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Palisade Head

Routes Sorted
L to R R to L Alpha
A Feathery Tong T,TR 
A mind Forever Voyaging 
A Sinners Last Gift T 
Aching Alms T 
Arms Race T,TR 
Bluebells T,TR 
Bridges over Troubled Water T,TR 
Choice of a New Generation, The T,TR 
Christmas Tree Crack T,TR 
Danger High Voltage T 
Don't bring a knife to a gun fight a.k.a. "Gun Fight" T 
Double Breasted Anchor T,TR 
Driving in Duluth T 
Ecclesiastes T 
Echoes S 
Ex Nihilo T,TR 
Flight School T 
Fool's Progress, The S 
Gales of November, The T 
Genetically Correct T 
Goliath's Finger Crack T,TR 
Great Bird Chimney, The T 
Happy Happy, Joy Joy S 
Hidden Agenda T 
Hidden Treasure T,TR 
I Could've Been a Contender T 
Iron Maiden T,TR 
Jim's Crack T 
Laceration Jam T 
Lapidarian T,TR 
Long Distance Commute T,TR 
Lord of the flies (free) AKA: Comrades in Slings (aid) T 
Mabley's Traverse  T 
Mack the Knife T,TR 
Mr. Lean T,TR 
Night Vision T 
Old Men in Tight Pants TR 
Oz - (AKA The Road To Emerald City) T 
Palisaid T 
Phantom Corner TR 
Phantom Crack T,TR 
Poseidon Adventure T 
Praise the Many Seraphim T 
Presents T 
Pussyfoot T 
Quetico Crack T,TR 
Rapprochement T,TR 
Scars and Tripes Forever T 
Socket Wrench T,TR 
Soli Deo Gloria T 
Squab T 
Sunny and Sheer T,TR 
Superior Arete T,TR 
Superior Crack T,TR 
Swimsuits and Harnesses T,TR 
Swizzlestick Legs T,S 
Urge to Mate T,TR 
Warrior's Last Dance On Earth TR 
Water Babies T,TR 
Wise Guys T,TR 
Withering Heights T,TR 
Yellow Feather T 

Palisade Head Rock Climbing 

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Location: 47.32016, -91.21086 View Map  Incorrect?
Page Views: 74,259
Administrators: Kris Gorny, Chris treggE, Kristine Hoffman (sitewide)
Submitted By: nodin on Apr 12, 2006
You & This Area
Best climbs for YOU in this area
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Palisade Head is the most serious and richest crag in Minnesota. With very few climbs easier than 5.8 and the bulk of climbs harder than 5.10, this is the place in Minnesota to hone your hardman skills. Between several off-width, hand and heinous finger cracks, crystal faces, or stunning arête's, there should be enough variety here to please almost anyone!

The Southern Ramparts are generally closed early in the season for Falcon nesting. Keep an eye out for posted closure signs and respect closures to avoid conflict with the Park.

Climbs in the Amphitheatre tend to be the most popular and crowded and are also most easily visited by tourists. Plenty of crack systems to be found along the entire top of the Head to build anchors. If you are not feeling confident, a pair of ascenders is a good idea.

Getting There 

About 2 Miles before the turn in for Tettegouche State Park

Climbing Season

Weather station 9.0 miles from here

62 Total Climbing Routes

['4 Stars',12],['3 Stars',31],['2 Stars',18],['1 Star',1],['Bomb',0]

