Friday, March 4, 2011

Devils Lake Featured in Climbing Magazine!

The article isn't out in online format yet, but you if you pick up a copy of the March 2011 issue of Climbing #293 you can find it there. You can get a subscription here.

The article was written by Devils Lake Outdoors contributor Jay Knower. You can read one of his contributions here. You can also check out Jay's blog here - he contributes about as frequently as I do, but there is a fairly large backlog of great writing to work your way through.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Devil's Lake Sunset to get you in the mood for spring.

Devils Lake Sunset from atop Major Mass

Hopefully I'll post a little more frequently following this.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Brinton's Buttress 2-1-09

We finally got some warmer weather to climb in during this snow-filled, negative degree, winter. Paul and I were gunning for Saturday, but we both got a cold during the week and felt like crap on Saturday. Sunday's weather still looked great. I woke up on Sunday and said to myself "Screw this crap, I want to climb!!!" I called Paul up at 7:30am and he was down for the climbins. We met up at the Johnson Creek park-and-ride at 10am and sped to The Lake. We saw 2 bald eagles when we drove past Devil's Head. When we arrived at the lake, to our suprise, the CCC trail was very nicely grooomed, making an easy approach.

We passed 2 other climbers that had a TR setup on Sometimes Crack. A short few steps later and we arrived and Brinton's Buttress. I geared up for my winter onsite of Brinton's Crack. I must say, it was one of the best 5.6 leads I have done. Hands down. The friction was great and the climbing was so much fun. I setup a TR and rapped down to let Paul climb. He climbed Brinton's Crack with ease.

We took a short break (safety meeting) and I roped up for Brinton's Direct. I was amazed at the movement and overall quality of the climb. During the crux, I thought to myself "This sure is a pumpy 5.8, feels more like 5.9" Typical Devil's Lake 5.8 . Paul climbed it after me and we took another short break. I then roped up for Chiaroscuro. Again, amazed at how great this climb was. The movement was so pleasing to pull. The rock was as good as it gets, and again, friction was great. After flashing Chiaroscuro on TR, Paul had a go at it, and flashed it as well. After Paul reached the ground, another Bald Eagle flew right next to us. That just made the day. 3 amazing climbs and some great wildlife. God I love the Lake.

Monday, January 26, 2009

HILLTOP VIEW: Warm thoughts about the CCC


It was 1932, and the United States was in the grips of the Great Depression. Only three years earlier, the stock market had crashed. An astonishing one in four people in the country were out of work; over-farming had ravaged the plains, causing terrifying dust storms to wreak havoc on America’s breadbasket. The country was suffering like never before.

There was a bit of hope, though. In the elections of 1932, President Hoover was defeated by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Right away, Roosevelt began implementing the program he called his “New Deal.” As part of the New Deal, Roosevelt signed a bill by Congress called the Emergency Conservation Work Act, which created the Civilian Conservation Corps.

It’s now winter 2009, and the cold, snowy weather has me dreaming of warmer weather. One of my favorite things to do in the summer is camp at Devil’s Lake State Park, Wisconsin’s most popular state park. The park is centered around Devil’s Lake, a large, unusually clear lake. Bluffs, with stunning black and grey quartzite cliffs, in some places over 100 feet tall, loom over the lake.

The park attracts hikers, rock climbers and campers from all over the country and the world. The hiking and climbing at Devil’s Lake is superb, with meticulously constructed quartzite trails that connect the bluffs and lake in a large web.

Without the trails, hiking at Devil’s Lake would be much more difficult and sometimes dangerous. The trails allow a person of average fitness to enjoy the amazing views from the summits of the bluffs and allow rock climbers to access the base of climbs easily.

The trails did not come to be there by chance. They crisscross all over the park, through boulder fields, on top of and under cliffs and to less visited corners of the park. The trails were constructed by men serving in the Civilian Conservation Corps, living in a military style camp at Devil’s Lake between 1933 and 1942.

Men from all over the Midwest came to serve in the Civilian Conservation Corps at Devil’s Lake. The CCC accepted men between the ages of 18 and 25. They lived in buildings of their own construction, were well disciplined and were paid a small amount of money to do arduous work.

They made many buildings still standing in the park, created many of the trails, and placed the rare bolt at the top of a rock climb that climbers still incorporate in anchors today. Most importantly, though, the CCC gave young men with nothing to do a chance to feel like they were working hard for pay.

When World War II began, the CCC was disbanded, because the nation again needed its young men, but the impact the CCC had on Devil’s Lake State Park can still be seen today. I know I’ll see the CCC’s impact when the weather gets warm again.

Garrett Soper is a senior at Onalaska High School.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Well it's been a while since I've put a new post up, and that is a direct result of me not doing much lately, or hearing from anyone who has. I think the holiday's are generally a slow time in the Midwestern outdoor community. Most people are either holed up with their families or using their time off to go someplace sunny and warm -- an especially good option given the above average snowfall and below average temps most of the area has experienced this winter.

