Type: Ice, 180 ft, 2 pitches
FA: unknown
Page Views: 12,927 total · 89/month
Shared By: Kris Gorny on Mar 12, 2007
Admins: Kris Gorny, chris tregge

You & This Route

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The most spectacular, and may I add, the only spectacular natural icefall in Minnesota. A must-do for any Minnesota ice climber. A significant part of the Nightfall experience is a unique hike along the frozen and meandering Devil's Track River enclosed within reddish walls of a steep ravine. Grade may vary depending on conditions but the top section is most often WI 4. Nightfall is relatively wide so several variations usually exist.

Pitch 1: Start from the river bank and climb over a short steep section leading into a wider snowy bowl at the bottom of the main flow. Ice conditions rarely permit to set up a belay at the bottom of the bowl (best fo avoiding falling ice.) Most of the time you need to suck it up and set up an anchor where the ice gets steeper.
Pitch 2: Go up the steep flow. Fixed sling anchor around a tree on top. Use your own slings to back it up.

For a one-pitch lead a pair of 60m ropes is required (70m is better) and long runners are needed to minimize drag.

Reference: "Ice Climbs of the Lake Superior Region", Granite Publishing

Current Ice conditions: refer to conditions forum at climbingcentral.com


From Grand Marais drive north on Hwy 61 for about 2 miles until you see the bridge over Devil Track River (sign). Drive roughly 100 yards past the bridge and park on the right side of the highway. Make sure you parked well past the last mailbox. Walk back towards the bridge. If the river is frozen follow it into the canyon for about 1 mile. Nightfall flows down the cliff on the left side of the river.

If the river is not frozen, you could walk back additional 100 yards along the highway, turn right into a private driveway leading to a log cabin. To get into the state forest you need to cross private land past the cabin. Do not cross the private property without owners permission. In the forest locate the well-maintained snowmobile trail which roughly follows the cliffline. Hike the trail until it gets closest to the edge of the canyon. You should clearly see reddish cliffs on the other side from that point. Locate the snow gully on top of the climb and scramble down to the sling anchors around the trees. Set up a top rope or rap to the bottom of the canyon. A pair of 60 meter ropes barely makes it to base of the climb.


Ice screws


Kevin Fox
Kevin Fox   parker
180 feet and 2 pitches. wouldn't it be easier to just climb it in one pitch? Aug 4, 2008
Kris Gorny

Kris Gorny    
Kevin, because of the large bowl in the first one third of the climb, after the initial 30ft, it is actually easier to do it in two pitches. It is possible to do it in one pitch but that involves placing very long slings (so long that you could actually deck) at the start of the vertical section right after the bowl to avoid rope drag. Aug 27, 2008
mark55401   Minneapolis
has anyone done this recently (i.e. in 2011/12)? Mar 14, 2012
Yes, a few friends of mine did this last week. Reportedly still shedding some rock but the ice was overall in good condition. There's some pics from FBook I can steal for ya if that's what you want.

I did it in 2010 if pretty poor ice conditions but the real hazard was constant rock fall from the sides. Mar 14, 2012
Tried to access this one via the private property west side of the river and it seems the two residents are not at all pleased with climbers that have been using that trail without permission. We spoke with each household on the driveway for half an hour but claims of climbers running off when questioned about going through their yards apparently leaving trash(which I doubt) has seemingly ruined this access point for everyone else. The man also stated that if he sees people going through he will call the cops so do know that... Mar 15, 2012
Ken G
Ken G   SLT, CA
Climbed Sunday Jan 20 2013. Great ice, a little thin at top but made interesting. Jan 23, 2013
Climbed it on Friday, 2/8. Ice was great until the top, pretty thin, but climbable (not really protectable). Last 20ish feet is really unprotectable but climbs fine. We did have a dinner plate come down and hit my partner in the arm. Be sure you set up the second belay on the steep section to avoid this,...lesson learned. Because he wasn't able to climb I had to repel from the top to him so there are two v threads set up (one at 25 meter from top, the other 30M from bottom). I did drop a petzl screw from the top....my last screw,...so the top was interesting. We checked around at the bottom and didn't find it. If someone does find it, I'll be indebted to them if they're kind enough to let me know. Feb 10, 2013
Zach Chase
Duluth, MN
Zach Chase   Duluth, MN
Is anyone aware of the condition of Nightfall at this point? Dec 16, 2013
Hartford, SD
TREEfool   Hartford, SD
My climbing partner and I spent 4 days on the North Shore iceclimbing and backpacking. When we got back my partner decided to edit a video of the climb, check it out...

v- GoPro video of Night Fall


^- GoPro video of Night Fall

I hope you enjoyed it! Jan 5, 2014
Peter Stangl
Peter Stangl   Minnesota
Just a question in regards to access, I notice people say to just park by the bridge and then walk up the river. But on google maps I'm seeing what looks like a parking lot on Lindskog Rd, (58) where the Superior Hiking trail crosses the road. Is this in fact a parking lot for the trail? If so, what kind of changes does this make to the approach?
Also, best time of year for this?
Thanks in advance! Nov 20, 2018
Taylor Krosbakken
Duluth, MN
Taylor Krosbakken   Duluth, MN
I haven't done that approach but I think it would be feasible. Looks like there is an SHT parking lot on Lindskog Rd. Then hike on the SHT for about a mile and you should be able to see Night Fall. Then bushwack down the STEEP hill down to the river. I found some weird cables tied to trees from long ago that you can use for a hand line. The only advantages would be less river travel and a bit shorter, but you still have to cross to get to the base of the climb. The hike on the river is really pretty and only a little longer, but if the ice is unstable the SHT approach might make more sense. Nov 21, 2018
Kris Gorny

Kris Gorny    
I have done the approach from SHT parking lot on Lindskog Rd twice last year. Hike the well-defined trail comfortably until its highest point. From there you should be able to see Nightfall directly across the canyon. As the slopes in that area are very steep I would not commit to descending before visual confirmation of being right across the climb. I agree with Taylor that the descent, especially in the first half, is pretty chancy. Be careful using the cables. They are thin and at least of them is very loosely attached. I also remember that wearing crampons was helpful. Nov 22, 2018
Peter Stangl
Peter Stangl   Minnesota
Thank you very much Taylor and Kris! That's good to know about the cables, the decent, and using the high point along SHT for spotting the ice. If the river is frozen over then maybe I'll just walk up it up, I'm sure your right in that the view is amazing. Nov 25, 2018
Shane Steele
Grand Marais, MN
Shane Steele   Grand Marais, MN
Peter- I have also done both approaches many times and the river is a much better experience. It's true that the decent from the SHT right across from the climb is steep and completely loose scree if the snow isn't very deep. Once, I was able to descend in running shoes though- but that was in super deep snow. Take the river! As for timing, this climb usually isn't ready until after new years but it really all depends on when the Devil Track freezes. Last year we were able to climb it in the last week of December, but that was a super good year for ice up here. We're not there yet, big scary, fast-moving section of river are completely open still... But it's early so stay tuned! Dec 5, 2018