Classic Climbing Routes in Palisade Head

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes for Palisade Head:
Quetico Crack   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Trad, TR, 1 pitch, 90'   
Danger High Voltage   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Trad, 2 pitches, 160'   
Superior Crack   5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Trad, TR, 1 pitch, 90'   
Phantom Crack   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Trad, TR, 1 pitch, 90'   
Bluebells   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Trad, TR, 1 pitch, 90'   
Scars and Tripes Forever   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b     Trad, 200'   
Laceration Jam   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b R     Trad, 3 pitches, 200'   
Rapprochement   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b     Trad, TR, 1 pitch, 120'   
Ex Nihilo   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b     Trad, TR, 1 pitch, 120'   
Mack the Knife   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b     Trad, TR, 1 pitch, 55'   
Urge to Mate   5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b     Trad, TR, 1 pitch, 45'   
A Feathery Tong   5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b     Trad, TR, 1 pitch, 150'   
Driving in Duluth   5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c R     Trad, 100'   
Hidden Treasure   5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c     Trad, TR, 1 pitch, 90'   
Don't bring a knife to a gun fight a.k.a. "Gun Fight"   5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c     Trad, 1 pitch, 105'   
Mr. Lean   5.11d 7a 24 VIII 25 E5 6a     Trad, TR, 1 pitch, 110'   
Poseidon Adventure   5.11d 7a 24 VIII 25 E5 6a PG13     Trad, 2 pitches, 80'   
Soli Deo Gloria   5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a     Trad, 1 pitch, 70'   
Oz - (AKA The Road To Emerald City)   5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b     Trad, 1 pitch, 175'   
Palisaid   5.13a 7c+ 29 IX+ 29 E6 6c     Trad   
Browse More Rock Climbing Classics in Palisade Head

Featured Route For Palisade Head
Rock Climbing Photo: Superior Arete

Superior Arete 5.12c 7b+ 27 IX- 27 E6 6b  Minnesota : Tettegouche SP (North Shore... : Palisade Head
Stuck in the spotlight, it is hard to miss the line. Start up Superior Crack for 15 feet or so until you can traverse right onto the arete via edges. The route weaves its way up the arete switching sides now and then, with the crux at a small roof 1/3 or so the way up. Excellent stone and movement....[more]   Browse More Classics in Minnesota

Photos of Palisade Head Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Fog creeping on Lake Superior.
Fog creeping on Lake Superior.
Rock Climbing Photo: Palisade in a winter storm. December, 2006.
Palisade in a winter storm. December, 2006.
Rock Climbing Photo: Winter view from the bottom.
Winter view from the bottom.
Rock Climbing Photo: Sailing towards Palisade Head from the south. Sept...
Sailing towards Palisade Head from the south. Sept...
Rock Climbing Photo: Winter at Palisade Head.
Winter at Palisade Head.
Rock Climbing Photo: Late morning view of Palisade Head from the Lake (...
Late morning view of Palisade Head from the Lake (...
Rock Climbing Photo: Hillary onsighting Sunny and Sheer.
Hillary onsighting Sunny and Sheer.
Rock Climbing Photo: SOUTH SIDE!
Rock Climbing Photo: Palisade ahead from Shovel Point, MN.
Palisade ahead from Shovel Point, MN.
Rock Climbing Photo: North End
North End
Rock Climbing Photo: Belay on
Belay on
Rock Climbing Photo: Palisade Head from Shovel Point, MN 1997
Palisade Head from Shovel Point, MN 1997
Rock Climbing Photo: The Head from Shovel Point.
The Head from Shovel Point.
Rock Climbing Photo: Setting up climbs on Palisade Head.
Setting up climbs on Palisade Head.

Comments on Palisade Head Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Mar 30, 2015
By James Garrett
Aug 30, 2006
I grew up in Duluth and returned many times to climb at "The Head"....but never with locals.

Looks like from some of the attached photos, you guys are finally allowing people to use chalk. Is this true? I could tell you so many funny stories how aghast some people would treat me and finally ask, after seeing my chaulk bag, "you don't intend to use that here, do you?" ...I admit, I always respected your ethics and I didn't use it there.

Anybody placing any bolts out there? Or is this just too far away from the trad arena? I have never been into top roping, but every trip out there, people would look at me very strangely if I was actually leading something. Never once, did I see any other climbers out there leading anything, always these amazingly elaborate top rope set ups with like 20 carabiners and miles of slings the gumbies were tripping over. I finally figured out why, once I was out in front....the routes were so often difficult or cumbersome to protect and bolts were as scarce as in the Gogarth (Wales). It actually felt a lot like the Gogarth...but anyway, how is it? Does vigilante law still prevail and are drillers still hung up upside down with weights and dragged from an Iron Ore Boat out to the Duluth Harbor? Don't get me wrong....I love the Gogarth, but it's alot easier to protect than Palisade Head, both on the route and topping out.

