Man standing on top of rocks after climbing.

Sylvan Rocks Blog

Oldest rock climber to Summit Devils Tower

Daryl Stisser - Tuesday, June 03, 2014

We have had many interesting and awesome guest and I try not to spray about them, but it has been a few years now, and I've talked about it, but never blogged about it until now.  But I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Sylvan Rocks guide Tony Schwatz had the pleasure of guiding the oldest free climber ever to the top of Devils Tower.   If I'm wrong and someone older has made the trip, please let me know.

In 2010, Amanda called me up and booked a trip for Siegfried since his english was not as good as hers.  I think she may have mentioned something about him being older, but it was a non-issue.  I didn't think much about it, as I knew Matt would handle whatever came his way.  So Matt Mieczkowski heads over to the Tower, and met up with this Austrian dude.  That was the year the Durrance Route was closed so they fired up El Cracko without problem.  Come to find out, Siegfried was 81years old and not afraid to perhaps pull on a piece of gear though the crux.   I thought that that was pretty darn cool.  I've seen guys young enough to be Siegfrieds great grand children get shut down by Devils Tower.  I've said it before and I'll say it again.  Rock climbing up Devils Tower is just pure work...there is no easy way climb up that darn Tower.  I wish there was, but if you wanna get to the summit and earn that view, you gotta really want to get there.

So, 2012 rolls around, Amanda calls back and booked several days of climbing in the Needles and another trip up the Tower.  Amanda...Siegfrieds younger wife at the tender age of 67 had started going to the climbing gym with him every week and she got in on the action when she joined Tony and her hubby for the 3 days spent climbing in the Needles, but on Sept 9, 2012 Siegfried chugged his way up the Durrance route.  In Tony's words..."he was a machine."  I'd like to think Tony's great guiding had something to do with it all, but truth be told, Tony just hung the rope for a very determined bundle of energy to blast his way up the route climbing in a controlled, steady, good climbing form.   How cool is that?  All the next 40 years of medicine can bring on...if Cheryl and I can goto the climbing gym once a week when I hit 80 and summit the Tower at 83... to say the least, I will be pretty psyched.

In talking to Siegfried, he said he climbed from age 30 to 50, then quit for 20 years, but at age 70...he decided that it was time to get back into rock climbing.  So, I guess that he is set up until 90 or so.  We will hope for another visit from Amanda and Siegfried.  Two of the sweetest, most humble guest I have met.

Just let it be known that while the great Frank Sanders is getting a little long in the tooth...he has another generation of climbing the Tower before he catches up to Siegfrieds age record.  I think the gauntlet has been thrown...lets salute 2 of my favorite athletes.  Amanda and Siegfried












When I hit 83...I wanna watch this shadow and capture this photo like Siegfried did.  A guy can dream.  Right?






Have you been inspired today?

Daryl Stisser - Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Its been many years now since we have adventured in Patagonia, yet in many ways, my heart is still there.  There in a way that the Black Hills were after my first visit here.  I knew I'd be back...I knew that I'd make these granite spires part of my life.  It is amazing how a place, a landscape can capture a persons heart and inspire them to act on dreams...obsessions...goals ...desires.  I have dreamt about a little cabin for Cheryl and I at the end of the world down there.  A simple life with the gauchos on the pompas.  Not sure I'll ever have the guts to leave all this behind, but I hold it up as an ideal and a fall back when things get hectic around here.  I know that being down in Argentina would come with its own set of issues, but in the dream state...it can bring a smile on a rough day and that can be worth a lot.

I don't really know Rolando, but from the video shown here by Black Diamond, he seems like someone I'd enjoy sharing a cup of Mate with.  Sometimes you see a little glimps of something good and it makes you need to grow a little more.  Today, for me..it was talking with a good friend on the phone and watching this video.  Salute....and thanks to those who make things happen for themselves and others by living a life that inspires us all. 

Click here or on the pic to watch the video and read about Rolo.

Have you been inspired today?


New Mountain Pro Edition

Daryl Stisser - Wednesday, April 02, 2014

The UK's E-zine Mountain Pro has a new edition out.  There are a few nice articles to check out.  Snow falling here for the past 3 day.  Should have done a time laps when it was really coming down this morning....or stayed in Moab instead of coming home!!!

Click on the pic and check out the magazine...grab a cuppa good coffee and enjoy.  Climbing season will be here soon enough.


Devils Tower Climbing Video - Jenn Flemming and Guide Anthony Schwartz

Daryl Stisser - Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Many of you have climbed and been guided by Anthony Schwartz.  He loves climbing as much as anyone I know.  He lives it...breathes it...and he is mighty good at it.

This video, put together by the National Park Service about climbing at Devils Tower National Monument, does a great job of not only describing what it is like to climb on the rock at Devils Tower, but captures a little bit of why rock climbing is such a great activity.  The images feed into the feeling of empowerment / respect for what surrounds a climber up on the stone, and the sheer joy that people experience when they slide fingers and toes into perfect holds and micro ledges.  Up on the wall with just a rope, gear and a partner or guide, life is simplified.   Life is good.

