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Durrance Approach
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Black-Jones Direct T 
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Durrance T 
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interesting problem below, The T 
Late for Dinner T 
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Tunnel Vision T 
Wiessner T 


YDS: 5.7 French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ ZA: 13 British: MVS 4b

Type:  Trad, 6 pitches, 500', Grade II
Original:  YDS: 5.7 French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ ZA: 13 British: MVS 4b [details]
FA: Jack Durrance
Page Views: 129,286
Submitted By: crossadBH on Jul 8, 2002  with updates from ErinA

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I did the jump and would highly recommend it to ev...

June Voluntary Climbing Closure and Seasonal Raptor Closure MORE INFO >>>


The Durrance route is listed as one of the 50 classic climbs in North America. A 4-6 pitch route that tops out at the summit. The climb is mainly off-width and hand-crack with a few spots of chimney. You also get the choice of working a small traverse. Don't forget to register at the Visitor's Center before and after the climb. This is a crowded route and a few minutes can mean the difference between success and failure. Either plan to arrive around 5:30 AM or, if your fast and have headlamps, try to start in the late afternoon.

Note: All directional references in this description are accurate if you are facing the rock.

Approach: You have two choices here. To walk to the base of the 1st pitch... hike up the trail from the Visitor's Center and head to the right at the Tower trail. Almost immediately head left on a faint trail that angles up toward the base of the tower. Continue up an easy ramp to the base of the leaning column and the start of the Durrance. To climb up to the base of the 1st pitch... Continue hiking on the concrete Tower trail to the South side of the tower. You will come to a clear path just past the leaning column as you look up. Take this path past the registration reminder sign for 5 minutes to the base of the tower and the 1st pitch of Wiessner's route. Climb this 5.4 crack to a couple of bolts about 100 feet off of the deck. Traverse left (if facing the wall) on easy 4th class to the base of the leaning column.

Pitch 1, Leaning Column (70 feet): Ascend 20 feet up a low angle crack that quickly turns vertical. Continue up another 25 feet of off-width to a horizontal crack with a piton. Enter the chimney behind the pillar and ascend another 25feet and exit onto the top of the column to a nice belay ledge with bolts.

Pitch 2, Durrance Crack (70 feet): A two crack system heads straight up for about 70 feet. The left crack is hand-width and accepts good pro for about 50 feet. The right crack is off-width and contains a large chockstone. Good pro can be found in the left hand crack until you get to the chockstone at about 55 feet. From the chockstone, depending on how tall you are, you must commit to the right crack and face the crux of the pitch. Save your #4 Camalot or equivalent to protect the crux. If you do not have anything this size, you will probably be climbing the last 15 or so feet of this crack high above your last piece. Exit to your right onto the belay ledge with bolts. 1 Piton available about 15 feet up.

Pitch 3, Cussin' Crack (30 feet): Climb a face and off-width combo to a small ledge 20 feet up. Protect this with a number #4 or #5 stopper or equivalent on the flake to the left of the crack. From the small ledge traverse right on a 1-foot ramp to an easy and well-protected hand crack. You also have the option of continuing straight up from the small ledge in an off-width... but the right side crack is far easier. Exit onto a nice belay ledge with bolts. Be sure to run some slings from your pro to reduce rope drag if you go to the right side crack.

Pitch 4, Flake Crack (40 feet): Ascend obvious crack system on right side of huge belay ledge. A number of flakes protruding from the crack (hence the name) and some face holds for the feet will make this quite enjoyable after the off-widths lower on the route. Exit via off-width (go figure) with bomber hands onto yet another great belay ledge with bolts. Watch for some loose rock on this pitch. 1 piton is available about 15 feet up.

Pitch 5, Chockstone Crack (40 feet): Head up into a large off-width or chimney, depending on how big you are. The first 20 feet are fairly basic. The top half of this pitch is a little harder and finishes with an overhanging boulder that you must clear to exit. It will get the blood flowing, but has some decent hands to keep it relatively tame. Exit to a large belay ledge. For the first time on the route... you may be able to find some shade in a large crack on your left. Belay your second from the bolts and prepare for the jump traverse. Note: you can look down and right to spot the bolts for the second rap that you may use for your descent, they are a little harder to spot when rappelling, as they will be below you after your first rap from the summit.

