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Turk's Head
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Turk's Head Ridge 

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

Type:  Trad, 7 pitches, 500', Grade II
Original:  YDS: 5.8 French: 5b Ewbanks: 16 UIAA: VI- ZA: 15 British: HVS 4c [details]
FA: unknown
Page Views: 7,142
Submitted By: Jay Knower on Apr 10, 2002

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Stew nearing the top of Weissner's Crack after yet...


An alpine route at Devil's Lake? Turks Head Ridge, with the Wiessner Wall finish is seven to nine pitches long. Sure the pitches are short, but its all we've got.

To approach, walk north past the cabins on Tumbled Rocks Trail until you can see a tower about 50 yards above the trail. This is the first pitch (5.3). Descend the tower, and continue on long, mostly unbroken ridge to the base of Wiessner Wall. Continue up Wiessner in two pitches and complete the longest route in Wisconsin.

Pitch two (5.6), an ugly wide inside corner, protects well with big cams. The third pitch, a left slanting finger crack is the crux (5.8) and difficult to protect. It is short, though, and the 5.6 face to the right might afford the leader some respite. After this, it is 5.4 climbing to the top.

For what it's worth, I have usually climbed the ridge in this order:

Pitch 1: The Tower, 5.2

Pitch 2: The Dirty Inside Corner, 5.6

Pitch 3: The 30 Foot Wall, 5.8 or 5.6

Pitch 4: The 15 Foot 5.1 Groove

Pitch 5: The 40 Foot Inside Corner/Ridge, 5.4

Pitch 6: The short Rightward Diagonalling Crack, 5.4

Pitch 7: The Double Cracks, 5.5

Pitch 8: Wiessner's Chimney, 5.4

Pitch 9: either Wiessner's Face, 5.7 or The Crack Above The Tree, 5.2

I feel as though, when climbed this way, you maximize both the quality and the quantity of the climbing. There are, however, numerous variations possible.


Standard Rack--Maybe some big cams. Gear to set belays.

Photos of Turk's Head Ridge Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: P7 Magic Ed - most guys his age like to watch golf...
P7 Magic Ed - most guys his age like to watch golf...
Rock Climbing Photo: The final pitch if you use the Turks Head chimney ...
The final pitch if you use the Turks Head chimney ...
Rock Climbing Photo: Stew and the gang starting up P1 of Turks Head Rid...
Stew and the gang starting up P1 of Turks Head Rid...
Rock Climbing Photo: P3 The inside corner is easy on this pitch - the 5...
P3 The inside corner is easy on this pitch - the 5...
Rock Climbing Photo: Stew standing atop a small spire found at the base...
Stew standing atop a small spire found at the base...
Rock Climbing Photo: Nice spot for a direct belay.
Nice spot for a direct belay.
Rock Climbing Photo: Mike
Rock Climbing Photo: The above topo was written by Joe Block and appear...
BETA PHOTO: The above topo was written by Joe Block and appear...
Rock Climbing Photo: Having some fun near the top at sunset. Great way ...
Having some fun near the top at sunset. Great way ...
Rock Climbing Photo: Turk's Head Ridge
BETA PHOTO: Turk's Head Ridge
Rock Climbing Photo: P1 The first tower
P1 The first tower
Rock Climbing Photo: P3 A nice casual solo
P3 A nice casual solo
Rock Climbing Photo: Magic Ed likes the solid rock - been climbin' the ...
Magic Ed likes the solid rock - been climbin' the ...
Rock Climbing Photo: Nice Anchor Pitch 3?
Nice Anchor Pitch 3?
Rock Climbing Photo: Turk
Rock Climbing Photo: Summit of turks
Summit of turks
Rock Climbing Photo: The 5.5 cracks above the alcove make up pitch 6.
BETA PHOTO: The 5.5 cracks above the alcove make up pitch 6.
Rock Climbing Photo: You can do this route as 5.4, or maybe easier, ALL...
You can do this route as 5.4, or maybe easier, ALL...
Rock Climbing Photo: Stew coming up P4 of the Ridge.
Stew coming up P4 of the Ridge.
Rock Climbing Photo: A couple of the good ole boys on a casual Sunday s...
A couple of the good ole boys on a casual Sunday s...
Rock Climbing Photo: P2 The way I like to climb this pitch - very easy ...
P2 The way I like to climb this pitch - very easy ...
Rock Climbing Photo: P5 Starting out on my favorite pitch, the 40 foote...
P5 Starting out on my favorite pitch, the 40 foote...
Rock Climbing Photo: P6 I like to do the corner left of the 5.4 crack o...
P6 I like to do the corner left of the 5.4 crack o...
Rock Climbing Photo: The tower of pitch 1
BETA PHOTO: The tower of pitch 1

Show All 26 Photos

Only the first 24 are shown above.