Pull, push, rest.....flow....enjoy the moment, embrace the challenge.  

These are things that make climbing so worthy and life worth living.  We all have to have something to motivate us beyond the normal day to day grind.  For many people, the adventure of rock climbing is that thing that takes life to the next level.

Tony was part of the team of pro climbers and videographers that put this great piece together.  He shared his knowledge of Devils Tower, his love for climbing and rope skills to help put that crew in position to get those inspiring shots.  

I hope you enjoy the video and descriptions Jenn Flemming shares about climbing in special places like "Devils Tower National Monument in beautiful northeast Wyoming"....  Anyone take a guess who I stole that line from?

Should you choose to hire Sylvan Rocks to guide you up the top of Devils Tower...I promise we will choose routes with appropriate challenges.  While there is no super easy way to the top of the Tower, there are many ways with much larger handholds and footholds then the routes that were shown in this video.  Climb on!


Jenn Flemming in Devils Tower:  National Parks Epic Challenge video.  Thanks to Camp 4 Collective for doing such a great job putting this video together for the National Park Foundation.


AMGA Survey Results

Daryl Stisser - Friday, September 27, 2013

Whats it like to be a rock climbing guide?  Best job in the world right?  Well most guides do enjoy a sweet office space, but it does help to enjoy living out of your backpack and being extremely tolerant of less then idea weather if you choose to pursue this career path.

The AMGA collected some data about guides and this is what they to shared.  Click to read more.  


Mount Rushmore Access Fund Trail Day July 27

Daryl Stisser - Wednesday, July 03, 2013

The Access Fund Conservation Team is scheduled to arrive in the Black Hills in a few weeks to help the Black Hills Climbers Coalition with a trail project at The Mount Rushmore Climbing Area.   On Saturday July 27, plan to come and volunteer on the project.  Along with working on improving the climbers trail up towards Garfield Goes to Washington on the Emancipation Rock Formation...there will be other projects that we could use some help with.

 Be sure to keep watching the Sylvan Rocks and BHCC Facebook pages and calendars for more updated info as the event gets closer.

 Check out the video of the Access Fund Conservation Team working in Utah with the Salt Lake Climbers Alliance.  You might recognize a Black Hills local in the video moving a few stones.  

 

Happy Salathé Day. 25th anniversary of the FFA

Daryl Stisser - Sunday, June 16, 2013

I was emailing with Paul Piana yesterday, and he wished me a Happy Salathé Day!  25 years ago, he and Todd Skinner made history.  Here is how he described it in an interview with NPR  

"Mr. PIANA: Well, it made a big splash in the climbing world, actually. It was something that the climbing world hadn't considered as possible. And in some ways, parts of our minds didn't consider it possible either, but we believed it just enough to continue trying. And we tried and we tried and we tried. And most of those tries we failed. We only succeeded on one of the tries. And I can remember being a rope length from the summit with Todd, when we knew we really had it done, we'd succeeded, and how much fun that was. I can't imagine giving so much physical and mental effort to succeed on something as ridiculous as climbing a big rock wall with anybody but Todd."

Free climbing thousands of vertical feet like that.....I cannot imagine the giddy feeling these to men must have felt as they finished something so bold. 

The climbers of today continue to break records, climb new lines, and create rad new challenges for themselves, but without a doubt, Paul and Todd were an unforgeable team that opened the minds of many to what might be possible.   Thanks to both of them for dreaming big and going on to live out those dream!

If you are interested in seeing some great photos of that trip.  There is a collection of Bill Hatchers work on Todds website.  Click Here for the Link

Take Care of Your Rock Climbing Gear

Daryl Stisser - Saturday, June 15, 2013

During staff training, we talk about all kinds of things that concern how to best take care of ourselves and our guest while rock climbing.  How we take care of our rock climbing gear is on that list of topics.  While discussing this, Cheyenne brought up this Blog post from Black Diamond.

 

 Acid was the reason found for this harness failure.  Bottom line.  Watch what you do with your harness.  Word to the wise.  Do not lay your climbing gear down in a parking lot.  There can be bad things on the ground that you can accidentally pick up.  Your climbing gear is your life.  Take care of it.  Don't be afraid to replace it early and often.

Everest First Ascent 50th Anniversary

Daryl Stisser - Wednesday, May 01, 2013

May 1st 1963, Jim Whittaker, now 84, was the first American to reach the top of the world and summit Mount Everest.

The BBC put together a great short video remembering this moment in time. 

I love the line that "if you are not living on the edge, you are taking up to much space."

Adventures continue to happen, but this was a magnificent climb.  All the trekking and preparation is far beyond my ability.  Good job Jim and Sherpa Gambu!

