Climbing Devils Tower

ICTMN Staff
12/1/10

Devils Tower in Wyoming is one of the premier climbing areas in the country thanks to hundreds of parallel cracks that divide the monolith into massive hexagonal columns. It is a unique climbing experience due to its makeup of phonolite porphyry, a ‘ringing rock’ that is able to reflect sound when struck. It is basically a massive column of crystal with a summit the size of a football field, a near perfect landing where climbers can rest and enjoy the stunning view. Most climbers prefer to free climb Devils Tower, using naturally occurring ledges and cracks in the column, using ropes only as safety precautions should they fall. There are also climbers who prefer ‘sticky shoes,’ wearing tight-fitting climbing shoes with rubber soles that help them practically walk up the nearly 900-foot tower. Due to most climbers taking their ascent using nothing but their own strength, Devils Tower has grown into a destination for many professional rock climbers who view it as a strength and tactical challenge.

It is also, however, a sacred site for Native Americans, with more than 20 tribes having a cultural affiliation with the tower. The Arapaho, Crow, Lakota, Cheyenne, Kiowa and Shoshone all have direct geographical ties with Devils Tower, and specific sacred rituals performed on or near the tower.

As a compromise, the Climbing Management Plan, implemented in 1995, allows for management of Devils Tower as a cultural resource as well as a natural and recreational resource. Out of respect for American Indian beliefs, climbers are asked to voluntarily refrain from climbing during the month of June. Yet not everyone heeds this call, and still climbers eager to try out the tower make their ascent during this one-month reprieve.

There are alternative climbing areas within 100 miles of the tower that can, and should, be used during the month of June.

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