Pitch 6, Jump Traverse (15 foot traverse): From the belay ledge on top of Chockstone crack, down-climb 5 feet to a small ledge. Traverse under a small roof to a horizontal finger crack. Traverse finger crack and reach back for the ledge that marks the _landing zone_ for the _jump_. Very few, if any, people actually jump on this pitch and it is not recommended. Most use the piton just around the roof to hold onto and keep the rating 5.6. If you eschew the piton, you earn a 5.8 rating for this move and the climb. Continue through a small tunnel (a nice shady spot to rest if you need it) right of the jump traverse and across the meadows to the far right crack system and climb 100 or so feet to the top. Some rope up for this section and some parties don't. Enjoy the summit.

Pitch 6 Variation, Bailey's Direct (150 feet): From the top of Chockstone crack, ascend up a 5.4 crack (left of the bolts) that goes back and forth between hands and off-width. Exit onto the summit. This finish avoids the jump traverse and has the aesthetic appeal of climbing directly to the summit. Note that the right option includes more difficult off-width moves about 40 or 50 feet off the belay.

Rappel: From the summit head back towards the top of Bailey's direct and down-climb a few feet to a rappel station. Your first rap will put you back in the meadows near the jump traverse. Down-climb to your right to some bolts below and right of the jump traverse. Make three more raps down the Bowling Alley a few hundred feet right of the Durrance route and just right of Wiessner to the base and go get some water. All raps require 2 ropes. Be careful to always rap over the nose of each pillar and NOT in the crack or else your rope will be eaten and get stuck.

Be prepared to answer all manner of questions from tourists as you race for the water fountain.

Bring lots of water and conserve it.

A truly classic climb.


Standard Rack, #4 Camalot, 2 ropes, slings.

Photos of Durrance Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Unhappy partner after the 3rd pitch
Unhappy partner after the 3rd pitch
Rock Climbing Photo: Trying to figure out what this "trad climbing...
Trying to figure out what this "trad climbing...
Rock Climbing Photo: Hi-Res image of Durrance /w Bailey's Direct. Note ...
BETA PHOTO: Hi-Res image of Durrance /w Bailey's Direct. Note ...
Rock Climbing Photo: Climbers on the first 3 pitches of the Durrance (5...
BETA PHOTO: Climbers on the first 3 pitches of the Durrance (5...
Rock Climbing Photo: Durrance
Rock Climbing Photo: Climbed Durrance in June 1950 without  hardware
Climbed Durrance in June 1950 without hardware
Rock Climbing Photo: How wide can a 13-year-old smile?  Climb Durrance ...
How wide can a 13-year-old smile? Climb Durrance ...
Rock Climbing Photo: Summit Party...
Summit Party...
Rock Climbing Photo: Topo of the Durrance and Bowling Alley rappels.
BETA PHOTO: Topo of the Durrance and Bowling Alley rappels.
Rock Climbing Photo: partner seconding pitch 4 in mid-january. The mass...
partner seconding pitch 4 in mid-january. The mass...
Rock Climbing Photo: Just after completing the Durrance pitch. Don'...
Just after completing the Durrance pitch. Don'...
Rock Climbing Photo: "Softtail" stems up the Leaning Column
"Softtail" stems up the Leaning Column
Rock Climbing Photo: Locked, cocked, and trying not to die (he dropped ...
Locked, cocked, and trying not to die (he dropped ...
Rock Climbing Photo: Proud Paul (8), Kane (6) and dad at the summit, Bo...
Proud Paul (8), Kane (6) and dad at the summit, Bo...
Rock Climbing Photo: Mahlon Hewitt starting the Leaning Column (P1) on ...
Mahlon Hewitt starting the Leaning Column (P1) on ...
Rock Climbing Photo: Leader's perspective looking down the Durrance Cra...
Leader's perspective looking down the Durrance Cra...
Rock Climbing Photo: My good friend having on Durrance
My good friend having on Durrance
Rock Climbing Photo: Cussin
Rock Climbing Photo: Durrance - 1974 Painter's Pants, pitons and do...
BETA PHOTO: Durrance - 1974 Painter's Pants, pitons and do...
Rock Climbing Photo: I get the 2nd pitch of great gear and two cracks f...
I get the 2nd pitch of great gear and two cracks f...
Rock Climbing Photo: Early morning shot of the SE face of Devils Tower:...
BETA PHOTO: Early morning shot of the SE face of Devils Tower:...
Rock Climbing Photo: 1,2,3, JUMP!
1,2,3, JUMP!
Rock Climbing Photo: Jenni and her friend flew from Oregon with the spe...
Jenni and her friend flew from Oregon with the spe...
Rock Climbing Photo: Rope management on the leaning column belay ledge....
BETA PHOTO: Rope management on the leaning column belay ledge....

