Six Strenuous Summer Climbs in the Midwest

While the Mid­west may not nec­es­sar­i­ly be a climb­ing mec­ca, you can still find some gnarly rock hid­den among the corn­fields and rolling hills. Here are five of the most stren­u­ous climbs these states have to offer.

Peten­well Bluff, Necedah, WI

petenwell bluff rock spire
Necedah had offered some of Wisconsin’s finest sport climb­ing for the last few decades. Sol­id, bright sand­stone cliffs and clean rock on a fifty-foot wall with a slight over­hang mean some of the best climb­ing in the Mid­west. Peten­well Bluff con­tains routes for every lev­el, but the clas­sic Y‑Crack brings the tech­ni­cal dif­fi­cul­ties with pumpy jam­ming on one side and plen­ty of crimps on the oth­er. There’s also Whiskey a Go Go, a 5.13a that’s wide­ly con­sid­ered the pre­mier route in the state.

Robin­son Park, MN
Just a quick hour and a half from the twin cities lies Minnesota’s best rock climb­ing region – Robin­son Park. The land­scape con­tains a var­ied range of rocks, most­ly quar­ried sand­stone, show­cas­ing every area of the sport, from boul­der­ing to tra­di­tion­al to ice climb­ing. It’s here you’ll find the famous 5.12 Sig­ma route along with whop­pers like Nexus and Adop­tion. The Rela­tion­ship Wall and Sax Wall are where you’ll find most of the action dur­ing the spring and fall, though in win­ter it becomes a fan­tas­tic place for climbers who love the ice.

Spearfish Canyon, SD

Spearfish Canyon in the Black Hills
With over 700 des­ig­nat­ed routes Spearfish Canyon is eas­i­ly the Midwest’s best climb­ing haven. The gor­geous canyon is lined with steep slopes of lime­stone divid­ed into sev­en areas, begin­ning with the Skele­tal Remains and wind­ing up to The Shad­ow­lands. The main area of Spearfish Canyon has over 500 climbs alone and hous­es beasts like Bat­tle­cry and The Sun­dance, both packed with over­hang­ing pock­et­ed walls and crimpy, tech­ni­cal climbs along with a few boul­ders dis­persed through­out.

Mus­catatuck Park, North Ver­non, Indi­ana
Mus­catatuck Park is one of only a hand­ful of places in Indi­ana where you can climb. The park hous­es rough­ly 300 boul­der­ing prob­lems in dolomite lime­stone, most of which are unkempt and in need of some love. The routes tend to range pre­dom­i­nate­ly in the V1 – V5 range with a few V10 and up here and there. The Heinous­ness Wall remains the most pop­u­lar region while the Tan­ger­ine Wall holds some more tech­ni­cal chal­lenges like the V10 Ivy League. Near­by you can also find a few pri­vate climb­ing areas, like Nine and Three Quar­ters, if you’re will­ing to speak with the locals and beg a few peo­ple for access.

Mt. Rush­more, SD

Mount Rushmore
Our country’s nation­al mon­u­ments often pro­vide ample oppor­tu­ni­ties to hit the rocks and, see­ing as it’s made entire­ly of gran­ite, Mt. Rush­more is sec­ond best in the Mid­west. The nation­al memo­r­i­al holds over 600 climbs rang­ing from boul­der­ing and sport to trad routes that are avail­able in the spring, sum­mer, and fall. It’s ensconced in the Black Hills regions that also holds the famed tow­er­ing spires of The Chess­man. Here you’ll find plen­ty of routes rat­ed 5.8 to 5.13b for begin­ners and skilled climbers alike. Baba Cool, while only rat­ed a 5.9, is one of the coolest routes in the region.

Holy Boul­ders, Pomona, IL

The Holy Boul­ders is the largest con­cen­tra­tion of boul­ders in Illi­nois and pos­si­bly the entire Mid­west. With over 200 devel­oped boul­der­ing prob­lems with rat­ings between V0 and V13, you could spend a few days in here and nev­er come close to test­ing them all. There’s arguably the chance to devel­op even a few hun­dred more. The region was pur­chased by the Illi­nois Climbers Asso­ci­a­tion and Access Fund in 2012 and, thank­ful­ly, has some pret­ty great rules in place to keep the area safe and wel­com­ing. Clas­sic climbs in the area include the V5+ Tyler Dur­den and the V8 Jun­gle Book in the Illu­mi­nati Boul­ders area.