Monday, December 12, 2011


5 Years Ago:

Perfect Medium was a V9 and hadn't been repeated in 7-8 years. It was considered to be classic and a testpiece for the area. One of the best at the lake.

Keymaker was an unrepeated enigma and no one knew where the holds were above the break. It was rated V11 and intimidated anyone and everyone who looked at it.

Alpine Club had been done 4-5 times at most, and the words "Bump" and "Heel Hook" weren't even considered.

The Reserve was still a very secretive area and directions were best given by saying "Just look for the orange dots on the trees".

Nobody knew where Jenga was. Sadly I was lumped into a sorry group that went to the boulder 3 times without ever seeing Super Slab or Moj. We dismissed the area as "Too far out of the way to be worth anything".

Sandstone Violence was still unrepeated and Group Camp B was the sole bouldering area at Governor Dodge, aside from the Godfather Boulder.

Eliminates were seen as a necessity since the Lake was "Climbed Out".

This was posted on Mountain Project when a new boulder went up in 2006: "I think realistically finding a truly new route near all the climbs on the West, let alone a whole boulder, is incredibly unlikely."

Fast forward to today:

Perfect Medium is an 8 now and has been done about 10 times in 2-3 years time. It's considered a mediocre problem at best and an entire area has been discovered below it, holding one of the hardest projects in the park.

Keymaker has been done 4 times now and rests at "V10.1" according to Nic. The holds are continually chalked and the intimidation factor has dropped considerably. Jeff Sillcox called it "World Class" on his first day at the lake.

Alpine Club has now been done 8 times in the last three years. Twice via the traditional method, three times via the bump and three times in the past month and a half with the new found heel hook. On top of that it's been done twice by women.

Secret areas are rarely an issue any longer and information is freely distributed among nearly all of the boulderers at the lake. Mountain Project has become an immense resource for the newer climber and I love that it's turned into something so useful.

Directions seem to be ever evolving and Jenga, in particular, has turned into a premier area at the lake. There seems to be no limit to what people will hike to solely for the prospect of a new boulder and exploration, while a bit slower this year, is still my sole motivation and the driving force of future potential at the lake.

Governor Dodge went from having roughly 50 boulder problems at a couple of areas to having close to 250 problems at a number of areas. Sweaty, Dobbe, Remo, Travis and Eggy were largely responsible for this and none of them get the credit they deserve for this. It was a huge effort and Dodge seems to fall behind Devil's Lake in many respects. We should all feel incredibly lucky to have an area like that so close to home.

Eliminates and variations are currently a thing of the past and pretty much everyone that boulders at the lake looks for the prime lines that abound throughout the park. The sheer amount of rock seems to lend itself to beautiful, solitary lines with obvious moves. Oddly enough, people seem to see the potential for slight variations of classic boulders, but instead of going for it they decide that their time would be better spent looking for a new boulder.

Some things never change I guess. HAH!

In all honesty, I feel privileged to have been a small part of the renaissance that we've experienced over the past 2-3 years. There isn't a single person who's responsible for what's happened around here, but the fact that it's been driven by a core group of excited people has made it so much better.

5 years ago very few people were bouldering at the lake. There were just over 100 problems established, many of which were eliminates. As it stands we have over 400 problems posted on Mountain Project. Granted, there are lots of variations and a handful of eliminates posted but I can guarantee that there are well over 300 high quality boulder problems established at the lake at the moment.

On top of that, much of the East Bluff has yet to be developed and the Fire Road is still one of the few areas at the lake that holds immense potential. As time goes on people will change and faces will come and go. I hope that the one constant is continual development of high quality problems.

I wrote a post back in September that I intended to be my last. I was fed up with a number of things and tired of the drama that seemed to always creep up. I didn't finish it but it was always in the back of my mind. Then, when the drama popped up again last month I finished the post, planning on posting it once the season was done.

I told Katie and had her read it. In turn she told Vera, Chris and Sarah. All of them were visibly mad that I'd stop the blog and it made me feel like some people still care what I write about.

After an anonymous commenter brought up the "clique", I was so happy with the support that came from so many different voices. It was unexpected and made me feel great.

I do want to apologize if I've ever made anyone feel unwelcome here. I started this site a few years ago with the hope of growing the community and creating some excitement for the amazing bouldering at Devil's Lake. I feel like I've succeeded in that.

All that said, I have friends that I enjoy climbing with and there are people that I don't enjoy climbing with. As my climbing days continue to dwindle I feel less and less compelled to climb with anyone but my closest of friends.

I guess I'll leave it up to everyone that reads as to how long I keep the gnar updated and going. Not sure how long it will last but we'll see, right? I'll leave you with the last little bit of that other post. Thanks for another great season at the lake.

If I had to leave with one thought for everyone at the lake out there it'd be this.

Don't settle.

There are incredible, amazing lines being found each year. Dog Walk, Muffin Top and Tipping Point are perfect examples. All three were 50 yards from established classics AND trails. Two of those were found by complete accident. Walk around that final corner. Go up the bluff you know in your gut has already been explored. Turn over every rock and find the PRIME lines. Don't settle for something that isn't amazing.

Devil's Lake is host to some incredible, undone boulder problems. It's just a matter of finding them!


  1. you can't be done with this silly. This is the way that I can make fun of brown people with no repercussions. Also, I am able to pretend that i am involved in things that are going on up there.

  2. Hey Steve, I first learned about your blog this spring and have been following it pretty religiously ever since. Although, I can't say that you and I have ever met, I still feel a part of the community in which you speak and share in your excitement about the potential for Wisconsin bouldering. Although it appears that you have received support from your friends in continuing your efforts here, I also wanted to thank you for your efforts and encourage you to keep Gnar going. I know there are many people who care about what you write and enjoy it immensely, like myself and my wife, that you don't even know. I especially liked your post on the history of Sandstone Violence and a post this summer where you shared your personal struggles with recovering from a shoulder injury. We do have something special brewing here in Wisconsin and your blog is a big part of it. Keep up the great work.
    Mike Lohre, Sauk City

  3. Oh there are repercussions. Just when you least expect it you'll see the shadow of a turban rise up from behind you, and then bam!

    The blog cannot be shutdown, mainly because this is my primary source for hating on the intrawebs.

  4. But Steve you just got a new camera! Can't stop now : )

  5. Nice post Steve. I moved here 4 1/2 years ago, and at the time didn't realize the floodgates were about to open. What a fun time to be a climber in WI. Thanks for keeping your blog going Steve. I always look forward to your posts and thoughts. Plus the photos! ce

  6. RV is always reciting scenes from Indiana Jones. It's so cute.

  7. One thing I appreciate about your blog posts is that they are authentic and well-thought out. I also love connecting to the local community. But most of all, I think it's obvious that you are advocating for people to just have fun and climb. Long live Sicky Gnar Gnar :)