A Climber’s Guide to Devils Tower National Monument, by Terry Rypkema and Curt Haire, 1977, 80 pages, 8 photos. Price $5.95.
The review is written from the point of view that this guide was much needed, and there is little this reviewer can write that will please readers who disagree with the concept of guidebooks.
The only previous effort to provide a compilation of the routes at this popular climbing area was in Bonney’s Guide to the Wyoming Mountains and Wilderness Areas, which first appeared in 1960 and has been succeeded by two subsequent editions. The revisions of the Devils Tower material do not reflect the pace of climbing activity at the Tower since the 1977 edition of Bonney’s guide describes only thirty of the fifty- five routes included in the Rypkema-Haire guide.
The Devils Tower guide is a compilation of the climbs done since Wiessner’s first legitimate alpine ascent in 1937. The real contribution of this volume is that it makes an effort to get the prospective climber started in the correct place. Beyond this, the route descriptions are brief enough (usually one sentence per pitch) to leave a spirit of exploration and adventure. The descriptions are nonetheless detailed enough to prevent the climber from starting up the wrong crack or traversing in the wrong direction, once on the climb. As far as this reviewer is aware, the routes given represent all existing routes in 1977 with the exception of several variations and some missing first-ascent data. All of these inaccuracies concern events of the 1950’s and primarily those of “Mountaineer’s Week” in 1956 which celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the national monument. They involve first ascents accomplished by the climbers of the Army Mountain and Cold Weather Training Command who, among many others, were involved in the celebration. These omissions were probably the result of inadequate climbing records. In the initial portion of the book there are some interesting and little-known details concerning the pre-alpine climbing history of the Tower.
This guide is a product of modern, active climbers with a growing consciousness of style, both in their climbing and that of their peers. This consciousness is reflected in their derivation of a “C” rating to denote those direct-aid pitches which can be accomplished solely with chocks. The ratings on climbs which were originally done with aid and have subsequently been free climbed are rated with the current free-climbing difficulty. The difficulty of climbs has been pushed to levels comparable to other popular rock-climbing areas in the country. The newcomer, however, should be aware that the ratings for climbs of difficulty 5.9 and higher are usually lower than for pitches of similar difficulty in Yosemite Valley.
In summary, this is a fine little guide and a must for anyone with the desire to climb in this popular area.
Raymond G. Jacquot