With the holidays over, and our cabin fever in full effect my friend Todd and I have been trying to find a weekend to go get outside and do something to kickoff our training for our summer alpine climbing trip. This upcoming weekend is that weekend. We plan on yet another attempt at the Devil's Lake to Parfrey's Glen and back hike. Hopefully we learned enough from our most recent attempt, that we will succeed this time, or at least not have a total epic.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A November Afternoon -- From Jay Knower

Editor's Note: Jay wrote this a few years back.

A November Afternoon
Jay Knower

No cars were parked in the CCC parking lot. The leaves had recently fallen off the trees. I had missed the fall colors because I live in New Hampshire. Now the leaves were a slippery brown mass beneath my feet as I made my way up the trail. I had flown back home, back to Devil’s Lake, for just a few days. I had to get away for a while.

I made my way to Full Stop. The rock held a little more friction that the typical nightmarishly slick quartzite, so I figured this climb would be a good warm up. Shoes on, chalk bag opened, I began climbing. Full Stop with the elephant ear. Full Stop with the three hard moves. I topped out and headed down the access gully past Peter’s Project.

Peter’s would be next. I had soloed this many times when I lived in Baraboo. The crux moves down low could be rationalized as a boulder problem. The upper crux before the top always felt just about right. And so it did as I topped out again. What was she thinking? Did she really mean what she said?

Down the gully again and to the base of Berkeley. We climbed this together last summer. She led it. I had never soloed it. The bulge always felt awkward, like I was missing something. This time I found what I had missed and gained the bigger holds above. Into the hanging chimney and onto the top. The sun was bright over the South Bluff but the wind did not encourage me to linger at the top.

I feel like everything in my life is falling into place, except this one thing. Down Boy Scout and up Brinton’s. The traverse feels easier when I solo this. I don’t have to think about the gear. I remember when I first toproped this climb. I remember when I soloed it four times in one week. This time, it felt the same as always. Right hand jam, reach to the big bucket. Done.

Callipigeanous was in full sun. The bottom is really just another boulder problem, though a little higher than the crux on Peter’s. And harder. I was at the ledge before I realized my decision. “I am soloing Callipigeanous,” I thought as I rocked over onto the arĂȘte. The realization brought neither panic nor worry. It was just a matter of fact. I wonder what she is doing right now. Leaving was the right thing to do. The sun was still high to the south.

I have always wanted to solo Congratulations. As I walked down the trail, the crack looked so perfect: not slimy, but crisp. I told myself: “Don’t commit if the first fingerlock feels bad.” I knew this was a lie as I climbed the first few feet: I would climb the route no matter how the fingerlock felt. She led this last summer. We sat together on the top. Now I am alone at the Lake. The top out moves gave me pause, but I remained focused. I did not sit on the top.

I whooped. The sound bounced off something far away and echoed back to me. I thought about soloing Birch Tree. That crux move had always felt so tenuous, with the awkward body position and that right-foot smear. But, I felt plugged in, confident. I moved up to the crux. Left foot on right side of the crack. Get the crimp. It didn’t feel right. Is our relationship over? My body was in limbo. It doesn’t seem simple anymore. I released my left hand and shot it toward the large jug. I will have to go back to her. I stuck the hold with a yell.

I had one foot across the line that separates calculated risk and recklessness. I forgot I was soloing. For a split second, I thought I was on toprope, that I had room for error. I did not have room for what was building inside me. Confidence was giving way to craziness. Yet, I wanted to solo ten classic routes at Devil’s Lake. Only three to go . . .

Double Overhang would be perfect, I thought. My first lead. I was getting tired, but the climb fell below me. Second Coming was next. Another boulder problem, though the laybacks felt strenuous because I was over gripping. I will call and I will tell her about my day at the Lake. One more route. The sun was getting low and the wind had teeth.

I walked to Watermarks because the wall gets the last sun at the Lake. I began climbing. After the crux, I turned around and looked directly at the sun. The light was diffuse, orange. Birds floated in the water near the South Shore, waiting for the impetus to fly south. The quartzite glowed as if it were lit from within. Maybe things will work out.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hidden Gems: Ferry Bluff

Ferry Bluff State Natural Area encompasses a sandstone bluff on the banks of the Wisconsin River about fifteen minutes southwest of Devils Lake. Because it is a State Natural Area it is off limits to climbing, but it does have beautiful sunset views from its summit looking out over a wide section of the Wisconsin River. Also please note that Ferry Bluff is CLOSED from November 15th to April 1st annually - this is to protect roosting bald eagles in the area.

View Larger Map

Overhead Photos available here.

Ferry Bluff has a decent trail system and spectacular views, although the bugs can be a little crazy.