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Outlets Rock Climbing 

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Location: 43.8477, -103.5668 View Map  Incorrect?
Page Views: 66,136
Administrators: Andrew Gram, Peter Gram, Greg Parker, Andy Busse, Mike Madsen, Kristine Hoffman (sitewide)
Submitted By: Peter Gram on Jun 24, 2002

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Best climbs for YOU in this area
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Smooth Lake with no boats.


The Outlets around Sylvan Lake hold many fine face routes, and some wonderful cracks too. The climbing here is generally quite bold and runout, so make sure that you are solid at the grade of the climb (or go practice on safer routes near Mount Rushmore). Expect mostly face climbing on sharp, strong granite, often with widely spaced bolts. However, bring a rack for both cracks and face climbs. Often a piece of gear can be stuck in between bolts. Rappels are generally needed to get off summits, as most everything is a spire with steep faces on all sides.

Some of the Needles best bouldering is also here. This includes the Campground Boulder, Acid Test Boulder, Mood Swings Boulder, Outlet Boulder and more. For crack climbing, check out Classic Crack on Inner Outlet, Conn Diagonal on Outer Outlet, and Sex Never Did This to My Hands on Vertigo View. Also on Inner Outlet is the Wiessner Chimney, a namesake chimney done in the 1930's.

A pay campsite is located right near the lake. Expect this to be full on the weekends during tourist season.

Getting There 

From Hill City, drive south for a few miles and then take a left at a signed junction going towards Sylvan Lake (highway 87). Drive up this road 5 or 6 miles to the entrance booth. Here you have to pay to get in the park. I would recommend getting an annual pass because Custer State Park holds South Dakota's finest climbs. Then park at the lot immediately on the left in front of the Sylvan Lake Store.

To get to the main climbing area, follow a trail around the lake towards the rocks. Some climbs can be seen just above the lake, but most require following the trail through a huge tunnel. Back in this area is the bulk of the climbing. Keep following the trail around to get to various areas.

Climbing Season

Weather station 4.8 miles from here

139 Total Climbing Routes

['4 Stars',27],['3 Stars',72],['2 Stars',25],['1 Star',13],['Bomb',0]

Classic Climbing Routes in Outlets

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes for Outlets:
Classic Corner   V4 6B     Boulder, 20'   Campground Boulder
Inner Course   5.4 4a 12 IV 10 VD 3c     Trad, 1 pitch, 140'   Youbet Jorasses
Better Than Pool and Pie   5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a     Sport, 1 pitch, 70'   Dam - Back Side
Goldstone's Riddle   5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b     Trad, Sport, 1 pitch, 95'   Riddle
Lander Turkey Shoot   5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b     Trad, Sport, 1 pitch, 80'   Inner Outlet
Creeping Senility   5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b R     Trad, 1 pitch, 175'   Old People's Dome
Aging Gracefully   5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b     Trad, Sport, 150'   Old People's Dome
California Boys   5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b R     Sport, TR, 1 pitch, 90'   Dam - Back Side
Conn Diagonal   5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b     Trad, 3 pitches, 300'   Outer Outlet
Retable Route   5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b     Trad, Sport, 3 pitches, 300'   Inner Outlet
Kamps Crack (Classic Crack)   5.8- 5b 16 VI- 14 VS 4c     Trad, 1 pitch, 120'   Inner Outlet
Cold Feat   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Trad, Sport, 1 pitch, 120'   Inner Outlet
Katey's Route   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Trad, Sport, 1 pitch, 90'   Inner Outlet
West Buttress   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Trad, 3 pitches, 300'   Outer Outlet
Sex Never did this to my hands   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Trad, 1 pitch, 135'   Vertigo View
Harbinger   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b     Trad, 1 pitch, 60'   Paydirt Pinnacle
Nick of Time   5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b     Trad, 120'   Outer Outlet
Jugs   5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b     Trad, 90'   Outer Outlet
Two Year Plan   5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c     Trad, Sport, 1 pitch, 140'   Inner Outlet
Sundogs   5.11d 7a 24 VIII 25 E5 6a     Sport, 1 pitch, 90'   Riddle
Browse More Rock Climbing Classics in Outlets

Featured Route For Outlets
Rock Climbing Photo: Taken by Luke Ross

The Phoenix 5.13+ 8b 30 X- 31 E7 7a PG13  South Dakota : Custer State Park : ... : Stonehenge
Piana once called this line more beautiful than the Salathe Headwall! It certainly has caught many climbers' attention. Kevin Bein top roped the line in '87 calling it 'So You Wanna Layback?'. Since then few others have attempted on TR and it was more commonly called 'The Phoenix'.Begin on a hollow, right-facing flake. As the flake dies out, transition right up thin face to a large jug rail at the base of overhang. Clip bolt and run it out through the first hard section before the seam allows ge...[more]   Browse More Classics in South Dakota

Photos of Outlets Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Sylvan Lake and the Outlets.
Sylvan Lake and the Outlets.
Rock Climbing Photo: Summits north of Outer Outlet.
BETA PHOTO: Summits north of Outer Outlet.
Rock Climbing Photo: Storm brewing over Sylvan Lake.
Storm brewing over Sylvan Lake.
Rock Climbing Photo: Sylvan Lake from the Outlets
Sylvan Lake from the Outlets
Rock Climbing Photo: The crack below is Sex Never This To My Hands and ...
The crack below is Sex Never This To My Hands and ...
Rock Climbing Photo: The Outlets from Sylvan Lake.
BETA PHOTO: The Outlets from Sylvan Lake.