Show All 58 Photos

Only the first 24 are shown above.

Comments on Durrance Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Sep 12, 2017
By crossadBH
Jul 10, 2002

Your right about the pitons on P1. Bad memory I guess. Thanks.
By Andrew Gram
From: Salt Lake City, UT
Jul 10, 2002

Durrance is not visible in the picture. It is about 30 cracks left of the left side. It is very distinctive from a distance - you can easily see the leaning column from the drive in.

The 4th class approach is desperate when icy in the winter - in those cases the 5.4 pitch is better, and it is probably better anyway to add more fun 5th class climbing to the route.

This route will feel very, very hard for 5.7 if you are not used to jamming. I hung all over the first pitch and bailed form the second when I had redpointed 5.10 sport climbs at Rushmore.

TAD is a good alternative for days when people are crawling all over Durrance - I think it is actually a little easier though much more sustained.
By Scott Thompson
Sep 4, 2002

couple of things:we did an approach pitch (we felt there was one 6 move) right where the last meadows rap ends. to get there: find trail off the paved path right next to the two fixed scopes that look at the old wooded ladder. follow obvious path up to base of slabs below leaning column. we picked a line which was nice hands at the bottom and a little wider at the top. this is the most obvious, continuous crack in this area. it terminates straight into an obvious torso-sized rock which is split nicely in two pieces, it should be obvious. 15 feet past this broked block, the pitch ends at the left-most bolt anchor (which can be used for the final meadows rap). this is a great warm-up pitch; someone with a different guidebook said it was 5.8, but theres no way. im not sure if this is the 5.4 pitch described by Andrew, or not, but regardless, its easy and fun. from bolt anchor you can easily scramble to the base of the leaning column. theres a few diffenent ways you could do this approach pitch, but this looked the most fun, and it was indeed enjoyable.

all of the pins i noticed looked terrible, especially on the first pitch, you'd have to be crazy to rely on them solely, luckily, gear was never really a problem.

i agree with Andrew, this climb will feel very hard if you are not used to jamming, you'll surely get worked on the first two pitches. the party behind us got halfway up the first pitch, and when the leader realized he couldnt jam, they had to bail.

gear: i was comfortable with my largest piece being a 4 friend, and i never wish i had anything larger. i disagree with crossadBH, the last 15-20 of the Durrance pitch are not runnout at all. lets see: medium stopper in chockstone, 3.5 friend in fist crack on the left, yellow alien to protect the last move before the top out. this crux is pretty damn awkward, switching from the solid jams in the left crack and being forced into the OW before the belay is gruntwork and not particularly secure. although larger cams (up to maybe 4.5 camalot?) would definately ease the timid, if youre solid at the grade, they arent neccessary.

pitch 3 and 4 should be mandatorily combined (whats with the 30 ft 3rd pitch, anyway?) and you can even combine 3, 4, and 5, but of course, you gotta use lots of long runners.

the jump traverse is way easier than it first looks. and the traverse accross the meadows is straightforward (climbers trail) and the 4th class gully/chimney is easy to find. for the first rap off the summit, look for two cairns and go right down in between them. you really gotta be careful on those raps--rope eating cracks are everywhere.

overall, this is a good way to get to the summit of this amazing formation if its at your level, but the climbing is pretty shitty. i had the most fun on the approach pitch and the first part of the leaning column (beautiful hands!), the rest was just gruntwork, and discontinuous through the last 4 pitches. it is a kick-ass historical route though, 1927 is pretty impressive!

jump and TAD if youre solid on 5.7 (or even solid 5.8) and you'll have a much better outing!