I often hoped I would run into Pagel somewhere and I'd be able to ask him and ride him a little, but I never did. Gee, he didn't even come from Duluth or Northern Minnesota, but he sure ran the herd hard in Minnesota!!
By JJ Schlick
From: Flagstaff, AZ
Aug 31, 2006

Chalk... well... yes... the chalk ethic on the north shore was more or less a by product of cultish frenzy and seperatist delusions. There are, of course, no legal ramifications for dipping into the white gold now and then on the north shore, nor any environmental data which would support that chalk is in any way a threat to that ecosystem. Unless you count the sensitive egos of the locals. I went to school at UMD for a year and a half in the middle 90s. Thumbing through Pagels guide book and scoping routes I came under the impression that I would surely find some hardy souls to partner up with and get some business done. You can imagine my dismay after finding out that 99% of the climbing community would or could not lead much of anything. Since I wanted to lead this obviously lead to dilema. To chalk, or not to chalk. After much internal debate I finally came to a workable and exceptable solution. I would use chalk only if leading. There it was, simple and concise. I would like to say this was the end of my ethical struggle, but alas my solution only lasted at most a week. After listening to the arguments of those who oppose the use of chalk I quite simply found them to be baseless and trite. That is my opinion- I also have an asshole. The important thing to remember here is this; If a local ethic serves a purpose, or a greater good then it is up to time and the climbing community as a whole wether or not that ethic is to endure. I do not respect the chalk ethic on the north shore. That is my choice. What happens down the line is up to the individuals in the community. All I know is, if I am sticking my neck out on the line to do new routes there on gear (most of which are difficult), then I am going to carry the added tool of chalk in a bag. To me, it is silly not to, especially at the Head and Shovel. These crags are continuously blasted by storms, and the utter neglect of many of the more difficult routes would lead one to suspect that they would never get greased up. I have been threatened and slandered over this issue, but at the end of the day, I am more concerned about the quality of the routes climbed than I am about wether or not I used chalk. Lets just say it doesn't keep me up at night.

There is a growing number of modern testpieces to be found at the Head which will test both your fitness and nerves. We will try to post more of these as time goes on. Bolts are found on some of the free routes here and there, though not many. The Head just doesn't lend itself to great face climbing. The best lines always follow a natural weakness. Echoes and the Echoes Extentsion are notable exceptions.

Routes to do-

Don't Bring a Knife to a Gunfight 11b pg James ?
Road to Emerald City (top pitch) 12a/b pg Dave Groth
Sol de Gloria 12b pg Groth first lead
Aching Alms 12b g Seth Dyer
Sinners Last Gift 12c r JJ Schlick
Lord of the Flies 12b/c g Groth
Palisaid 13a pg13 Groth
Superior Arete 12c tr Groth
Birds of a Feather 12a pg JJ Schlick
And, of course, Mr. Lean 11d pg
Posieden adventure 11d pg

Some of these made it into the falcon.

Peace- JJ

By 1Eric Rhicard
Sep 20, 2006
Hey Guys, I learned to climb in MN in 1975. We didn't use chalk then. We didn't use friends, or brass nuts then either. In the early 80s I spent a great day top-roping with Dave Pagel at the Head. He is a great guy and a lot of fun to hang with. In deference to him I did not use my chalk and was a able to ascend many of the harder routes of the time. Had we been leading you would still be able to see the cloud. It is now 2006 and the thought of not using chalk seems absurd to me. I don't plan on leaving my cams behind. Climbing is a personal thing, climb it with or without, have fun, live and let live. Thanks for any new routes too.
By Travis Hibbard
Jul 2, 2007
I've looked around online and have the WI/MN guidebook for Palisade and can't seem to find the info i'm looking for. Does anyone know of any routes that would be good practice for multi-pitch clean aid? Mainly looking for C2- or less and was wondering if there was anything up there that could be done multipitch at that grade? Thanks for any help
By randy baum
From: Minneapolis, MN
Jun 23, 2008
climbs north of north tower are closed april 1 - august 1 due to peregrine nesting. the closure does not includes climbs on north tower.
By S. Stember
From: St. Paul, MN
May 8, 2009

Multi pitch lines are basically non existent in MN with a handful of exceptions at Palisade, Shovel, and a contrived link up at Taylors. None of these exceptions are that long. With that being said, I might recommend Laceration Jam to Christmas Tree Crack as a good option for a clean aid lead. That would definitely be a "C1" line.
By Peter L Scott
Sep 20, 2011
From the mid 80's to the 90's my friends and I climbed here A LOT.

