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Rib Mountain

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Rib Mountain Rock Climbing 

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Location: 44.9201, -89.6934 View Map  Incorrect?
Page Views: 25,012
Administrators: Doug Hemken, James Schroeder, Chris treggE, Kristine Hoffman (sitewide)
Submitted By: James Schroeder on Sep 22, 2006
You & This Area
Best climbs for YOU in this area
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A crew at the base of Feels Like Butter.

Bouldering reopened 2013 MORE INFO >>>


All kinds of super fun bouldering... I wouldn't claim any first ascents here, because people have been bouldering here for at least 25 yrs, probably longer... It is however a great place to wander around with your crashpad and try stuff out. There are problems of all types and difficulty. If you're timid you might want to bring a rope and some gear for toproping... Some of the stuff is just at the height where people might want to rope up. Most of the climbing can be found by wandering around in the area of the observation tower, and is on sweet white quartzite.

Getting There 

Head towards Wausau on Hwy 39/51 and look for the signs to Rib Mountain State Park -- Not the ski area.

Climbing Season

Weather station 4.1 miles from here

103 Total Climbing Routes

['4 Stars',8],['3 Stars',35],['2 Stars',39],['1 Star',21],['Bomb',0]

Classic Climbing Routes in Rib Mountain

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes for Rib Mountain:
High Level Mustasche's   V3 6A     Boulder, 11'   Jurassics
Feels Like Butter   V4 6B     Boulder, 15'   Jurassics
Block Head   V4+ 6B+     Boulder, 8'   Jurassics
No Reservations   V5 6C     Boulder, 10'   Headstone Area
Seth's Sacrifice   V6 7A     Boulder, 12'   Northern Lookout Point
The Raptor   V7 7A+     Boulder, 13'   Headstone Area
Browse More Rock Climbing Classics in Rib Mountain

Featured Route For Rib Mountain
Rock Climbing Photo: Block Head

Block Head V4+ 6B+  Wisconsin : Rib Mountain : Jurassics
Sit down start with good edges. Figure out problem to the top. Large jug on upper right is off....[more]   Browse More Classics in Wisconsin

Photos of Rib Mountain Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Mustache Master- Seth Carlson.  Boulder Bash 2008.
Mustache Master- Seth Carlson. Boulder Bash 2008.
Rock Climbing Photo: Dough Arete
BETA PHOTO: Dough Arete
Rock Climbing Photo: Headstone
Rock Climbing Photo: There are a two good routes here, but they need sc...
BETA PHOTO: There are a two good routes here, but they need sc...
Rock Climbing Photo: A good warmup, I named it "Dead trees tell no...
BETA PHOTO: A good warmup, I named it "Dead trees tell no...
Rock Climbing Photo: Boulder problem immediately left from the concessi...
BETA PHOTO: Boulder problem immediately left from the concessi...

Comments on Rib Mountain Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Sep 17, 2013
By Peter Dodge
From: Duluth, MN
Mar 23, 2007
How big is the park, or how much climbing is there?
By James Schroeder
From: Sauk County, WI
Mar 23, 2007

It's decent sized, and there is about a weekend's worth of climbing there. Definitely worth checking out sometime. Bring a crash pad and some buddies you'll have a blast.
By Remo
From: Madison, WI
Mar 23, 2007
The bouldering is very good at Rib Mt. I lived in Stevens Point for four years and developed a lot of climbing there with friends from Wausau and Madison. There is an un-official guidebook that was done about 6 years ago, but since then many of the longstanding projects have been added.
Much of the obvious established problems are around the overlook tower, but hike around and look for some of the off-path areas.
Note: Many problems are high-ball so bring a few pads and have spotters.
By James Schroeder
From: Sauk County, WI
Mar 23, 2007

