Devils Tower

Devils Tower Trip Report (#1581)

  • Signed By: Jeff shymko
  • Date submitted: November 01, 2002

Devils Tower, Wyoming.09/02

I'm not the most athletic guy.I've never had any inclination to climb anything more than the stairs. I went to Devils Tower strictly as a tourist to see this rock and get some pictures. At the visitors centre I asked the guy at the front desk if people climb this thing.The guy said " Sure, you can even hire a guide, get some training and climb it yourself". Climbing it myself had never entered my mind. He then told me I should go talk to this climbing guide who lives down the road. Who knows what, but something compelled me to go and see this guy.

This guy turned out to be Frank Sanders, the sort of 'climbing guru' of Devils Tower. He also owns and operates 'Devils Tower Lodge' which is a real nice B&B that's walking distance to the tower.You have to drive through Devils Tower Park itself to get to his very secluded house. After talking to Frank my mind was made up. I'm gonna do me some climb'n!

We started the next morning doing some indoor rock climbing and balancing exercises then on to the tower itself for a day of training/practice climbs. "Play day" Frank calls it. For me it was anything but playing. Never having climbed before it was an exhausting day of going up and down and sideways and jamming my fingers and toes into these little itty-bitty cracks. Every once in a while realizing what I was doing I'd say to myself "Holy shit! I'm hanging on to the side of a mountain!". At the same time it was totally exhilarating."Hay world! Look what I'm Doing!".Although I was scared at times I felt very safe. Frank made me feel safe and was very encouraging. We'd been climbing the whole day and my body finally told me ENOUGH! I was exhausted and brused and scratched and just ached all over. My only thoughts were "can we do that again?". But not today. 2 days later we'd be going to the top!

I took a well needed break the next day and went sight seeing mostly in South Dakota. About 2 hours away from Devils Tower Lodge is the Black Hills area which has Mount Rushmore, Crazyhorse Memorial, Custer State Park, tons of caves and some very scenic drives. Badlands National Park is also only a couple of hours away.The next day was our climb to the summit!

It was a hot sunny day and it was only going to get hotter. Somewhere in the mid 90's. After signing in at the visitors centre we hiked up the path and over the rocks and boulders to the base of the tower where we'd begin climbing. We were doing the Durrance route. Excited, scared and a little worried that I might not have the stamina to make it to the top we began climbing with Frank leading. The first pitch went well but the second or third pitch ( ? ) was a tough one. For me anyway. About 3 quarters of the way up that pitch I got really tired and seriousally thought I might not make it. I was embarrassed and I really didn't want to let Frank down. What was he going to do? Climb down and carry me? I don't think so. Without letting on my predicament, I found that extra strength we all have and pushed myself as hard as I could and made it to the top of that pitch. Exhausted and burning in the sun on the hot rock with no shade ( and sounding like the 'Godfather' ) I thought " I havn't even made it to the top and I'm going to die of heat exhaustion! ". Luckily Frank hauled up lots of water that never tasted soooo good. I felt much better after.

The rest of the way up wasn't as difficult. We went at my pace taking breaks at each pitch. The higher we went the view just got better. The view was one of the nicest things about the whole climb. Nearing the top Frank informed me in a melodramatic way that I , Jeff Shymko, had to lead the remainder of the last pitch. I honorably excepted the task and climbed the remaining rocks straight to the top!

I was teary eyed. I was so impressed with myself at what I had just done. And the view was spectacular! We stayed up there for a while taking pictures, signing the summit log and enjoying the feeling I imagine you only get when you climb a mountain (or a very large rock formation).

It looked like a storm might come our way so we decided to make our way back down . Going down wasn't that difficult. Just a backwards walk down a sheer 600ft cliff. That was cool.

All in all it was one of the best exeriences of my life. What made it even better was having Frank Sanders as a companion, leader, philosopher, story teller, cook and just an all round nice guy. If you want to climb Devils Tower or just stay in the area I'd recomend Devils Tower Lodge. You'll meet climbers and non climbers from all over the world. Frank might even play the piano for you. And he made sure we had all the icecream we could eat!

If this sounds like an endorsement, well thats because it is. I'm not getting any freebees nor was I asked to say any of this. I honestly stumbled upon the Devils Tower Lodge and had the time of my life. But that's just my story. Your story could be waiting for you. Jeff Shymko. Oshawa Ont. Canada.

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