Scott Brockmeier and myself cleaned and did the FA of many routes. We have never received credit for these. Not that it's somebody's fault but Dave Pagel was aware of this. Seems he gave Chris Holbeck as reference and some how got the credit. Chris is an old friend of mine and can confirm the only FA he did was Double Breasted Anchor.

Here's a list and credit
-Swizzlestick Legs 5.11c Peter L Scott and Scott Brockmeier
-A Feathery Tong 5.10d Scott Brockmeier and Peter L Scott
-Fools Progress 5.11 Scott Brockmeier and Peter L Scott
-False Prophet 5.11 Peter L Scott and Scott Brockmeier (Falcon guide route 46 unnamed)
-Urge to Mate 5.10c Peter L Scott and Chris Holbeck
-Double Breasted Anchor 5.8 Chris Holbeck and Peter L Scott
-Metamorphosis 5.10b Scott Brockmeier and Peter L Scott
-Hiawatha does Gitchagumee(sp) TR 5.9 Suzanne Johnson and Peter L Scott (This route lies on the face around the arete to the right of No Sugar, No Baby)
-Echoes 5.11b Scott Brockmeier and Peter L Scott

Echoes Ext. was originally bolted by Tom Ramier and called Happy Happy Joy Joy. He never completed the project

False Prophet was bolted. The bolts were pulled by the North Shore Climber Nazis. Yes, I have some animosity towards these folks.

Most of the routes Scott and I put up were mixed gear routes. We were labeled "sport" climbers by the north shore climbers. I think our climbing resumes defies that. Scott and I climbed over a hundred routes at Devils Tower. We also climbed El Cap together 3 times. Including Nose in a Day. Scott climbed El Cap several times more.
We climbed in countless trad areas around the country. We also clipped our fair share of bolts. All we wanted to do was climb, bouldering, sport, trad, and alpine. It was all good.

As for chalk. Local ethics are created by locals. I have climbed at Palisades Head over 500 days. Cleaned and bolted as needed. Was involved in several FA (If you've ever cleaned a new route at P H you know just how much work that is). I've climbed there every month of the year. Including aid climbing in January when it was 10 below zero. I have no idea how much trash I hauled up that cliff. Trundled numerous loose blocks from established route. Repouned fixed pins.
If this doesn't make me a local I don't know what would.

I always used chalk (judiciously). So as a local I say feel free to use chalk. That's my local ethic.

If I ever climb at P H again and somebody on their 4th top roping trip to the head scolds me for using chalk, I'm going to be tempted to throw them over the edge.

O.K. I got that off my chest!
By Sam Daley
From: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Sep 21, 2011
Awesome Scott, thanks for all the hard work! It inspires me to hear about other climbers putting in that extra effort to enjoy something they love. Not to mention it is a refreshing counter point to the lazy attitude generated by gym culture.

P.S. I love your stance on the chalk ethic.
By Lou Hibbard
From: Eagan, MN
Nov 11, 2011
Not mentioned in previous comments is the abundance of poor rock at Palisade Head. I certainly respect those who lead here but for me it was always just a toprope playground to hone skills for leading on better rock elsewhere. After climbing over 60 routes here I have personally thrown down thousands of pounds of rock, usually on the rappel down but sometimes on the climb itself.
Not a good area to push your limits on lead unless you are very experienced, although some of the routes are much cleaner than others.
When toproping here or at Shovel Point consider using a static rope with a slingshot belay. The rope goes from the belayer (on top) through a solid anchor above and back down to the climber(belayer tied in to anchor separately). Although using a static rope is commonly considered a no-no because of the greater danger of shock-loading the anchor, in actuality if the belayer doesn't allow a huge loop to develop the catch will not be that hard. The belayer gets pulled into the anchor, dissipating the forces.
I always felt much safer with a static rope on sharp or loose rock while toproping. They are so much more cut and chop resistant.
By Ryan Steel
From: Twin Cities, MN
Aug 23, 2013
I understand the no-chalk policy. However, is it acceptable to use chalkless chalk or organic chalk? I'm about to climb up at Tettegouche for the first time, and I just want to make sure that I don't upset anybody, hurt the rock, or upset the peregrines and others in the local habitat (and I don't really want to start/continue the chalk vs no chalk debate, I'm just asking a practical question).

