Why is climbing allowed on the Tower?
Devils Tower boasts a climbing history that dates back to 1893 when it was first climbed by two local ranchers using a wooden ladder. Climbers from all over the world consider Devils Tower to be a unique and premier climbing area. Currently, about 5000-6000 visiting climbers come to Devils Tower each year. Although early rock climbing techniques have left an indelible (though slight) scar, contemporary rock climbers leave little trace of their ascent. Today, most climbers rely solely on their physical strength in order to make a climb. The modern technical equipment that is used for safety is designed to be efficient, removable, and non-damaging. Pitons, the steel “pegs” that were historically hammered into cracks, have almost exclusively been retired from use. The National Park Service (NPS) considers rock climbing a legitimate recreational activity
at Devils Tower.
What is the June Voluntary Closure?
As a culturally significant site for American Indian people
, some perceive climbing on the Tower as disrespectful. It appears to many American Indians that climbers and hikers do not respect their culture by the very act of climbing on or near the Tower. A key element of the 1995 Climbing Management Plan
(CMP) and 2006 update is the June Voluntary Climbing Closure. The NPS advocates this closure in order to promote understanding and encourage respect for the culture of American Indian tribes who are associated with the Tower. June is a culturally significant time when many (not all) ceremonies traditionally occur. Although voluntary, this closure has been very successful, resulting in a significant reduction in the number of climbers during June.
During June, the NPS asks climbers to voluntarily refrain from climbing on the Tower and hikers to voluntarily refrain from scrambling within the inside of the Tower Trail Loop. Please consider the closure when planning a climbing trip to Devils Tower. Alternative climbing areas are located within 100 miles of Devils Tower National Monument. The Access Fund fully supports the voluntary closure and the CMP at Devils Tower.
How long does it take?
Time of ascent depends on skill, route difficulty, and the number of climbers in the group. The average time for two climbers to climb the Durrance Route is between 4-6 hours. It takes about one to two hours to rappel down.
Has there ever been anyone killed?
Yes, there have been six climbing fatalities since 1937. Three of these fatalities occurred while descending (rappelling) the Tower.
Do climbers spend the night on the Tower?
Not intentionally, park regulations prohibit camping on the tower.
Does climbing damage the rock?
Although early rock climbing techniques have left an indelible (though slight) scar, contemporary rock climbers leave little trace of their ascent. Today, most climbers rely solely on their physical strength in order to make a climb. The modern technical equipment that is used for safety is designed to be efficient, removable, and non-damaging. Pitons, the steel “pegs” that were historically hammered into cracks, have almost exclusively been retired from use.
What’s the fastest the Tower has been climbed?
In the 1980s, Todd Skinner – a Wyoming native - free-soloed (climbed alone, without ropes or protection) the Walt Bailey route in 18 minutes.
How do they get their ropes up there?
Climbers typically climb in pairs. The first person to climb – the lead climber – climbs upward using only their hands and feet. They periodically place protective equipment in the rock and clip their ropes through this gear. The second climber belays (securely manages the rope) the lead climber. When the lead climber arrives at a good stance, they secure themselves to the rock and belay the second up. The second will remove all the gear that was placed on lead. Nothing is left behind.
How do climbers get down?
Climbers rappel to descend off the Tower. One rope is passed through permanently installed anchors (expansion bolts) in the rock and then tied to a second rope. Climbers place both ropes through a mechanical friction device (attached to their harness) and slide (rappel) down both strands of rope until they reach the next rappel stance and anchors. In order to retrieve their ropes for the next rappel, one of the ropes (the knotted side) is pulled down – pulling the other rope up and through the anchors. Eventually, all the rope is pulled through the anchors and the process is repeated (3 or 4 times) until the ground is reached.