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Wisconsin Parent

Rock Climbing at Devil's Lake State Park

Aug 06, 2014 07:18PM ● By Julie Henning
In April, I posted a story featuring Midwest Mountain Guides, a Wisconsin-based Outdoor Adventure Company that specializes in Rock Climbing, Backpacking and Wilderness First Aid. As our "balmy spring weather" would dictate, the perfect evening for a climb at Devil's Lake State Park ended up being the first week in August.Meeting up with owner Steve Johnston after work, we had a "condensed" climbing session starting at the South Shore parking lot (a more typical session would last anywhere from 6 hours to two 7 hour days, depending on which course you were interested in).  The nice thing about Midwest Mountain Guides is that all of the gear is supplied (including climbing shoes, helmets, and harnesses) and you don't need to have any previous climbing experience. Both a father and high school teacher, Steve has years of experience with youth instruction (read: families are encouraged to register and can consult with Steve regarding appropriate age and course selection). IMG_8382After fitting our gear, we did a safety and backpack check (As in, "Do you have water, car keys, bee sting kit...?") and headed up to the base of Balanced Rock. If you haven't been to Devil's Lake State Park before, you should know this is a 0.4 mile climb up a natural staircase through bolder fields that end in a picturesque summit overlooking Devil's Lake. If you talk the entire climb (ahem), plan to be out of breath. Also, pack twice the amount of water you think you might need and wear shoes with a good nonstick tread.

IMG_8388After setting the ropes, Steve went through another safety check and explained the basics of rock climbing (use your entire body, plan your route, don't forget to breathe) and we were off on what would be considered a 5.2 grade climb (this is somewhat confusing, but this Wikipedia article might give you a better insight into the different levels of technical difficulty and types of climbing).

IMG_8386In watching Steve care for his equipment, I have complete confidence he is "by the book" when it comes to safety. Did you know a common practice in the professional climbing business it to keep a log book for each of your ropes? Not to mention, Steve has two different national climbing certifications and is both a Wilderness First Responder and member of the National Ski Patrol (not to mention has a 100% safety record at Midwest Mountain Guides).

IMG_8395After mastering the first run, Steve moved the rope to a more difficult course. While my husband "mountain goated" his way up both times, I found myself challenged, but not frustrated. With ten years experience in helping people develop their mountain climbing skills, Steve's ultimate goal is to help each person feel confident and safe while they are having fun.

IMG_8391As we climbed, several groups of hikers stopped to watch and comment on how it looked like we were having a good time (and we really were). A memorable outing for couples, families, or groups of friends, the certified guides at Midwest Mountain Guides can accommodate up to six people/instructor (and trust me, your arms and fingers will thank you for spacing out the time between each climb). If you have 6 people in your party and you opt for the 6 hour climb, the cost will be about $13/hour (and much more memorable than going to the movies, even with popcorn). IMG_8396With fall rounding the bend, Devil's Lake State Park (really, any designated climbing spot in Wisconsin and Minnesota) is the perfect place to experience the fireworks of fall. Make your own reservation here: