, 2007
John W. Knoernschild   Wisconsin
What fun this is. A bit grovely at the beginning, but turns into a nice enjoyable climb. Really fun to do pitch after pitch and no stopping. Do it on a nice cool day. I did it in the sun on a warm humid day, sweating balls on every pitch. Aug 18, 2008
James Schroeder
Sauk County, WI
James Schroeder   Sauk County, WI  
This thing definitely needs more traffic. It was full of cobwebs when John and I did it this weekend... Aug 18, 2008
J Sandwich   IA
Hike in from the Tumble rocks trail from the south side 300-350ft from the trailhead(last cottage) look left up a talus field to spy the head of a tower, its your goal. Me and my partner bushwhacked right but I think going straight up the field would be your best bet. Dirty but fun. Jun 13, 2012
Ted Pinson
Chicago, IL
Ted Pinson   Chicago, IL
How close together are the pitches on this thing? Is there considerable hiking between, or does it actually feel like a multipitch climb? I'm thinking of doing this thing next time I'm at the lake and trying to figure out what shoes to bring. Could probably do most of the bottom in my approach/hiking shoes, but I'm not strong (or dumb) enough to try Weisner's in them and I don't want to be hiking around in my rock shoes... Apr 2, 2016
James Schroeder
Sauk County, WI
James Schroeder   Sauk County, WI  

They're pretty close, but for the most part you will feel like you will stop at the top of the prior pitch if you fell from the current pitch. I'd say there is a walk of 10'-30' between each pitch. If you want the tour, PM me, I'll show you around.

James Apr 2, 2016
Doug Hemken
Madison, WI
Doug Hemken   Madison, WI  
We wandered over from Split Tower to start on pitch "3". I'd call it 4 more pitches to the top (so 5 or 6 total), 5.6ish to the base of Turk's Head and Weissner Wall. Saw lots of enticing variations to explore, especially to the right of the Ridge.

I note with some irony that the "usual" finish does not seem to include actually climbing the Turk's Head! And why does no one do Turk's Tooth? Aug 8, 2016
Maya L
Chicago, IL
Maya L   Chicago, IL
Did this as our first multi-pitch and had a blast! Sitting on the ledge next to the tree halfway up Weissner wall was the best, so I'd recommend that finish.

Approach beta: we followed the instructions on Jay's book, which were extremely helpful. We'd like to add that there are white numbered lines drawn on the paved Tumbled Rocks trail, and the first pitch can be reached by going off trail and up the boulder field at #518. Some of the numbers are quite faint, but the "18" is easily spotted if you look for it on the trail. Jun 27, 2017
Terry Kieck
Terry Kieck   Baraboo
For clarity, the marker is actually S18 (South 18). The marks were put in for an Eagle Scout project several years ago to assist rescue locations from my understanding. I believe the center "0"marker of trail is below SOGC then they are labelled either S or N. Jun 28, 2017