Comments on Outlets Add Comment
Show which comments
Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Jul 15, 2008
By Anonymous Coward
Aug 9, 2002
Do anybody have any information about routes on Tiki tower? I find just one old route in guide books. Is it all? Can anybody help?Motak
By Bob Archbold
Aug 10, 2002
There is a second route on Tiki besides the 5.5 route referred to in Piana's Touch the Sky guidebook. On basically the side that faces the lake is a 5.11 known as "Ocean Gypsy" First climbed by Verne Phinney. What year he did it I can't remember but it was in the mid-eighties.
By Bob Archbold
Aug 11, 2002
I had a typing error on my comment about Tiki. The original route is a 5.8 not a 5.5. Old finger don't type so well sometime.
By Anonymous Coward
Oct 17, 2002
I just found the site and I've been browsing through the comments. I found the comments about the anchor on top of "Lander Turkey Shoot" to be quite interesting. My name is David Monger and I've been climbing in the Needles for ten years now. I was introduced to the area by my college professor/mentor/dear friend Dick Laptad. In case you've never heard of Dick, he did the first ascent of Cerebrus and Queen Pin with Royal Robbins as well as a mid 5.11 route on End Pin that to this day is rarely repeated even on toprope. Dick has also done numerous other firsts that can be found in "Touch The Sky". I myself have done a couple of routes with John Page, "Whale'n" and "Aging Gracefully". Anyhow, to get back to the anchors on top of "Lander", I didn't put them there but I was present when the party responsible was asked by two of the members of the first ascent party(Cindy Tolle and Everett Auckom) to place them. I believe that the anchors are beneficial for the visiting novice climber and because the route is so popular. The Needles are sacred to me, my wife and I were married on the Needles highway while Jan Conn played the flute. It's my honor to call Doc Laptad, John Page, Paul Duvall, Bob Archbald, Gene and Norma Larson, Paul and Loretta Meuhl, Howard Doyle, Linn and Everett Auckom(sp), Pete Dellanoy, Cindy Tolle, Marshall Rose, Daryl and Cheryl Stisser(sp), John Biddick, and many others friends. All of these people with their different views helped shape me as a climber and they all share a love for the Needles as do I.
By Unassigned User
Oct 28, 2002
I still find the anchors unnecessary, as it takes away from some of the adventure of the climb. I hope that all simul-raps in the hills do not become bolted anchors. Learning to simul-rap is part of climbing in the hills - just my opinion!
By David Monger
Oct 29, 2002
I don't want all of the simul-raps to disappear either Angela. However, the first ascentionists of "Lander" never intended for it to be a simul-rap, they got weathered off while putting up the route and just never got around to putting an anchor up because it was possible to get off with a "needles rap" but that wasn't their intention just in case you were wondering. It is nice to be able to discuss this intelligently and I certainly respect your opinion. Climb on!
By Unassigned User
Dec 9, 2002
Boy it is nice to discuss this like adults and not have it end up like the Spearfish debate! THANKS!
By Tang
From: SD
Jan 28, 2006
Dave, I'm glad you've climbed for as many years as you said here in the hills and have had a chance to met all those people. Myself, I've only been climbing here since the early 70's. But all this does not address the bolts that were added needlessly. Does someone being the FA give them the right to say what bolts get added to the route, I think it does, but that is a matter of ethics, let alone legal issues. Speaking of ethics, where did the rest of them go? Nice one gets to pick which ethics too. Needless bolting is unethical, top rope bolting is unethical, solving problems by just adding bolts is unethical. Thousands of others climbed that route without them, and this is just one of the many that get altered year after year. Ethics are taught and passed down, wherein the problem lies. What we have taught is, fix problems with bolts, not your mind, (your mind being the best tool in your bag of tricks). Whats wrong with saying, "u don't like it, don't climb it". I don't like them and I don't climb em. 90% of these routes could be toproped too, but, I spose that would'nt look as cool.
We now have a new breed of climbers without regaurd to someones FA's, other ethics, or knowledge of skills. All one needs now is cordless drills, some bolts, and go out and make a name for yourself. Kind of a drill, clip and go society. And if one tires of their route, discard it like and old video game you've mastered and make a new one, problem solved. One can't walk through a spurt crag without seeing someone doing something gumby, and you can't politely point it out to them either. I guess its not their fault, not like anyone teaches need for safety or self rescue skills anymore.
It isn't a matter of the bolting that was done years ago, its all the prolific retrobolting and newer questionable recent routes that I'm addressing. I make these concerns out of love for the hills and the future of climbing. Access issues are popping up everywhere, you think our access is cemented in stone, try getting it in writing.
By Jonathan Williams
From: Minneapolis
Apr 17, 2008
Anybody know where the "Outlet Boulder" with the classic V5/V6 sloping layback boulder problem is located? I walked all over Sylvan without happening upon it. I don't see it it listed. has it listed but locates it "between the outlets" which means nothing to me. Thanks! JW
By steve richert
From: Taunton MA
Jun 22, 2008
Question, since I see mention of the simul rap here... I am not adverse to simul rapping, however my belayer is about 90 pounds lighter than me...we will be visiting this summer by the way... and I have done a couple simul raps with larger partners who wont be on this road trip...that said, is it possible to simul rap with that weight disparity?
By joelhagan Hagan
From: Rapid City, SD
Jun 22, 2008
If you're uncomfortable going at the same time with a much lighter person, lower them and they can be a counterbalance once they're set on the ground. Just make sure they brace themselves until you are on the ground.
By randy baum
From: Minneapolis, MN
Jul 15, 2008
When on the trail and the Outer Outlet on your right, there are a series of fins/formations ahead and to your left. Old People's dome is in the second row back of these formations. In the first row, there are two main formations. On the left most side of the left formation, there is a fun, striking 7 bolt face climb. I think it is graded 10c or so. Does anyone know the name of this climb? Sorry I do not have any pictures.

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