Scott Thompson

By Barrett Cooper
Sep 10, 2002

I would also recommend the 5.4 approach up the first pitch of Wiessner's Route for getting to Durrance. A better idea of where this begins is to walk along the path until you reach the viewing tubes for the old wooden ladder that was used to help climb the tower. The 5.4 first pitch of Wiessner's (that ends at two anchors 20' below and to the right of Durrance's first pitch) starts directly above the viewing tubes. Just take a b-line through the bushes and you will land directly on the start of the 5.4.
By Elijah Flenner
Jul 19, 2003

Good route, but a few comments. The first two pitches can be run together with a 60 meter rope. I had 15 feet left at the end, so my beleyer would have had to climb up a ways with a 50 meter rope. Bring a varied rack. I heard about all the offwidth, so brought alot of large gear only to end up at the belays with alot of large gear. The crux pitch will take anything from small aliens to a #5 Camalot.

Also, don't commit to the right crack on the Durrance Crack pitch to soon. It was easier to move to the left crack near the end.

The two pitches after the Durrance pitch are pretty easy to run together, and the climbing is much easier after the Durrance pitch, in my opinion.

Elijah Flenner
By Mark Watson
Sep 14, 2004

After reaching the rock at 8:40 it was nearly 1 before we could start the 1st pitch. 6 pitches later we were on top and in trouble. Getting dark and no headlamps. THANK GOD for a full moon.
By Just Another Anonymous User
Oct 3, 2005

Did this climb in 3 pitches using double 60m ropes. This was only possible because there were no parties immediately ahead of lucky with the timing. Linked pitches 1-2, 3-4-5, then the direct finish. Very little rope drag on the upper pitches using doubles.

On the 2nd pitch (Durrance crack), the left hand crack is somewhat polished in spots so it didn't feel all that secure when jamming hands and feet. Good off width technique in the right crack would go a long way in making this pitch easier, unfortunately I got worked because my lack thereof. Also, I was glad to have a #4 camalot along, but with all the options for pro in the left crack I'd say that bringing anything bigger is personal preference. As stated before, this pitch is not a trivial 5.7, I thought it was very sustained for the grade.

Cussin crack didn't seem that difficult after climbing the Durrance crack. I placed a #3 big bro midway (only because I'd hauled it up there), but a green or yellow alien placed in the flake will protect the awkward moves if you're feeling confident.

Some people had mentioned climbing with packs. After doing the route it doesn't seem like a great idea to me. Wearing or hauling a pack will only add to the time and difficulty on an already crowded route. That being said, my second did wear a camelback without too much trouble. I decided to just rack up in the parking lot and leave my pack in the car since you start and end in different spots when using the standard approach.

By Cameron Luth
Mar 26, 2006

This route is pretty cool. This is the first climb that I summited the tower. John Gunnels and Josh took me up (thanks guys, it was too fun). I enjoyed all the pitches but my favorite was the 3rd pitch. Great climb.
By Wayne Juntunen
Mar 31, 2006

Not only climbing Devils Tower for the first time but also to the summit on Durrance. John Gunnels lead the route while Josh cleaned. With five people going counting them it only took us 4 hours to climb. Just because there bad A**es. (Thanks)
By Todd A
Jun 20, 2006

I skipped the jump traverse and did Bailey's Direct finish, possibly the best pitch on the route, highly recommended
By Peter Arndt
Jun 26, 2006

Durrance is a bit of a GRUNT, however it is a true North American Classic and should be climbed by both veteran and neophyte climbers.
By z-rock
Aug 8, 2006

I loved this route, It would be a good idea to practice OW before you get on this climb because that's what 80% of durrace is. I would bring A full rack plus #4 #5 an #6 camalots. Or a couple of big bros. I would say this route goes at 5.8 not 5.7 all and all a great route.
By Buff Johnson
Sep 12, 2006
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b

Fun route but I didn't find it as a classic. Used a set of nuts & cams to handsized. OW technique/pro really not needed for P2 (linked P1-2 no problem), the rest is blocky chimney stuff. Good route to do if you want to do the the summit thing. Don't do the Durrance Approach, the direct approach (I believe is Weissner's) offers a good blocky handcrack start for 30M & is much easier to hike into. Bolt anchors are everywhere, good luck figuring out which ones to use for the descent, getting down sucks.
By Sagar Gondalia
From: Golden
Jan 9, 2007
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b

I agree with Todd. Bailey direct is a FANTASTIC finish to the route. Long, varied and with good exposure, its a great way to summit.
By Braxtron
From: ...
Feb 5, 2007
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b

I didn't find this climb to be a classic at all. Not worth the hype me thinks. Walt Bailey on the other hand, now there's a classic.
By Tyson S Arp
Feb 16, 2007

I've got a trip report and a bunch of photos from Durrance on my website.
By joelhagan Hagan
From: Rapid City, SD
Oct 18, 2007
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b

I led the leaning column and Durrance crack as one combined pitch. Lindsay Stephens led the next three pitches as one pitch. Lindsay, Denise and Peter took the jump traverse to the top and Mark led the Bailey Direct.

