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80 Years Ago: First Man Succesfully ‘Free Climbs’ Devils Tower

80 years ago this week, on June 28, 1937, Fritz Wiessner became the first person to “free climb” Devils Tower.

Although the German-born mountain climber was the first to scale the monument using modern techniques, many men had completed the ascent with the aid of a wooden ladder built decades earlier by two local ranchers.

William Rogers and Willard Ripley were credited as the first men to ever stand on top of the tower when they reached the summit on July 4, 1893, using wooden pegs they had driven into the rock face.

Conquering the monument without using fixed equipement was one of many legendary achievements for Wiessner, who helped pioneer the “free climbing” movement. Two years after scaling Devils Tower, he led an early attempt to climb K2, one of the highest peaks in the world, only to be turned back by inclement weather near the summit.

Today, Devils Tower is a popular attraction for rock climbers from all over the world. There are now several trails to the top, including the Durrance Route, which was created only one year after Wiessner became the first man to “free climb” the massive monument.



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