I also lived in SP a few years ago (circa 1998-2003) and did a fair amount of climbing at RM during that time? Any chance I know you? As for the "guidebook" I remember when some people were working on putting one together, but I never saw a finished product. I would certainly be interested in seeing it sometime...
By Remo
From: Madison, WI
Mar 23, 2007
Yeah, we may have crossed paths in Point. I worked at the climbing wall around that time. Matt Zingraff finished the guidebook about 6 years ago. Original copies are hard to come by, I don't even have one. He is still making copies for anyone interested. But the best guide is Seth Carlson, he lives in Wausau and is climbing there all the time.
By korbyn doucette
From: antigo,WI
Apr 16, 2007
Can anyone help me get in touch with the dudes that wrote the guidebook for rib mountain? I live in antigo and work in wausau and it would be killer to have someone to boulder with.
By Seth Carlson
From: Wausau, Wisconsin
May 21, 2007
Korbyn you can e-mail at and we can hook up and I will show you around. I also have a couple of copies of the guidebook. The guidebook is a little out of date but is a good reference.
By Remo
From: Madison, WI
Jun 7, 2007
I'm starting to add problems to Rib mountain. I just want people to be aware that all the grades given are not set in stone. We have always felt that the grades take away from the climbing there. Mountain Project makes you give a grade for a problem, so I did. From my experiences climbing with the people who developed the area this is how we have always felt.
By TravisMelin
From: Portland, OR, Roanoke, VA L
Jun 8, 2007
Remo, could you post some pictures, it would help a ton to identify routes.
By Seth Carlson
From: Wausau, Wisconsin
Jun 12, 2007
Hey Travis, I am in the process of putting pic of the problems up.
By TravisMelin
From: Portland, OR, Roanoke, VA L
Jun 13, 2007
Seth, I may be going up to Rib sometime this weekend, think anyone will be willing to show me around the place?
By Seth Carlson
From: Wausau, Wisconsin
Jun 14, 2007
I will be around all weekend, give me a call 715-432-1117 and will get after it.
By James Schroeder
From: Sauk County, WI
Jun 22, 2007

Thanks for puttting the photos up, keep them coming...
By Remo
From: Madison, WI
Jun 24, 2007
Thank Seth C. for the pics. Seth keep them coming!
By Remo
From: Madison, WI
Sep 29, 2007
For anyone interested, we are holding a Boulder Bash at the park Nov. 3rd and 4th, 2007. It's not a competition just a bouldering party. All are welcome!
By Remo
From: Madison, WI
Nov 4, 2007
The fall 2007 boulder bash was a huge success. Possibly the largest bouldering party in Wisconsin. We had over 40 climbers make it out for a weekend of great weather and fun sends. Thanks to all who came out and made this a great weekend. Look for postings on another bash in the spring.
By TravisMelin
From: Portland, OR, Roanoke, VA L
Nov 4, 2007
All of us from LAX just wanted to give a thanks to everyone for the spots, catches, hoots, and cookies. We had a blast at the bash!
By TravisMelin
From: Portland, OR, Roanoke, VA L
Nov 4, 2007
Perhaps LAX could hold a sport climbing bash at Grandads Bluff in the spring, after all we have the highest density of sport climbing in the state......
By Jay Knower
From: Campton, NH
Nov 5, 2007
That Boulder Bash looked like a great time. It's nice to see a bunch of psyched people out having fun and supporting each other. I think you guys make a good point: boulderers and sport climbers should have their own get-togethers, just like ice climbers have their "Ice Fests." Your pictures are great too.
By Seth Carlson
From: Wausau, Wisconsin
Nov 5, 2007
That was the most people I have ever had at my house! What a great time.
By Bernard Gillett
Oct 21, 2008
My brothers and I (and a few of our high school friends) used to climb at Rib Mountain from the early to mid-1980s -- we grew up in Wausau. It's neat to see the area is finally getting regular visits from climbers. We had the place to ourselves back then; never saw another climber in all the years we frequented the area, though in later years we heard rumors from climbers at Devils Lake that now and again someone would wander around the hillside and boulder a bit. I suspect a lot of the lines we did were FAs.

We climbed all over the mountain, including the old quarry on the west side (private property; my first climbing route was done here at age 10 or so around 1977 on the 100-foot 5.0 slab, with an older neighbor who had a yachting rope and my older brother). We did a fair amount of bouldering, some top roping when the rocks were high enough, a few very scary aid routes (using homemade aluminum heads, hooks, etc.), and even groveling in the snow during the winter to practice alpine climbing.

It's hard to tell from the pictures on this site exactly what we did, though some are very obvious. The Headstone Area, for example (which we called Sliding Rock, because that's what the park service calls it): Left Crack, Right Crack, Over the Top -- all of these were done before I graduated from high school (1985). The V-system for rating boulder problems was still yet to come. If memory serves me, we used to rate Right Crack 5.9, Left Crack was 5.10, and Over the Top was 5.11. We had our own names for our favorite problems, and Over the Top was certainly the hardest route we were able to do (I top roped that one, and may not have completed it until I was a freshman in college, which would have been 1986, though that may have been the year I returned to it and bouldered it without a rope? It was a long time ago, and I'm not sure I did that one sans top rope). Most of the problems/top ropes we did were in the 5.6 - 5.9 range.

