Guided Climbing in Custer State Park, SD

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As we packed up and left our campsite in ND, the weather had actually cleared up and made for a very nice drive down to SD.  Once we were setup in our new location, we went to bed early so we could meet our climbing guide in Custer State Park first thing in the morning.

It was a little bit of mad house when we first arrived at the parking lot that we were to meet up in.  There were several other groups of people, mostly families, that were also waiting.  When we opened up the rear hatch and they saw that we already had climbing gear, many of them approached us and we got the impression that they thought we were part of the guide service…

After the real guides from Sylvan Rocks showed up and we got all of the obligatory paperwork out of the way, we were off!  We were fortunate enough to climb with the owner of Sylvan Rocks, who made this a fantastic day of climbing and a really worthwhile experience. The first climb of the day was a rock spire called the Aquarium.  I’m really not sure why it’s called that, but it was a very nice 3 pitch route, about 120 ft tall, with a rappel off of the back side of it when you’re done.  We actually did it in 2 pitches, but we accidentally left our camera at the bottom with our backpack!  At this point I’m sure you’re thinking “gee, all of this talk and no pictures makes for a pretty sucky post…”  So, we came back a couple of days later and did the same route again with just the two of us and our camera:

(Diese Bilder sind von einem Tag an dem wir klettern gegangen sind mit einer Reiseleitung im Custer State Park, South Dakota.)

Tying in at the first pitch:

At the top of the first pitch:

The summit:

Pulling the rope down after rappelling:

After we were back on the ground and the guide had a decent idea of what we were capable of, we opted to head down the road to the Cathedral Spires and climb the tallest of them: Spire #4.  This is actually a pretty easy climb, just a bit longer.  The views from the top are spectacular:

These two are from top of the first pitch of Cathedral Spire #4:

Our guide, leading the way up the second pitch:

In the next picture you can see me coming up the second pitch.  Where you can see C’s feet, that is only about half way up it:

At the top of the second pitch was a small hole you had to climb through called the wormhole.  It’s tight enough that we had to wriggle through it.  It was a little reminiscent of caving:

The final pitch to the summit requires a little bit of a leap of faith.  You stand on the top of a sub-spire and have to stretch yourself across to the adjacent one:

Finally, the summit!  In the second picture, if you look in the distance in the middle of the picture, there is a blocky looking mountain.  That’s the backside of Mt. Rushmore:

Rappelling off the second pitch and standing together on the belay ledge above the first pitch right before we finished our decent:

And, a nice shot of the all of the Cathedral Spires from the parking lot.  Spire 4 is the tallest one, just right of center left:

That finished up our day with the guide.  I’d like to think that C and I know our limits pretty well and we are still a little new to placing our own protection during a climb.  Going with the guide service for our first day out gave us an opportunity to pick the brain of someone who knows multi-pitch trad climbing and the area really well and it also gave us a good feel for what to expect while climbing in this area.

Some of you may have noticed that we are just a little behind on our blogging at this point.  We’ve actually done so much that we didn’t have time to put it all together here just yet.  Fear not, there is much more to come!

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