Comments on Turk's Head Ridge Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Jun 28, 2017
By Tom Anderson-Brown
From: Madison, WI
May 28, 2002

I did Turk's Head Ridge this weekend with Jan Brown and I really enjoyed it! We did the 5.5 and under variation and in my opinion the experience is highly recommended. Give it a try. It does somewhat resemble alpine climbing although the pitches are [much] shorter.
By Joe Block
Jul 4, 2002

From the author of that topo:

It is in NO WAY authoritative. As anyone who has climbed this beast knows, it's less of a "route" and more of a "pick your own way" type of climb. Please add additions/subtractions/modifications. I made that topo as an attempt to give those new to the climb a general idea of what the ridge we're all talking about is.

Does anyone do this thing in the winter, preferably during nasty stormy conditions, or is it just me (I doubt it's just me)?

And, if you're going to climb this (not necessarily for speed) you must finish on the 5.7-ish face route on Wiessner, not the 5.2 cheater (which I use, admittedly, at times). A spectacular finish.

A possible modification to the gear list: I don't think there's a need for anything larger than 1.5 inches. Maybe on top of the last pitch, but you can use the rock spike or sling one of the monster blocks behind the face (not the loose boulders).

By Jay Knower
From: Campton, NH
Jul 7, 2002

Joe, If you climb the "true" second pitch--the inside corner to the left of the tower and below what you call the "30 foot wall"--big gear may be helpful for the wide crack. I think it is a shame to skip this pitch, or should we call it a pitch-let? It is more of a boulder problem, and the moves are scary and insecure for it's sandbag 5.6 rating. The Swartling guide lists the pitch as an alternative to the tower and calls it a "20 foot overhanging dirty inside corner". Sounds classic, eh?
By Joe Block
Jul 7, 2002

I actually have that "pitchlet" listed as an alternate in a write-up that Tom has on Turk's Ridge. I believe he's going to post it at some point. It basically follows the description in The Guide, but adds more variations at the top of the Ridge. And as you know, having climbed the ridge, there really are a few good variations down low as well, variations/pitches The Guide seems to omit. Sometime this fall I plan to get out there with my GPS and a digital camera and finally nail down a good description of the ridge, the stuff below Turk's Head, and the stuff below and to the south of the Needle.Thinking about the second pitch (to the right of the tower), you're right, it does take some big gear.I've been climbing Turk's Ridge for a decade now and it's still hard, at times, to nail down a good descirption of the area. I was happy as hell to see yours, though, knowing that someone else actually really likes the formation.
By Joe Block
Jul 7, 2002

Jay,If/when Tom posts my descirption of Turk's Ridge, it would be great if you modify it to reflect your true second pitch down low. I see that what I call the 2nd pitch would be the third, by your description (which I think is better).Or, Tom, if you're reading this (which I suppose you are), I can just resubmit that route description to reflect Jay's detailed descriptions down low on the ridge (and then my descrpition seems to fill out the upper pitches).
By Joe Block
Jul 8, 2002

We're pretty much on the same page. My description just combines several of your pitches into one pitch (but I can't look at your description with the way this posting page works, so...) Wandering right towards the top (about 100 feet below the base of Wiessner) takes you into a rather interesting and undocumented area directly below Turk's Head. I'm pretty sure if you go right after the 40 foot "ridge" section (going from memory here) it's possible to link up into some more continuous climbing until you reach the base of the "little" tower in front of Turk's Head. You know you've gone right too soon if you end up in a big talus field (some interesting variations in the winter there, though, and a little bit of ice on occasion).
By Tom Anderson-Brown
From: Madison, WI
Jul 11, 2002

Check out Joe Block's terrific article on Multipitch climbing in the "Features" section of the site. Click on the "Community" button to the left in the sidebar, then click on "Issues" at the top of the page. Thanks a lot Joe for this great contribution!
By Joe Block
Aug 6, 2002

Having just spent two days tromping around the ridge, I've discovered a few things.First, Tom, if you can lighten the photo of the whole ridge, it will reveal a bit more detail. I can provide another photo with the modifications if necessary.Second, the rock to the right (north) of the ridge is much more extensive than I thought. It's all undeveloped (and pretty overgrown this time of year), but surprisingly vertical. It is broken into short pitches, or steps, but is rather wide.There are actually three distinct bands of rock that make up the ridge.