Excellent day at the tower, only saw one other group out. I would suggest combining pitches to allow for greater speed.
By Rich F.
From: Colorado Springs, CO
May 25, 2009
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b

Climbed with Dave G. and Dan F. on May 23rd. Great climb from start to finish. Surprisingly little traffic on Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. Took and used a #5 BD Camalot repeatedly on this route -- was nice to have the big cam. Finished with the Bailey Direct route and some enjoyable face climbing after a day filled with OW and chimneys. Fun trip!
By EldoFiend
From: WY
Sep 5, 2009

With a 70m rope you can rap with a single rope (Meadows rappel and the 3 bowling alley rappels), but all are very close to 120 feet, and you may have to downclimb a few feet on the last bowling alley rappel. A single rack from green alien to #5 camalot seemed to protect the route perfectly.
By Top Rope Hero
From: Was Estes Park, now homeless
May 21, 2010
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

"Very few, if any, people actually jump on this pitch and it is not recommended."


We came, we saw, we jumped. And it was more awesome. I for one HIGHLY recommend following the first team's style. Not for nostalgia, mind you, but simply because that magic moment, floating across the void hundreds of feet off the deck--maybe sticking that landing, maybe pealing off and cracking your back--just fucking rocks, and is the reason I do this thing.

But, if you prefer, you could just stay at home, sleep in late, order in some Chinese, and watch Seinfeld reruns all day. Knowing all the while that glory goes only to those who embrace calculated risk, not cower from it. Not recommended indeed.

Whatever. We jumped, and it was a beautiful thing.

Also, as for the supposed circus-like crowds everyone keeps yapping about? We climbed mid May. On a weekday. In the afternoon. Under heavy clouds. And there wasn't a single other team in sight; we spent the entire afternoon into the early evening alone atop the tower.

Glory to us, then. TV for the rest of them...
By Floridaputz
From: Oakland Park, Florida
May 28, 2010

Just returned from Climbing the Durance Route for the 5th time. Originally done as a student in 1976 with Tory Stemph, classmate of Eric Richard, with hiking boots and body belays. I found the Durance crack is still burly. There is a new "no climbing beyond this point" sign at the top, which has been missing for years.

Frank Sanders was behind us on the climb with a client. That made things more fun. He is a character. We did the Bailey direct finish, which I love. This was my 34th anniversary ascent.

PS I have jumped the "jump traverse"
By Rodger Raubach
Jul 20, 2010
rating: 5.7+ 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b

I climbed this in 1986 and my recollection is that the first pitch can also be completed by a few face moves on the leaning column and a mantle onto the top. That's how I led the first pitch. I also led pitch 2 with just a rack of a few stoppers and quickdraws; no cams. Anne led pitch 3, the Cussing Crack, and I led the Flake-Crack. We then alternated up the Bailey Direct finish with no problems. A true classic climb if done in an "old school" trad manner.
By Shawn Heath
From: Forchheim, Germany
Sep 23, 2010
rating: 5.8- 5b 16 VI- 14 VS 4c

The jump traverse might lead to easy 4th class climbing to the top, but it's totally worth it. I recommend it to everyone. It's thrilling!
By Kevin Kent
From: Flagstaff, AZ
Jan 27, 2011

Climbed it on january 14th 2011. we got a stern talking from the ranger in the parking lot who tried everything in the book to get us not to climb but there was pretty much no stopping us. (He even said something to the effect of: if you boys get in trouble i aint got no one to come get you till monday at the earliest,(it was friday AM) and by then it'll be a body recovery)

Never having done the route before, the approach ramp was quite difficult and slippery in the snow. Not sure if we followed the best line up the SW shoulder, but there was one move that felt like 5.8.