I'll post a couple of old pictures in the Headstone Area.
By Remo
From: Madison, WI
Oct 24, 2008
Hey Bernard, thanks for posting your beta on what you guys did and called certain problems. You were way ahead of our time up at the park. I changed some names and added you guys as the FA's. Looks like the V-scale translated well with your 5. scale ratings, very cool.
By Bernard Gillett
Oct 27, 2008
Hi Remo - I've looked through many of the problems listed here, and see a few more I'm certain we did, though my guess is that most of the boulder problems we established were so easy that they wouldn't merit a listing. For example, the picture of Dough Arete in the Headstone Area: I'm 95% sure the leaning crack on the right was one of our routes (we called it Offwidth), and I'd be 100% sure if you told me that around the corner (that is, left from the edge of the photo, toward Headstone/Sliding Rock) there is a lovely little hand crack (with a 6-inch overhang?). That hand crack was one of our favorites -- surprised it isn't listed here, but maybe that's because it's so easy (we called it Mother, and rated it 5.8).

The picture of No Reservations shows a route we did; I think it's listed as The Mantle Problem -- goes up the obvious corner to the right, with a jam in the serrated flake at the top. Don't recall our name for that one. I believe there was a little squiggly seam right of the corner (just out of the photo of No Reservations) that we may have completed, and I know we did a mantle problem to the left of No Reservations that climbed up to a small shelf just around the corner from Right Crack, and then to the top (easy, but scary because of the long fall potential -- scary for a few high school kids who were learning to climb, in any case).

Northern Lookout Point (I think we called that Sunset Point?) was a favorite area for us -- we top roped a number of lines (and later returned to solo the easier ones). I think we did the Frankenstein face (though I can't tell from the description of the route "Frankenstein" where it goes -- we may have climbed through that blob of rock half way up the face that forms a 1-foot overhang). I know we used to solo the low-5th class chimney left of Frankenstein whenever we were out there. We had a few routes that went up the face above the easy ramp, and a route or two on the face around the corner (one of them starting with the arete/prow below the left edge of the ramp).

One of my buddies and I actually started cataloguing our routes senior year in high school and wrote a little guide for the area (in a notebook), but I can't locate it. I do have a set of notes I scribbled when I last climbed at Rib Mtn: I was home for my 15th high school reunion in 2000, and did all the classic routes on our circuit. Lots of fun memories...

Don't feel compelled to change the names of the routes for my sake -- whatever the current crew at Rib Mtn chooses to use for names is OK by me. I noticed that Seth Carlson wrote a guide to the area: Seth, are you out there? I'd love to see your guide if you still have copies (and I'll send an email shortly).

Finally, I noticed that the FA listed for Over the Top is "Mason?" Is that Mason Werner? For some strange reason I have his email (from UWSP; apparently he was a student there at the time) scrawled on my notes from that 2000 trip to Wisconsin, and I can't recall whether I actually ran into him, or got his email from some folks I ran into down at Petenwell Rocks near Necedah (another one of my old WI climbing haunts). I was supposed to contact him to share info on the climbs at Rib Mtn, but never got around to doing it.

Hope the Rib Mtn bouldering bash was successful (looks like it took place this weekend) -- if I didn't live 1100 miles away in CO, I would have shown up to see all the new climbs you guys have put up.
By Minty Alpinist
Nov 26, 2008
You LaX sport climbers should just pick a date and location to camp/fest, then spread the word. Make the whole thing a "pot luck" burrito fest where everyone brings one ingredient to build burritos (tortillas, beans, salsa, veggies...). One gambler can buy a keg and sell cups. Another can make and sell souvenir T-shirts.

Make it an annual tradition.

Call it the "Bean Fest"...
By Langlois
From: NYC
Mar 1, 2010
I am speechless, I'm assuming if I'm 7 years old and climbing around without any safety gear (shoes pads etc) or my parents watching me thats cool but if I'm being responsible and using pads spotters etc thats not allowed?
By Tradiban
Mar 1, 2010
That's correct Langlois. "Scrambling" is allowed per a letter I have seen from the park manager. That sounds like climbing sans pads.

This is a perfect demonstration of the DNR's lack of understanding of rock climbing. My advice is to keep talking about this and asking questions in a constructive way. Maybe climbing will never be allowed at Rib again but if we get a few DNR people out climbing perhaps they will see the contradictions in their polices and that climbers are actually one of the least destructive user groups out there.

If anyone from the DNR ever reads this please feel free to contact me via this website and I will personally guide you and your family climbing to show what we as climbers are all about.