Any thoughts or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
By Jessica Winter
May 30, 2014
Question: are there chain anchors here, or do you have to build anchors for all the routes? I am not completely sure what MountainProject's definition of a Toprope route is.
By Dave Rone
From: Eau Claire, Wis
May 31, 2014
Jessica, there are no permanent anchors for top roping any Palisade Head routes, you have to build your own. Bring a standard rack and some very long chord/runners. Sometimes you use cracks, other times trees, sometimes both. It's also a good idea to have a piece of carpet to put between your anchor and the edge of the cliff, it is very sharp in some places.

Shovel Point does have some permanent anchors, but only above a couple routes. Again, you'll need some very long runners.
By Jessica Winter
Jun 5, 2014
Thank you Dave. So it sounds like there are pretty limited options here and elsewhere around Duluth without a trad rack, is that right? We'll be visiting town for my cousin's wedding in August and looking to do a little sport climbing. Maybe I need to check in the Forums for more info.
By Kris Gorny
Jun 6, 2014
Jessica,you can also try Sandstone . Roughly 1 hour drive south of Duluth along I-35 (so same distance as Palisade). The area has quite a few bolted routes equipped with anchors and the access to the top is easy (trail).
By Jessica Winter
Jun 7, 2014
thanks Kris!
From: Duluth Mn
Jun 14, 2014
Bolts are few and far between in Duluth. Currently I can only think of 5 routes. As previously mentioned your best bet is Sandstone.
By Kris Gorny
Jun 25, 2014
Banning is super bad for mosquitoes. But it's somewhat of an anomaly because of the pond, which breeds all sorts of insects and it is near the cliffs.

Palisade is not nearly as bad, but the black flies will chew your ankles. Bring bug spray. Mosquitoes come out mostly in the evening. And then it gets nasty as well.
By KurtH
Mar 30, 2015
I’ve been climbing here a lot the last several years and have absolutely fallen in love with this crag. What a stunning area! That said, I’m always aware of the politics that can overshadow climbing here. I’m glad to see the prominent first ascensionists discuss their chalk ethic above, and display it with their photos (anyone notice too that the new guide book, even with it’s no chalk essay, has EVERY photo at Palisade with someone using chalk!).

I’ve thought long and hard about this myself, and wanted to share my personal thoughts to add to Peter’s great comments:

Seeing as every climber I’ve seen there uses it, and I've asked at the State Park and the rangers said they don't care whether or not climber use chalk (ie, not an access issue), the ethic seems to be losing any ground it once held. In addition, all major developers of the classic trad leads used chalk, setting a standard for others to follow.

That said, I would totally respect it on a matter of access. Or of course, on “Leave No Trace” grounds IF the routes weren't entirely stripped of lichen 20 years ago BY CLIMBERS (BIG trace), there wasn't a paved parking lot 30 ft from the cliffs (BIGGER trace) and a HUGE radio tower 300 ft tall right on top of it all (REALLY BIG trace!). Seems like it's a trivial matter in this context, plus it has no ecological impact (scrapping lichen and paving roads do). On top of all that, much of the rock is white, most tourists never even see the cliff walls (eliminating “the aesthetics argument”) AND it’s washed clean by massive Lake Superior storms, rain and wind regularly. …Therefore, I am personally comfortable having dry hands on route. But if you still find yourself in a state of contrition, then you can always haul up some trash from the base (cause there is sadly a bit down there).

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