Type: Trad, Sport, 140 ft
FA: Paul Muehl & Pete DeLannoy
Page Views: 1,231 total · 16/month
Shared By: Brent Kertzman on Aug 31, 2012
Admins: Andrew Gram, Peter Gram, Greg Parker, Mike Madsen, Mark Rafferty

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This route is one of the most often over-looked classics around. Totally worth the approach. Located on the way to the "Adventure's of Bill-Bolting Baggins"...

There are several classics on this same formation that will provide a days worth of climbing in the spicy but safe 5.7 to 5.10 range.

Climb the bolted groove until it becomes possible to jam up under Smaug's Left Wing.

Setting a belay at the top of the notch is possible. A short distance around the corner is a set of bolted anchors located on the south side of the formation to belay from.

The summit of the Dragon's Head can be climbed from the notch belay stance. Follow a rising diagonal counter-clockwise starting on the north side of the Dragon's Head.

There currently are no fixed anchors at the Dragon's Head summit. Be prepared to down lead back to the notch. A great little 5.7 summit.

Protection is possible on the way up. Some longer slings are useful to set a tope rope for those who aren't up to down lead from the Dragon's Head.

If you don't mind walking a short distance back around to the north face you, can safely rappel from the south side anchors with one 60 meter rope.

It is possible to climb a little higher and belay at a set of bolted anchors in a smaller notch on the east/left side of the groove. Two ropes are required to rappel back down the route from these anchors.


This route is located on the north face of the Far Downs. Look for the bolted groove located behind a spruce tree just left of "Of Quartz It Goes". The groove leads to a notch with a large boulder/ledge just below the "Dragons Head Pinnacle".

The Dragon's Head is quite visible as you drive from Hill City along Highway 87/89. Smaug's Head is best viewed from the lower two switch-backs.


Modern Bolts & a set of 1/2" to 4"+ cams, one set of stoppers, q.d.s & over the shoulder slings, Bolted Anchors


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Mark Orsag
Omaha, NE
Mark Orsag   Omaha, NE
Wow!!!! Visually stunning and amazing to climb. Talk about a superb route that almost no one mentions... Totally unforgettable. This climb is magic from the moment you see it... best single pitch route that I have ever climbed anywhere period! Thanks for posting this Brent-- this route merits WAY more notoriety and traffic than it gets. May 2, 2013
Wilson On The Drums
Woodbury, MN
Wilson On The Drums   Woodbury, MN
Thought provoking moves and consistent climbing make this a great route. Felt 5.8 but it keeps you on your toes for awhile so come prepared. It would have been nice to know a little more info before I headed into this though b/c I nearly found myself in R rated territory. There is no "jamming" on this route and it's really a bolt protected route that can take 1 or 2 pieces of gear all the way up top after the last bolt. When looking at the water groove from the bottom you will see a large separation in the rock, its basically a chimney, I headed straight for this and the last bolt will put you right into it. It looked like you could go left here and climb the face, but it would be a long, 50ft or so, of unprotected climbing, there was maybe one very small gear placement. Take the chimney, follow until you are on top of a large chockstone, here you should be able to see the bolted anchors out left. If you belay from those anchors and avoid placing gear in the chimney it sets the follower up to climb the aforementioned face... Highly recommended. Jun 27, 2013
Kirtis Courkamp
Kirtis Courkamp   Golden
9 Bolts on this route so not run out at all. Its actually the most bolts ive clipped on any route in the park to date. And good protection up top in the really easy chimney 5.6 or so. Sep 14, 2014
Wilson On The Drums
Woodbury, MN
Wilson On The Drums   Woodbury, MN
has anyone tried the line going straight to the chains form the last bolt going slightly left, instead of heading up into the chimney? Oct 6, 2015
Jim Slichter
Hill City, SD
Jim Slichter   Hill City, SD
I TR'd this direct finish about 15 years ago (when there were only 3 bolts on the entire climb) and thought it would make a wonderful variation to the original route. The chimney finish is OK but it really detracts from the rest of the route. My recollection is that the direct extension would require 3 more bolts with a good stance for the first and probably hooks for the next two. At that time the anchor bolts on top needed replacing as well. Here's hoping someone gets motivated enough to complete this finish. I think it would be one of the finest 5.8 sport routes in the Hills once it was completed. Oct 9, 2015
Wilson On The Drums
Woodbury, MN
Wilson On The Drums   Woodbury, MN
wow thank you for the very thoughtful and informative response. i've really wanted to get active in the hills, but being as is in Minnesota I'm not able to do so. I'll have to take a look at it next time I'm out in CSP and hope I see that someone has already made the contribution (of adding a few thoughtful bolts, vs the ability to run out 5.8 w/ one micronut for 60ft... imo) Oct 9, 2015
Brent Kertzman
Black Hills, SD
Brent Kertzman   Black Hills, SD
When the BHCC repaired this route a decade ago we, top roped the direct finish to the original anchor. Two of the climbers present wanted to add bolts on rappel that day. The consensus was to come back and establish the direct finish on the lead with an adequate number of bolts as per the local ethic. Hopefully someone will come establish this excellent variation to one of the most fun 5.8's in the universe. Oct 26, 2015
Kathryn H  
Climbed this thinking that it was Of Quartz It Goes, so I didn't have any gear with me. Ran the last bolt out to the anchors, and it wasn't too bad. Can be done without any gear, since the last 50ish feet are pretty easy. Still a bit scary, since it was harder than I was anticipating, also a little dirty and mossy. But still good all around. Jul 5, 2016
Brandon Emery
South Dakota
Brandon Emery   South Dakota
I find it to be rather pointless to take gear up this climb. After the last bolt the climbing eases way up, 5.5 or 5.6 in my opinion. 9 bolts protect the climb itself to the base of the chimney, from there it is easy going. If anything take one cam (#1 maybe) or a few larger sized nuts for the chimney. This is easily one of my favorite routes in Middle Earth that I have done so far. Jul 5, 2016