Devil's Lake 3 (copy)

Rock climbing ropes hang from rocks on the west bluff trail at Devil's Lake State Park. The site this weekend will host one of the Midwest's largest rock climbing festivals.  

STEVE APPS/State Journal archives

Alpinists will descend on Baraboo this weekend for one of the Midwest’s largest rock climbing festivals.

The American Alpine Club’s third annual Devil’s Lake Craggin’ Classic will take place Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Devil’s Lake State Park. The event will feature educational rock climbing clinics, competitions, trail service projects and a host of other activities.

American Alpine Club event coordinator Nick Wilkes said Devil’s Lake is one of the most popular rock climbing destinations in the Midwest due to its unique landscape and location between the Milwaukee, Chicago and Minneapolis metropolitan areas.

The park is home to hundreds of climbing routes that range from beginner to advanced skill levels. Wilkes said the Craggin’ Classic could bring as many as 500 climbers to the area.

“In this part of the country, there aren’t that many places to go climbing,” said Wilkes, who also owns and operates Devil’s Lake Climbing Guides. “There are a lot of smaller sites, but Devil’s Lake is certainly the largest climbing area in the Midwest or Great Lakes states.”

Wilkes said several educational clinics will take place throughout the day Saturday. Twelve classes will be taught by instructors from Devil’s Lake Climbing Guides in concert with professional climbers on topics like anchor building, lead climbing, self-rescue and multi-pitch problem solving.

Devil’s Lake Climbing Guides instructor James Schroeder will lead a course on anchor building. A climbing anchor is a system of individual anchor points linked together to create a master point that climbers clip into to secure themselves to the rock.

Schroeder said climbers at Devil’s Lake use more complicated tools to build anchors than what might be used at other sites in an effort to preserve the rock.

“In other areas, there are often bolts drilled into the rock permanently,” he said. “At Devil’s Lake, we have very few permanent anchors in the rock, so everything that people use to attach themselves to the rock is either something like a big tree or a big rock that they’re tying a rope around.”

Schroeder said his course will teach intermediate-level climbers how to broaden their skill set, from creating anchors out of trees and ropes to using more advanced tools that attach to cracks in the rocks. Wilkes said establishing solid anchor points is essential for many climbing methods used at Devil’s Lake.

Competitions in both traditional lead climbing and bouldering also will take place Saturday. Bouldering is a climbing method that doesn’t require ropes because it remains relatively close to the ground. The bouldering contest will feature three skill levels of competitors scoring points for both the number and difficulty of sites they climb.

The second annual Erol Altay Classic will consist of teams of two scoring points based on how many routes they scale, along with their difficulty. Wilke said prizes will be awarded to first-, second- and third-place finishers in both competitions.

American Alpine Club members will conduct a service project on Sunday as well. Through a collaboration with the Ice Age Alliance, the groups will work to reroute and reconstruct a section of the Balanced Rock Trail on Devil’s Lake’s east bluff.

In addition to educating participants on proper climbing techniques, Schroeder said the Craggin’ Classic spreads awareness of outdoor climbing opportunities at Devil’s Lake.

“Some of the greatest climbers of the last few generations have come out of Devil’s Lake and moved on to other places,” he said. “We have a really deep history of contributing really excellent climbers to the world and I think that having this event allows that to continue.”

Follow Jake Prinsen on Twitter @prinsenjake

Baraboo News Republic Reporter