Thursday, May 7, 2009

Launching Point

I started bouldering at the Lake back in 2000 or 2001. I had one Metolius crash pad that I bought at REI, it was their only one. I always went out alone since partners were apparently hard to come by. I was somehow able to get my paws on a copy of Eric Zschieschie's bouldering guide for the East Bluff areas which is now out of print. I'm convinced that I got one of the last copies as it was off of the website I ordered it on a week later. I coveted that thing and broke it's back over and over. This was way before anything was available online and most of the local knowledge was passed down through word of mouth. I, sadly, wasn't in the inner circle and had very little info to go off of.

With that scraggly little guide I started exploring different areas. The book profiled 5 different areas, all of which have very straightforward directions. I can't count how many times I got lost trying to find the Monolith boulders. Mind you that this area is exactly 3 feet off of one of the parks many paved hiking trails. I'm kinda dense and have a heinous sense of direction. Couple that with absolutely zero knowledge of the layout of the park, made for lots of hiking with very little actual climbing. Kinda rough.

One memory that sticks out was one of the first times I went up the lake. It was the middle of winter and snow covered everything, but I wanted to explore and nothing would stop me from finding those majestic boulders. I walked on the massive trail to the left of the North Shore bouldering area, way before I even knew bouldering there even existed. I started looking at some of the shorter rocks on the side of the area and got excited. I followed the bluff line for a few minutes expecting to find new boulders but turned around too soon, disappointed. I was literally 10 feet from the bouldering and didn't even know it. I can't explain the feeling when I actually found the boulders later the next year.

In the winter of 2003 I found a sweet sandstone bouldering area near the north shore and started freaking out. Thinking that I had just found the first sandstone bouldering area at the lake, it was with insane amounts sadness that I rounded the corner and saw chalk. Later in the year I came back to try the main, proud line going out the overhanging face. It was one of the coolest things I'd ever seen and I couldn't believe it was in Wisconsin. I was shut down on the first move and could barely hang onto the starting holds. I later found out that the problem was put up by Eric and was called the Greatest Show on Earth. It was a small victory to have found this one on my own, with no one else's directions. I loved it.

During the spring of 2004 Todd Mei invited me on his birthday challenge. I was the weakest climber in the group of 9 and was in awe the entire day. Todd put up one of the most prolific circuits in the history of the lake and I couldn't believe what I was seeing. He fell a total of about 7 times and did, I think, 30 problems including 4 V8's and a number of hard problems. It was one of the most impressive and eye opening things I'd ever seen. He took us to areas that I had no clue even existed and I had a smile the entire time. That was the epitome of bouldering at the lake to me. I'm not sure I've ever been so inspired to get stronger.

I moved away for a few years with somewhat of a loathing for the bouldering at the lake. I could barely climb V4 there and hated the holds and lack of friction. Everyone there was close mouthed about where everything was and I hated them for it. They told me that I just needed to go out and find the stuff on my own. I was annoyed and I needed something different. In my two years in California I got stronger and smarter. I learned just how sandbagged the lake was and I couldn't believe the amount of unexplored rock by the road. I was overwhelmed....and blissfully happy.

When I finally did move back in 2005 I wasn't sure what to expect. I hadn't climbed at Devil's Lake for what seemed like forever and my last memory was of resentment and a little frustration. The "old guys" had mostly moved on and it seemed like a more vocal group was taking over. I was open to being surprised. I got lucky. My first day back at the lake we had a crew of 9 guys and we went all over the top of the West bluff finding "new to me" problems all day. We saw all of the stuff on the fire road, the 45 degree boulder and all the stuff towards the bottom of the talus field. Peter was able to get the FA of a project that day and I quickly did the second. Anchorpoint remains one of my favorites at the lake because of the memories of that day. We ended at Alpine Club and all got royally shut down. It was a perfect way to come back to the lake.

I still hold a special place for the lake and I want to see people on the problems. I really hope that this site will help change that. I want to eventually include areas like Governor Dodge, Rib Mountain, Black River Falls and some of the other outlying areas as well. I am hoping that this turns into a place that anyone can go to and find info on bouldering in Wisconsin.

With that, you should see some more info very soon.


  1. Steve-- I don't know if this is the same but there is a semi-guide online, here:'s.htm but obviously some of the problems are missing. Still kinda hard to find stuff and with all the eliminatry, it will be nice to have a definitive guide. Good on you Steve! This is an exciting development for those of us not "in the inner circle" as you put it. Make your own damn circle then! ce

  2. Veeerrry excited for this blog!

  3. Chris - that looks pretty much like the old guide that EZ did quite a while ago. It was also published in an old issue of Rock and Ice - the one with a guy dry tooling up a telephone pole in Kansas, I believe. There are so many more good problems than what is on that site.

    And Steve, it would be great to see this come to fruition. A comprehensive bouldering guide, with good, accurate information, would be so great!

  4. Note - the guy dry-tooling reference was the cover photo of that issue...

  5. Right on about time something like this started, nice going!

  6. Hey guys, thanks for the positive feedback! I'm excited about the project and hope it turns into something useful. Input is ALWAYS welcome and appreciated.

    I'll try to start posting things this weekend or next week sometime. Very excited about this. I like how you say it Chris. Let's make our own circle...