1. The uppermost band extends from the Cleo Amphitheater to the Wiessner Wall to Turk's Head. 2. The middle band extends from the "40 foot ridge" on the south to the broken walls and towers on my topo.3. The lower band extends from several buttresses south (and above) the first tower to a series of overgrown and just less-than-vertical walls to the north.

The abovementioned "fixed" photo really helps you see this description. Once you see it this way, the ridge's terrain is much easier to decipher. Tackling the northern side of the ridge (the right side) is more committing, offering less walk-arounds and trickier third-classing. The "40 foot ridge" section forms the southern side of this band, and is quite impressive. The left side of the ridge (south) is the least committing and easiest route.Now that I've wandered a bit more around there and modified the picture, I can see an easier way to write up a route description, providing hints on pitches to link up. I suspect in the winter the ridge could be done in three long pitches (with some hard climbing), separated by scrambling.The interesting part is the fact that there is, as far as I can tell, a fair amount of virgin rock north of the ridge. The "middle band" particularly offers up a possible continuation of the route via a traverse underneath Turk's Head. I don't know where it ends up, but I suspect it peters out in the wide basin between Turk's Head ridge and Prospect point. (The top of the bluff drops a bit at this point)(The drawn overview map in The Climber's Guide hints at these sections of rock. It's much clearer in the older, '79 edition)I'll post a better description of the pitches in a few weeks.
By Paul Huebner
From: Portage, WI
Aug 11, 2007

This is a fun solo, especially in the winter, when there's no snow for skiing. I avoid the 5.8 on the 30-foot wall and opt for the 5.6. I also like to finish on Turk's Head (5.5), instead of Wiessner's.
By Erik Olson
Oct 23, 2007

Had a great time on a shorter variation of this route. It was dirty and wild. I loved it! The variation was a low angled slab to the right of a wall that had the left to right angling crack that looked about 5.8ish. And went up through a series of ledges for about 120 ft to a ledge N of Turks Head. It was low grade probably like a 5.4 or something, but man was it dirty fun!
By John W. Knoernschild
From: Wisconsin
Aug 18, 2008

What fun this is. A bit grovely at the beginning, but turns into a nice enjoyable climb. Really fun to do pitch after pitch and no stopping. Do it on a nice cool day. I did it in the sun on a warm humid day, sweating balls on every pitch.
By James Schroeder
From: Sauk County, WI
Aug 18, 2008

This thing definitely needs more traffic. It was full of cobwebs when John and I did it this weekend...
By Stranger Than Iowa
From: ia
Jun 13, 2012

Hike in from the Tumble rocks trail from the south side 300-350ft from the trailhead(last cottage) look left up a talus field to spy the head of a tower, its your goal. Me and my partner bushwhacked right but I think going straight up the field would be your best bet. Dirty but fun.
By Ted Pinson
From: Chicago, IL
Apr 2, 2016

How close together are the pitches on this thing? Is there considerable hiking between, or does it actually feel like a multipitch climb? I'm thinking of doing this thing next time I'm at the lake and trying to figure out what shoes to bring. Could probably do most of the bottom in my approach/hiking shoes, but I'm not strong (or dumb) enough to try Weisner's in them and I don't want to be hiking around in my rock shoes...
By James Schroeder
From: Sauk County, WI
Apr 2, 2016


They're pretty close, but for the most part you will feel like you will stop at the top of the prior pitch if you fell from the current pitch. I'd say there is a walk of 10'-30' between each pitch. If you want the tour, PM me, I'll show you around.

By Doug Hemken
From: Madison, WI
Aug 8, 2016
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b

We wandered over from Split Tower to start on pitch "3". I'd call it 4 more pitches to the top (so 5 or 6 total), 5.6ish to the base of Turk's Head and Weissner Wall. Saw lots of enticing variations to explore, especially to the right of the Ridge.

I note with some irony that the "usual" finish does not seem to include actually climbing the Turk's Head! And why does no one do Turk's Tooth?
By Maayan L
Jun 27, 2017

Did this as our first multi-pitch and had a blast! Sitting on the ledge next to the tree halfway up Weissner wall was the best, so I'd recommend that finish.

Approach beta: we followed the instructions on Jay's book, which were extremely helpful. We'd like to add that there are white numbered lines drawn on the paved Tumbled Rocks trail, and the first pitch can be reached by going off trail and up the boulder field at #518. Some of the numbers are quite faint, but the "18" is easily spotted if you look for it on the trail.
By Terry Kieck
Jun 28, 2017

For clarity, the marker is actually S18 (South 18). The marks were put in for an Eagle Scout project several years ago to assist rescue locations from my understanding. I believe the center "0"marker of trail is below SOGC then they are labelled either S or N.

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