Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Climbing at Devil's Lake

Climbing is a very dangerous activity. But, as you know, sport climbing, rock climbing, and mountain climbing have become increasingly in favor. The popularity of climbing walls has drawn people to outdoor climbing areas, such as Devil’s Lake in Wisconsin. When gym climbers like me decide to make the leap to outdoor climbing, the result is always a ton of fun, challenges, and profoundly different. 

Devil’s Lake, near Baraboo in south-central Wisconsin, provides extraordinary climbing opportunities for climbers. The quartzite cliffs are a geologic anomaly in a region better known for its unusual sandstone formations. With pink, red, or purple color, the rock terrain is hard with smooth and shinny surfaces, sharp fractures, cracks, ledges, slabs, chimneys, and a variety rock forms that make this the best rock climbing area in the Midwest. 

I just love how purple this rock is.
Based on the most recent discovery, there are over 2000 climbing routes in the area. I never worry for not finding a route. The classics may have been taken, but there’s always a crack waiting to be jammed.  With the ever-lasting climbs to choose, it is essential to bring a guidebook, or make sure the “Mountain Project” app function properly in your fully-charged Smartphone, or pay several hundred bucks for a guide/training course, or just invite a friend or two, who know the area really well, then later on offer them a nice cold beer with brats over a campfire or something similar. Last weekend, we joined Steve and Cecilia Johnson here for a great climbing experience. I am very fortunate to have met and became friends with this wonderful married couple from a rock climbing gym several years ago, who are also an excellent guide anywhere we go since they have been climbing outdoors for over 30 years of their lives.

Well-set anchors

Mr. Steve Johnson and I on top of a route: the King's Throne.
The route: Son of Great Chimney
October is the Devil’s chance to give us a spectacular show of color and richness of autumn leaves. Fall is gorgeous here at its peak. We came a little later in the season, 50% of the leaves has changed colors, and 40% fallen. Even so, love at first sight was all over again every year. All I wanted to do was taking pictures, but somehow, they could not justify the stunning colors display around the lake. 

The morning air and chill made for quiet mornings, but the sun eventually emerged and climbers started to show up. As usual, I was psyched by the quality of my company. After a bunch of good climbing, a friend expressed interest in trad climbing on one of the routes nearby, so we wrapped up our ropes and gear to prepare for the Queen’s Throne(5.4) where good cracks and placement opportunities abound. It’s fun when climbers are as interested in the technical side of climbing as the physical one. But don’t worry, you can easily find a Devil’s Lake 5.8 that gives as much physical work as a 5.10 gym route.
I was working on setting another TR anchor.

A climbing day can be wonderful for a lot of reasons, as many of them can be unpredictable. Certainly, a good climbing day is accounted because you climb harder than ever before, finally understand a key movement concept, or you send the formerly-impossible project you’ve been working on for months. To me, the beauty of a climbing day is not really about “climbing” at all, but more the relationships – with ourselves, each other, and the natural world… A day can shine with great stories that lead to ridiculous jokes and uncontrollable laughter, an off-hand suggestion that leads to a pretzeled climbing position, a good question that leads to an hour-plus conversation, because we are out here with some amazing people, and we can do whatever we want to do.

All in all, I couldn't ask for a better climbing weekend, and hope to continue getting out a few more times this gorgeous fall weather before the snow and ice arrive. 

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely beautiful photos, as always! Looks like fun :)