A Day Out Climbing with Apex

  • 10696338_10153375510403695_2782899309964598110_nBy Guest Blogger: Marcie Waters

This summer, my friend Marissa and I decided to try out rock climbing with an Open Group Climb with Apex. At first, it seemed we were doomed to bad luck, as it began raining as soon as we arrived to the parking lot meeting point at Devil’s Lake State Park. We met our guide for the day, Jill, who distributed gear and made sure it fit us correctly, and the rest of our group, who included a family of rock climbing enthusiasts. We sat in our cars for a bit, waiting the rain out, until we decided it was clear enough to go climbing.

We went on a short but steep hike up to the bluffs where Jill had laid out four climbing routes for us to try. On our way up, she explained some background info about the unique nature at Devil’s Lake. When we arrived at the bluffs, Jill made sure we had our gear on properly, taught us how to tie into the ropes, and explained how to belay. Then we were off!

The rock had dried out quickly and didn’t pose a problem for climbing. Marissa climbed first, and I belayed her; then we switched off. Climbing was much harder than I thought it would be, and I had not realized how much of climbing is mental. This challenge just made it even more fun and rewarding when I climbed higher and higher. The day was spent switching between different routes and between climbing and belaying. Belaying might not sound as fun as climbing, but I did enjoy watching Marissa climb, helping her find holds in the rocks that she couldn’t see from her vantage point, and cheering her on. With Jill providing helpful tips and encouragement the whole time, climbing was really a group activity.

We ended the day by following Jill up to the top of the bluffs to learn about how the ropes had been set up for the climb and how to take them down before heading down towards the parking lot. Marissa and I enjoyed our first climbing experience and can’t imagine a better place to have done it than at Devil’s Lake with Apex!11535909_10153455921741942_4761020965844571284_n


Reflections of a Guide

Camping and climbing at Devil’s Lake State Park is awesome. Getting to share that with others is also great. Know what is even better? Pantry Rock Climbing

Getting to share it with others for FOUR days. Last week I got the privilege of working with a youth group from near my home town.  We camped, we climbed, we swam, we explored a river, we jumped into the water, and best of all, we all learned about each other and the world around us. Taking this time to reflect and build relationships is truly what being a guide is all about.

I have worked at other camps and regardless of location, getting to work with kids and adults alike, you see a changes in them after spending time in the wilderness.  Without some of the stimulations we see in every day life, people are different.  I see calm, relaxed, open, excited, and more.  I not only see it in others, but I see it in myself too.

When we take away those stimulations, we also create space for relationships to thrive in ways that those stimulations can push away.  Not once throughout the whole four days was someone busy on their phone instead of giving someone their full attention. With our attention turned to each other and ourselves, we start to listen better, we start to interact better, and we make room for more. More of whatever it is that we need.

So as I reflect on my time in the wilderness and each day I am allowed to spend time outside, I start to see myself more fully. I am better at achieving results when challenged. I have better, deeper, more solid relationships. And best of all, I am more of the best parts of me.

If you have time, check out what the world around us does to you.

– Jill Griffis

Reflections of a Guide



Eek! Devil’s Lake Climbing Surprises!

Eek! Yikes! Interesting Finds Climbing

and Bouldering at Devil’s Lake.

One of the best things about hanging out at Devil’s Lake State Park is the interesting array of insects, frogs, toads, and snakes we come across while guiding. Not only are these “finds” on the trails, but often on the actual climbs themselves! Climbers can be walking to their destination or reach up for that bomber hold, only to be surprised by any number of things including timber rattlers, toads, and spiders.

Not to worry, these encounters are rare and mostly harmless!

The following is a list of the few my favorite things found while guiding:

  • Timber Rattler – See where we have found these at the lake.  Last year we had several sightings along the hiking trails to climbing locations!  With their loud rattler, though shy (thanks goodness!), you’ll hear them.
  • Frogs and Toads – The perimeter of the lake, the nearing ponds, and sometimes, in the cracks of climbs!
  • Walking Stick – Check the trees around the park.  Keep your eyes peeled, they can be tricky to spot since they look, well, like a stick.
  • Millipedes and Centipedes – These guys are all over Devil’s Lake State Park! Freaky at first, but not harmful. If seen on the trails, their favorite past-time is being saved and not stepped on.
  • wolf spiderWolf Spider – We see these guys on the side of the rocks.  Not often, luckily. They never fail to be a freaky sighting.