I feel bad for Seth right now, bummer man.
By Chris treggE
From: Madison, WI
Mar 1, 2010
I agree Ryan. Gotta say I moved here to WI in 2007 at least in part because there is so much climbing around. To knock one place off the list hurts. I hadn't made it there.

Thanks to Steve Schultz (probably among others) who had a discussion going with the rangers but in the end, it appears that the decision had already been made.
By SteveSchultz
Mar 1, 2010
I don't want to post the entire letter here but here is the important stuff.

"During the same planning process an are of the park was designated as a State Natural Area (SNA) known as the "Rib Mountain Talus Forest State Natural Area". The geology, soil conditions and vegetative cover in this area are similar to other areas of the park, except that this area contains the highest concentration of rare plants in the park. There are several areas of quartzite talus, some of which have artesian seeps. These areas provide microhabitats for many rare species of flora and fauna. The SNA designation provides a new set of guidelines on climbing. According to the attached DNR's "Rock Climbing Policy for DNR-Managed Properties", under 3(i) rock climbing is not permitted within SNA's. It is with that policy the DNR is not allowing "rock climbing" or "bouldering
at Rib Mountain State Park. However "Scrambling", as defined in the policy, is allowed."

So. Everything having been said, the DNR's primary concern is to protect the park so that future generations can enjoy it and also to allow any endangered plant or animal species to thrive. My take on this is they are much less worried with what most land managers are most concerned of. That's normally liability/insurance/people breaking. Rib seems to be much more concerned with the impact that an ever growing stream of boulderers will have on the local plant life.

To them, we're coming in and staying on a couple of very concentrated areas for multiple hours at a time, all the while stomping around with pads and other crap. On the other side of things, most people that go to Rib seem to walk around on the rocks a little bit, maybe go to the overlook and up the tower and then they walk back to their car and leave.

Their concern isn't safety as much as impact. Devil's advocate here. I don't agree or enjoy what's going on. I'm just trying to understand it.

There is always a sliver of hope, however small, so who knows what may happen in the future.
By Langlois
From: NYC
Mar 2, 2010
As Chris has stated elsewhere I think all of us are on board with conservation. It is a tough road to argue against. However, I think that climbers (especially at rib thanks to efforts by Seth, Remo et al) are one of the most eco-friendly user groups. I feel that a balance here can be reached between conservation and climbing. Hopefully the State will be amenable to some form of compromise. As a thank you to Seth and everyone else who have put in endless hours finding and developing the incredible climbs up there I think we should write the DNR and try and forge some sort of new rules/regulations on climbing(maybe by permit to "limit" the number of climbers/"climbing hours" annually?)

ps Chris I'm bummed you never made it up there, Seth could have beta flashed you up all the classics
By Daniel Goscha
From: Rhinelander, WI
Mar 6, 2010
This is the same answer I got when I inquired about climbing there this last summer and part of the reason I started the Northern Wisc. Climbers Coalition.

Not all hope is lost and I think there is actually a good chance we can get it reopened. Here is what I know...

First, here is a link to the park areas that have the SNA designation:
Rib Mountain Management Zones Map
You can see from the map that most of the good stuff is in the SNA area, but the areas right around the tower and concession area are not in the SNA designated zones.

Second, here is a link to their Master Plan and Environmental statement:
Rib Mountain Master Plan
You can see it was completed in 2005. That means they should be either in the process or beginning the process of creating a new master plan. I think these generally last only five years -- could be wrong. So, hopefully we can be an active participant at the table.

Last, here is the relevant bit from the state's rock climbing policy in SNA's that talks about what we need to do to open the area:
"Natural Areas Preservation Council (NAPC) has determined that rock climbing has the potential to be inconsistent with s. 23.28(3), Wis. Stats., regarding uses of designated State Natural Areas (SNAs). For this reason, rock climbing is prohibited on designated SNAs, except at the Dalles of the St. Croix River SNA in Interstate State Park, the East Bluff SNA at Devil’s Lake State Park, and other locations that may be approved by the Department with advice from NAPC. Any requests for additional climbing routes in State Natural Areas will be made to the Natural Areas program staff in the Bureau of Endangered Resources, and reviewed by NAPC, with input from the climbing community and other interested parties. Requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis, with the burden of proof of compliance with s. 23.28(3), Wis. Stats., on those making the request. Property managers will follow existing management plans for State Natural Areas."


"6. REMOVAL OF RESTRICTIONS ON ROCK CLIMBING. A restriction of rock climbing activities will be removed when the criteria for its closure have been remediated or mitigated to the Regional Director's satisfaction.
(a) The evaluation process should be timely.
(b) The remediation /mitigation may be documented by an on-site inspection by the property manager, and any surveying professionals (e.g.; geologist, anthropologist, or biologist) involved; and/or, where appropriate, documented with photographic evidence of recovery). The local CAC may be asked to participate."