Click on the photo to visit the BBC page with the video.

 Jim Whittiker on everest

Palisades Adopt a Crag

Daryl Stisser - Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The annual Palisades Adopt a Crag event is coming up, so plan to be there, do your part, and have some fun!  

Be there Sat April 20th from 9am to 2pm.  Plenty of schwag and good stuff.  Contact Eric at eric.weidenman@doyotes.usd.edu for more info if you have questions.

adopt a crag poster

SR Climbing School Blog

Great post about the first climbing bums, the Conns.

Daryl Stisser - Sunday, February 12, 2012

Hollis Marriot, also known as the Last Pioneer Woman, wrote up a beautiful tribute after Herb Conns death.  Check it out and enjoy all the photos.  Check it out here.   I think she is correct in calling them the original rock climbing bums, and I'm so glad we all had their footsteps to follow in.  Their simple lifestyle will inspire me forever. 

Hollis's story and photos made me think of the time when we first met Jan and Herb 16 years ago.  They were looking for ferns and had spied some up in a wide crack and wanted to investigate.  They seemed so spry and young at heart that I did not hardly think about the fact that they were both well into their seventies.  Cheryl and I were wide eyed 20 somethings and enjoying our new South Dakota home.    We met Jan our first week in Custer, SD after seeing a small poster for play tryouts. The play was the musical that Jan had written, called Run To Catch a Pinecone.  It is a beautiful story about life, summer romance, and how things sometimes turn out.  Cheryl and I got small parts, and a friendship was born.

 Anyhow...a few years later, the Conn's asked us to help them get a closer look at the Ferns that they had found and Hollis talks about in her blog post.  We rode in their Jeep named Pogo and parked at the Black Elk/Custer State Park boundary along Needles Highway.  From there, off we went on a hike to the rocks. Jan thought our climbing packs were huge, and could not figure what all we had in them that was worth carrying so far.  The packs hey had used were tiny day packs with a mountaineers coil for their rope, a holster for their piton hammer, and special pockets in their pants for a water bottle, they were ready for adventure.

We all soloed up the rock, and Jan made sure that we all had a chance to take our turn leading the expedition.  There was no doubt some 5th class moves (in their 70's remember) on the way up.  So once above the ferns, the plan was to climb/rappel down to take a closer look at the specimens to determine if they were the Hybrid Variety, and perhaps even collect a sample of the ferns.

Come to find out, according to them, neither of them had ever worn a harness or rappelled.  Of course Cheryl and I were shocked. But Jan and Herb always thought that if a rock was fun enough to climb up, then it was fun enough to climb down.  And besides, most the time their 60 foot rope was to short to rap on.  There was also the fact that extra pitons were hard to come by, so leaving anything behind was nearly in-fathomable to them (once a climbing bum always a climbing bum).

 So I unloaded my huge backpack of its gear and made a nice anchor with a few cams.  Jan and Herb were having none of that.  If I recall correctly, Jan said something like "I'd trust that tree a whole lot more then those new fangled things"...now the tree was about 3 inches in diameter and growing out of a crack in the rock so probably had little root structure, but who was I to argue with 2 living rock climbing legends.

So I moved the anchor over, although kept a tail attached to my cams though, as I didn't trust the tiny tree, and thought that it would be really bad form to get hurt or killed with 'THE' Jan and Herb Conn.   Once I got that done, Jan whips on a bowline on a bite, I started to belay from the top as she climbed down.   She made it 2/3 of the way down to the ferns and nearly to the ground until she asked to be lowered (it was probably 5.9 moves at that point) to the bottom.

Herb decided that he was up for a new experience so I lent him a harness, and at that spot taught him to use a rappel device.  Looking back, it still amazes me that I was some 28 year old punk teaching Herb Conn, my hero, how to rappel.  
Anyhow, all of us got down safely and I then Cheryl and I took a few laps climbing on the new route just for fun.  Jan probably has a much better journal entry about the day.  The Conns always disliked getting their picture taken, so we don't hardly have any pictures of them, but I'll never forget that day.

I know Jan is adjusting to her new reality, and looking forward to seeing her when I get home from Greenland.

A favorite photo of the late Herb Conn with his wife and life partner Jan.  Two AMAZING people.  Taken by Hollis Marriot.

Jan and Herb Conn holding hands.

 


 


Recent Posts

Slide Show
click any 'pic'
   
Climbing up the Spires in Custer State Park - Looking down at the Black HillsCuster State Park - Black Hills - South Dakota - ten-pins
Rock Climbing in Custer State Park - Black Hills - South DakotaYoung rock climber at Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park
Rock climbing in the Black HillsDad and sons on top of one of the many great Black Hills Summits.
Cathedral Spires - Custer State Park - Black Hills - South DakotaClimber in the Black Hills, Custer State Park
Top of Cathedral Spires -Custer State Park, SDClimber in Spires-Black Hills-SD - Route is