The route went pretty well, tried to climb in ice boots to keep our toes warm but switched to rock shoes with thick socks after the first pitch. Things went pretty well. Lots of snow and ice in the cracks (bring warm mittens for the belays if doing it in winter) and on the ledges. It was nice for the leader to have the nut tool to scrape snow out of small spots for gear placements.

Didn't have a #4 either, but shoved a #3 deep into the left crack on p2 before committing to the right crack where i quickly got a .5 or something in the right crack next to a chockstone. Didn't think it was a big deal not to have a #4.
Lots of pigeons and pigeon poo in the top cracks.
By Lucas Kramer
From: Duluth, MN
Apr 20, 2012

On average, how long does the season run on the tower? Specifically, how late in the year?
By Nick Stayner
From: Wymont Kingdom
Apr 20, 2012

You can get away climbing there (especially s facing stuff like the durrance, which is in the sun much of the day) pretty early and late in the season, including choice winter days.
By Hiro Kurotsuchi
From: Colorado
Apr 24, 2012

Followed on this last weekend. Fun unless you're wearing a backpack! I had a daypack-sized thing on and couldn't put my body in the cracks, would have really enjoyed it if I could.

Note - my leader took up a #5 and #6 and was glad he had them. I was less glad to be collecting them. :)
By Haley D
From: Salt Lake City
Aug 10, 2012

It says all raps req 2 ropes. Will 1 70m rope be enough or do we still need 2 ropes?
By Joel McKillop
From: Spearfish, SD
Aug 14, 2012

one 70 m. will get you down el cracko or bon homme raps, easily accessed from the meadows. recommend bon homme
By Eric Fjellanger
Sep 18, 2012

A 70 also works great to rap the route from the top of the direct finish, if there's not too much congestion below you.
By Will P.
Nov 4, 2012

Not a bad route, but the rock is not very grippy after 50 years of climbers. That definitely made it more challenging.
By jake marlow
From: laramie
Feb 5, 2013

If you don't get there super early and are either first or second to climb it don't even bother trying, just come back tomorrow. We were 5th in line at 7:30am and it took us 5 hours to get it.
By Will Stat
Jun 17, 2013
rating: 5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

A bunch of locals kept telling us not to bother with durance, "there are better routes up the tower". Lies. I loved every second of this. Beautiful jamming on the crux pitch, classic ledges for every belay and even the wide cracks were fun. The 5.7 rating is a sandbag, the crux pitch felt a little harder than valley 5.8 in my opinion, I think 5.8+ is accurate. Or maybe it was just the hot summer sun. Good footwork makes the crux crack stemming section more casual. Bring a couple 4s to make your life easier, even a 5 if you feel like it. I recommend the direct finish. Come on a weekday to avoid the crowds! A must do.
By Mark Orsag
From: Omaha, NE
Feb 21, 2014
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

Wasn't wild about this one. Lots of awkward movement and the Cussin' Crack Pitch is much harder than its rating and has very poor pro. TAD or Pseudo-Wiessner are more enjoyable ways to the top at least in IMHO (though lots of good crack climbers loathe TAD, I thought it was fine).
By John Schroeder
Jun 2, 2014
rating: 5.8- 5b 16 VI- 14 VS 4c

Loved it with my 13-year old son. We're both novices and were challenged on the pitches. For new climbers like us, make sure you're familiar with the basics of crack climbing. We'd at least had a little background and that made the climb doable. I think without that, it would have been a struggle, at least for beginners like us.

Also, per the other comments you're well served to arrive at first light to avoid the lines.

And enjoy the kamikaze birds at the top! I wasn't prepared to be buzzed by swallows but it was a nice surprise.

By Lspade
From: Maplewood, MN
Aug 7, 2014
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

JUMPING the jump traverse! Woot! What a rush! Watch the helmet cam footage:

By Lspade
From: Maplewood, MN
Aug 7, 2014
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

My partner and I drove through the night and arrived at 2:00am in the Devil's Tower parking lot on Saturday, August 2nd, 2014 (Sturgis Weekend). We assumed that most other climbers would avoid Sturgis Weekend and that we would at least be the first to arrive since we got there so early.


