PANCAKE FEED at Wrinkled Rock Campground
South Dakota Public Broadcasting
“The Needles of Rushmore” Not Just for Climbers
By CHARLES MICHAEL RAY
To listen to the full feature check out:
May 2012 – Climbing No. 305
Labor of Love: Mt. Rushmore’s new guidebook
Jason McNabb on The Profile (5.13)
“Was it worth it?” Like a broken record, the question keeps spinning in my head. On the surrounding spires, steely gray, crystalline granite sparkles in the crisp fall air, but the chunk of rock between my legs doesn’t seem so magical. I’m straddling the tip of an obscure spire called Lost Yeti, with only a rusty relic of protection far below, and there’s no anchor. I have no choice but to mumble “I’m off,” put the second on belay—luckily the terrain is only 5.7—and then start figuring out how to get off this thing.Guidebooks are often called “labors of love,” a term I’d understood but never fully grasped until I committed to writing one. Now, on Lost Yeti, I’m meticulously gathering information for a no-star route that should never be climbed. Why bother? That seems like a simple enough question, but it’s not easily answered. My coauthor, Andrew Busse, and I have been working on the new guidebook to Rushmore-area climbs for more than three years, and we still struggle to cite convincing justifications for this effort. At times, it feels like we’re wasting our days and energy. But information on the area is badly lacking, and we’re trying to fix that.
Back in town after escaping the Lost Yeti, we toast to another day of successful research—and another day without a broken leg.
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Gear Guide 2012 – Climbing No. 304
Hot List 2010 – Climbing No. 293
From Climbing No. 293 (March 2011) comes the inaugural Hot List, our survey of 2010’s best new crags and climbs.
Photo by Andrew Burr
MODERN MAN (5.12- R, 1 pitch, trad)
Elk Horn Ridge, Black Elk Wilderness, SD
FA Eric Hansen, Chris Pelczarski, Kevin Bein
The Gunks and Black Hills pioneer Bein “had one last unfinished project that he couldn’t get before he died on the Matterhorn [in 1988],” says Andrew Busse, author of an upcoming guide to the Mt. Rushmore area. “During our guidebook adventure, we found this project and put Eric Hansen on the sharp end.” Hansen fell repeatedly on the quarter-inch bolts Bein had placed, but eventually he completed the climb. Says Busse: “It probably won’t see much traffic, but it’s a definite classic in the Black Hills.”
Black Hills Climbing: Harney Peak East
Crack Addiction – Fissures of the West, from seams to bomb-bays – Climbing Magazine
In North America, crack climbing means selfsufficiency: gauging size, assessing your rack, and slamming in gear as needed. (Sure, the Euros sink “spits” next to splitters, but we don’t need to talk about that here.) It also means favoring technique over power, or rather, learning to harness your inner brute to cup and jam, ring-lock and foot torque, armbar, chimney, and chickenwing — because go-for-broke laybacking and praying for face holds often aren’t “technique” enough. Andrew Burr, based in Salt Lake City, knows the American West like few photographers; he’s always on the road, climbing and shooting. Over the last five years, Burr has amassed hundreds of images of the best fissures in the region, at all shapes and sizes. It was tough for us, selecting the following 13 images from the many, but with Burr’s help, we finalized this sequence showing cracks from smallest to largest — from the incipient seam to the monster bomb-bay. Dig in, tape up, and climb on.
Photo by Andrew Burr
Jason McNabb, Lieback from Hell (5.12c), Black Hills, South Dakota
For those new to crack climbing . . . well, it can be scary. And nothing is scarier than the incipient seam, a crack so tight even Sonnie Trotter couldn’t funk in micro pro. The history of the Lieback, bolted at Raspberry Rocks by Brent Kertzman roughly a decade ago, is, like most routes in the Hills, vague — it’s unclear if it’s seen a true FA. And the Lieback isn’t so much a crack as an eroded dike — the seam was once filled with calcite that’s since dissolved to leave a shallow, boxed-in micro fissure. In 2007, the FA seemed in the bag, as Jason McNabb (left) almost hiked . . . hiked, that is, until a dinner-plate-shaped foothold broke and buzz-sawed toward the ground, nearly decapitating the belayer and resulting in a head wound that took 15 staples to close.
Photo by Andrew Burr
Luke Kretschmar, Michael’s Crack (5.11+), Black Hills, South Dakota
Forget what I said about taping — maybe it’s not cheating, especially in the Hills. While this area isn’t known for its cracks, the ones you do find are sharp . Take Michael’s Crack, at Middle Earth near Sylvan Lake. This unassuming hand-to-fist crack through a mini-roof packs a punch, and unless you tape, it’s barracuda city. In the Hills, everything is exaggerated, from the runouts to the crystals. At fist size, the cracks (and crystals inside) will tear you up if you don’t use technique. Sure, with steady pressure and no movement, the teeth only dig in a little, but if you’re sloppy and wiggle your jams, there will be blood . . . and lots of it.