North American Classic Climbs

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Devil's Tower

El Matador

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By the time Fred Beckey arrived on the scene in 1967 to contemplate the elegant cracks and chimneys of El Matador, around 1500 climbers had stood atop Devil's Tower by 34 different routes. Most of these had involved aid; the first free ascents were still a decade or two away. The sport's luminaries of the time had all found travel to the far corner of Wyoming well worth the effort, and the early climbing history is full of reconizeable names; Robbins, Kor, Bossier, Carter, McCarthy, Kamps, Rearick, Evans, Long, and others had all made their mark on the Tower by picking and conquering the best-looking lines. Climbing is, above all, about aesthetics. Fred Beckey has a keen eye for aesthetic lines, and the North American Classics collection is replete with his first ascents. It is not surprising, then, that the dramatic chimney that comprises the middle section of this climb was first ascended, using aid, by the dean of North American climbing, and his equally qualified partner Eric Bjornstad, best know for his desert tower ascents.

The first free ascent by Yoho and Holtkamp must have been a bold venture. Either a difficult lieback technique or an extreme stem is required, and neither is ideal for placing protection. Besides this defining chimney pitch, the route comprises 6 pitches, most of which are short, and include classic jam cracks, a roof, and other more moderate chimneys. If you are up to strenuous continuous climbing at this level, this route could cap a trip to the Tower in fine style.

There is currently a "voluntary" climbing ban during the entire month of June in deference to native american religious beliefs.


Lowland Rock (crag)




Devil's Tower Nat'l Park, Wyoming (NE), USA



G8, I1, I2


III, 5.10d


Route Descriptions & Maps:

See references

First Ascent:

First Free Ascent:

F. Beckey and E. Bjornstad, 9/24/67.
B. Yoho, C. Holtkamp, 8/06/78


Trip Reports:

Dargaud, 8/02