There was a group of 4 snoozing in the grass waiting for sunlight and another car with 2 climbers pulled up at the same time as us. We slept for an hour and a half then woke up at 4:00am. Once we grabbed our gear and started hiking ANOTHER group of two climbers drove up and raced us down the trail. My partner and I were the second group on the climb that day and we began the climb at 4:45am.

My partner and I are were very nervous when planning this climb because we heard that this route is deceivingly hard. We are NOT crack climbers and we both hadn't climbed much for the past year but a rating of 5.7 seemed well within both our abilities. I have 5 years of off-and-on climbing under my belt and two years of leading trad with high 5.11's being my limit (but only 5.9 trad leading). My partner has 3 solid years of climbing experience with high 5.11's on top rope also being his limit. Two weeks before the climb we visited the gym a few times and did laps on a hand crack. That practice saved our butts!

The 5.4 approach pitch had us both wondering if we should even attempt the climb because it wasn't easy for us. As we started climbing we became more accustomed to the rock. Durrance Crack was one of the hardest pitches I have ever led but with some methodical stemming it wasn't "pumpy" at all and any fall that may have occurred would have felt very safe. My partner was carrying the pack which made it very difficult for him to stem against his back. For Cussin Crack I hauled up the bag so he could stem more easily but that was still the hardest pitch for my partner. STEMMING IS KEY! Flake Crack was my least favorite pitch. Face left and your life will be much easier on this squeeze chimney. From there it is quite easy! We ended up assisting the group behind us with the traverse (they borrowed us a grigri because my partner forgot his belay device at the car so it was the least we could do!)

The scramble to the top is enjoyable but very long. You will not be able to hear your partner from the top. Make sure to set up some rope tug commands before hand.

My partner and I did not understand how beginners could do this route since we both heard that guides will bring complete beginners up the route. We later found out that some of the guides were building 6 to 1 pulleys and basically hauling up their clients, yikes!

Here is a video of the whole climb:

By Leslie McG
May 19, 2015

If you're not good at offwidth and lead all the pitches this will seem more like a 5.9 than a 5.7. I would recommend bringing two #4's for the durrance crack. I stayed right at the top of the durrance pitch and found the jam hard to reach on polished rock for feet.Be prepared for burly chockstone moves at the top of all the pitches except the approach and meadows finish.
By Aaron covington
From: Pinon hills, ca
Sep 28, 2015

This is an awesome route!!!! so much fun to climb! a lot of off width and stemming style but a true blast!!!!! as far as pro the only things I would take next time would be a number 6 metolius through a number 2 BD c4 cam until I reached the top of the leaning pillar, after that I would take BD 1-6 and maybe even a couple big bros. I ran the top of the durance crack out quite a ways on top of a number 8 master cam... like 40 feet but super rad climbing. I just saw a lot of protection on the upper pitches were excepting of nothing but big cams and some nuts.
By climbnowworklater
From: Colorado Springs
May 24, 2016
rating: 5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

Be prepared for this climb. Information is a bit confusing. For instance, no one hikes to the base of the leaning column (although you could). Therefore, it's 7 pitches, not 6. The "approach pitch" is a similar rating to the route but should be mentioned. Also, no way is this 5.7 unless it's 1987. This route has at least one 5.8 or 5.9 move, if not several. We got the summit but with packs on, extra gear, and physical moves that required OW and chimney moves... be prepared for this climb. Overall, great climb, start early, and do your homework. Lastly, our #5 BD came in handy in several spots so bring more than a #4.
By Bob Johnson
From: Philadelphia, PA
Jul 20, 2016

I thought this route was a great adventure! Each pitch was different and presented unique difficulties. We got to the parking lot at around 4:45am. While we were racking up at the car, another group showed up and hiked straight to the base with their packs on! We ended up being the third party on the route and started climbing around 6am. We didn't see anyone else on the route until we rapped down from the summit. The two parties ahead of us were pretty fast and it felt like we had the whole route to ourselves in the end.

As a crack neophyte, I thought the hardest pitch was the Durrance Crack. I felt that pitch was on par with El Cracko and harder than After Seven in Yosemite (just to draw from personal experience). I couldn't find a very good #5 cam placement on the first offwidth of Cussin' Crack. However, it turns out you can face climb past it using the chalked up flake (protects well with a #5 BD stopper), which the route description above alludes to. I also dodged the second offwidth of that pitch by climbing the hand crack to the right. With those key pieces of beta, I thought Cussin' Crack felt like pretty well-protected 5.6.