So, there is a process in place. I am currently working with the AF to find out how other regions in which environmental issues have been the sticking point got them resolved. I am also working on identifying a contact on the Wisconsin NAPC who we can talk to to fully understand the environmental concerns and if they truly are park-wide or more in specific regions.

Does anyone know any biology, botany, ecology, etc. faculty in the UW system that might be willing to work with us to do some impact studies???

I want to really encourage everyone, though, if you are interested in helping out with getting Rib back open, please sign-up to be on the mailing list. I am working with the Access Fund to get an adopt-a-crag event planned there for this year (it would be GREAT if we could have a huge showing of climbers come out to this to show the park how valuable it is to us) and have made a couple of good contacts with the park staff. So, hopefully if we play our cards right, unite in a few bridge-building projects, we can get a Memoranda of Understanding in place.

Incidentally, this is exactly the same argument and reasoning the DNR is using to keep Gibraltar closed. So, if we can get Rib Mtn. back open, perhaps we can "follow the recipe" and make progress toward opening Gibraltar.

Please check out, though, and sign up!
By Josh Olson
From: Durango, CO
Mar 15, 2010
so, it is closed to climbing in the state natural area? is that the only place that it is closed? there are quite a few boulders not in the area, especially between some of the chairlifts. is it ok to climb in the scenic recreation zone(as displayed on this map:( )
By rcongo
From: Memphis, tn
Jul 18, 2011
Is this area still closed. Will be in the area this fall and looking for something to do. Any reccomendations?
By Dobbe
Jul 18, 2011
Should not be a problem, just be low key.
By jaysquared
From: Madison, WI
Jul 19, 2011
My understanding is that no policies have changed, and thus climbing is not allowed in all areas of Rib that are designated State Natural Areas (SNAs). I believe most, if not all, of the climbing is located in the area designated as a SNA. If climbers are trying to convince the DNR that we are responsible and respectful enough to warrant changing the current provisions that disallow climbing, the "just be low key" attitude is only going to be detrimental to prospects of future use and relations with the park service. Hopefully respecting the status quo will establish mutual respect between climbers and the DNR, setting the stage for future dialogue and change.
By Paul Campbell
From: Waukesha, WI
Jul 19, 2011
Unfortunately this is not a very "low key" area. Most of the climbing is in the most heavily visited area of the park, right around the observation tower. I would stay clear of this area for the most part, I was there about a month ago to do Ninja climbing and after I saw all the rangers I decided against it.

As for State Natural Areas and the DNR that's a whole different debate for another day. Lets just say they don't give a rats ass about us; if you think being respectful of their closurers is going to gain us access anytime in the near future you are smoken somethen good.
By mggrandall
Feb 19, 2012
is this area still closed? I will be pretty close for the summer and was looking for the closest V5s to try. I'll be in Eagle River and this place and Monico look the closest but there is much more here.
By Chris treggE
From: Madison, WI
Feb 19, 2012
Yes. PM Seth Carlson for uptodate info but no official change in policy.

More of a drive but check out Rattlesnake Mound, and of course hit the Lake. Tons of classic V5's at DL.
By mggrandall
Feb 19, 2012
thanks Chris! appreciate the help. bummer about the closure. seems like a cool area and not so far from Eagle River where I'll be staying for three months. maybe I'll check out Mountain WI as well but looks like only a few V1s there so far...
By baggins
From: Jerome, AZ
Nov 4, 2012
Are there restrictions about winter bouldering, since the rare vegetation would be under snow anyways?
By randy baum
From: Minneapolis, MN
Apr 10, 2013
access to rib mountain is now open. only bouldering, no roped climbing. more info below:
By Paul Campbell
From: Waukesha, WI
Apr 10, 2013
Awesome news!
By LittleGuy
From: Vancouver, WA
Jul 15, 2013
Yeah, it's funny Rib Mountain is opened and I did a bunch of work for it, but I've found so many more new places this summer that I haven't even been there yet. If anyone goes let me know I'd be game to check it out - Shawn Brunner
By Silent Destroyer
From: Appleton, WI
Sep 17, 2013
Dont know if anyone else has had a run in with the rangers yet. But i was there yesterday heading towards some of the routes closer to the ranger station and was stopped by one. Apparently you can only boulder in the immediate vicinity of the observation tower. Otherwise they will escort you out of the park.

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