Type: Ice, 180 ft (55 m), 2 pitches
FA: January 1979. Peter Monkkonen, Richard Doege and Brian McKinley
Page Views: 17,613 total · 84/month
Shared By: Kris Gorny on Mar 12, 2007 · Updates
Admins: K Ice, Kris Gorny

You & This Route

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Description Suggest change

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 a belay setup at the bottom of the bowl (a bad spot for falling ice anyway), 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 to a small rest, most years there will be two options from here: a center finish to a moss/mug/gravel top-out, or a left finish with a bulge-pull and a delicate sphagnum/snow move to reach the anchor. 

For a one-pitch lead (highly recommended for enjoyment and safety!) a pair of 70m ropes and long runners will get you to the tree anchor on top. If you are using 60s, 5-10m of simul-climbing is required to reach to proper tree.

2021 Rappel/Anchor Tree Update: The obvious tree at the top of the climb has recently seen some serious erosion. Scrolling through photos posted by climbers in the last 10-15 years on this page, it's easy to notice the difference in how this climb forms nowadays. There was once a time when belaying and rappelling from this tree was the clear choice. Now, with more roots and loose rocks being exposed ever year, the stance below this tree has all but fallen away and it's better to top out and use the tree 20 feet directly back from the edge. To prevent further erosion, use the extended rappel anchor (new as of Jan. 2021 and bomer!) that should be within arms reach of the comfortable stance just above the obvious tree at the top of the climb. A pair of 60s juuuust gets you down from here, there may be a couple moves of downclimbing on easy terrain to get you all the way to the river. 70s should be no problem.   

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

Location Suggest change

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.

Protection Suggest change

Ice screws