We ended up linking pitches 2-3 (Leaning Column/Durrance Crack) and 4-5 (Cussin' and Flake Cracks), which seemed logical. The jump traverse was so awesome! We rappelled the Bowling Alley with two ropes. Make sure you make some MacGyver style rappel moves for the tourists below as they cheer you on.
By Michael Melice
Aug 12, 2016
rating: 5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

This was my first time climbing this route. Just wanted to clear up a few things and I've my thoughts that would have helped me the fist go around. First off skipped the approach pitch and went directly to the leaning colum. Not recommended it took longer and was very steep and exposed but it does work.

Second the belay ledges were awesome and there was more than enough room for the 3 of us at a time.

Pitch 2 was in my opinion harder than 5.7 but at the same time I loved that pitch and was by far my favorite just be aware that it puts up a but more of a challenge than you would expect at 5.7.

Once we arrived at the end ofor the 5th pitch we decided to do bailey's direct but was confused on what route was the correct one. There are two cracks you can climb the left and the right and I found no where on here where it says what one is bailey's. The belay anchors are directly under the right crack so that's the one I went with and that was a mistake! This was way harder and I later found out that the left crack is actually bailey's. A guy actually fell and died on the right side crack I found out. I tried to find a grade on the right crack but couldn't find it. Does anyone know?

That being said all the other pitches were straight forward and helpful. Just bring more water than you think we ran out at pitch 4.
By danieldrudolph
From: Chicago, IL
Aug 24, 2016

Climbed this two days ago in 90 degree temps. Both my partner and I thought the Bailey's finish was significantly exposed and the route finding was far less obvious than the rest of the climb. I was twenty five feet off the belay before my first piece of pro. The cracks were near vertical and the last moves out on a face were so different than the rest of the climbing it had me second guessing myself. Nothing about the pitch was very hard technically, but the heat, the expectation that this pitch was going to be a walk up and the ease of prior route finding definitely led to a memorable finish.

Also, great route up a striking tower. Lots of off width, great belays. For confident 5.7 trad leaders, and probably for leaders of greater difficulty too, it's a classic climb.
By B-Mkll Mackall
From: Bozeman, MT
Sep 19, 2016

Got worked pretty hard on this one, and 5.7 falls pretty solidly within my wheelhouse usually. Don't get sucked left at the top of the Durrance crack.

If you want to move fast and skip the totally ridiculous suggestion that this will take 6+ hours, combine pitches! 1+2, 3+4

And whatever you do, for the love of God, leave the backpack at the base!
By Travis Bieber
From: Spearfish, SD
May 31, 2017

In my opinion everyone who wants to climb the tower has to climb Durance once. Key word is once. A super fun super sandbagged super polished super traveled 6 pitch ass kicking offwidth total body wrecking climb. Type 2 fun the whole way but completely worth it once you're standing upon the summit.
By Matthew Breeding
Jul 5, 2017
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

Super fun, classic climb. We took a BD #5 & #6 and both were placed more than once. We thought about only taking up to #4, and although you could climb it without the 5 and 6, we were definitely glad to have them.

The Bailey's direct finish was fun and easy climbing, but there's no real protection until you're significantly off the belay ledge (25-30').

We linked up pitches 1+2, and 3+4+5 which worked really well--just make sure to use extended draws and it'll save you a bunch of time.

The party in front of us told us that we could make the first rap with only one rope to save time, which was true if you had an 80m rope, but not with a 60m which we found out the hard way. Two ropes for all raps are the way to go.
From: Nederland, CO
Sep 10, 2017
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b

Start this route early or late, after 830am or so it is in full sun for most of the day. Two ropes for the rap, we didn't really use the #4, double #3s would've been better. Finished up the direct crack to the right of Bailey's, Great finish somewhere between 5.5 and 5.8? Hard to tell. Classic route for sure!
By kanyonlalley
From: Rapid City, SD
Sep 12, 2017

I was talking to a couple of guys from the Adirondacks and they were telling me about a variation to the 6th pitch that goes straight up the offwidth after the jump traverse. They called it the Queef Dungeon. I've never heard of it before could this be an FA?

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