The Nature Center, located off the Devil’s Lake’s North Entrance offers a wealth of information and examples of wildlife at the lake, as well as a history of the lake and area. It’s well worth a visit. For information about hours visit their website.

Come out climb with us and let’s see what we can find!

Best Climbing Gear to Top Rope Devil’s Lake

We get A LOT of questions about what gear is best to start out when you want to start to build a climbing gear rack to Top Rope at Devil’s Lake.  Since much of our clientele intends on heading on out to our local crag, Devil’s Lake State Park, here is a list of our recommendations for the Best Climbing Gear to Top Rope Devil’s Lake. You’ll find that what you need depends on what you want to do, how much time are willing to devote to being creative (and safe, always #1!). If you have further questions, please email us at info@apexadventurealliance.com. Also check out our Anchors Course to learn more. 

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The All-Natural Rack

Tough to get by on, but with a little creativity, possible for many climbs at Devil’s Lake. This is also gear that you will just need in general to be able to have a successful set up.

  • Cord (static), I would go with 8mm minimum.  That will give you something that lasts and the ability to build your anchors to an appropriate strength.  Find it at Adventure Rock, REI, Fontana, etc. (20-40 foot pieces)
  • Or tubular webbing. (20-40 foot pieces)
  • Locking Carabiners (two per master point)
  • Several non-locking carabiners
  • A few double length slings (2-3)
  • A Climbing Rope
If all you have is some cord or webbing, PLEASE do not be one of “those people” that bends the rules in order to “make it work.”  Only use solid features as naturals.  There are over 5,000 routes at Devil’s Lake, so don’t compromise safety just because you don’t have the right gear.

The Passive Rack – A GREAT! starting point if you are on a strict budget.nuts

  • Standard Nuts (you can get away with Black Diamond’s Classic Stopper Set or you can go with the BD Pro Stopper Set)
  • Offset Nuts.  Work in lots of spots at the lake.  Also like to get stuck. (These are awesome at Devil’s Lake!)
  • Hexes. I like using these in both a passive and active way.  The big ones are great in lots of “thread through” spots at Devil’s Lake.
  • Tricams (Red, Pink at DL or two pinks!)
  • Nut tool (Definite necessity.  You’ll probably get pretty good at using this if you put something in the cold rock in the morning and it heats up during the day).

The Cam, A Lot Rack – Do almost anything with this rack

You’ll first need the “All Natural Rack” and then you can either combo with the Passive Rack or just go ahead and cover all of your bases and buy everything.  It is fun to be a gear snob. Plan on quick set ups at Devil’s Lake with cams (as long as you have equalization and master points knots under yours belt).

  • Black Diamond Camalots are great. Easy to place.  I use .5-3 the most, favoring the .75 and 1)
  • Black Diamond’s X4 are pretty awesome with a more flexible stem.
  • Other camming devices will work just fine. All are similar with some subtle differences.  I recommend Black Diamond since I have first-hand experience with using their product.
As always, we recommend tying yourself in at the top of any climb.  The Metolius PAS 22 is great.  Also very useful for sport route cleaning.  

 Best Climbing Gear to Top Rope Devil’s Lake.

Legend and Folklore of the Devil’s Lake Monster

"Plesiosaurus 3DB" by Creator:Dmitry Bogdanov - dmitrchel@mail.ru. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Plesiosaurus_3DB.jpg#/media/File:Plesiosaurus_3DB.jpg

“Plesiosaurus 3DB” by Dmitry Bogdanov – dmitrchel@mail.ru. Link

Once our clients are geared up for rock climbing, we hike to the crag. To pass the time, we share a bit about the history of the lake, rock, and answer questions.  A popular question is:  Why is it named Devil’s Lake?

The answer comes in many forms including the Legend and Folklore of the Devil’s Lake Monster passed down for years. The Nakota Sioux and Ho-Chunk tribes used Devil’s Lake and Devil’s Lake State Park area, as a gathering place for centuries. The Ho-Chunk named the lake Day-wa-kun-chunk (or “Sacred Lake”) and the Nakota called it Minne-wau-ken (”Bad Spirit” or “Mystery Lake”).

How did it come to have such a reputation?

Years ago, there were reports of octopus-like sea creatures in the lake and Hairy Hominids (Big Foot) on land.  My personal favorite story comes from the Nakota Sioux:

They claim that an expedition of young warriors and their leader were canoeing late at night.  The lake was blackened and the full moon reflected off the water. An octopus-like creature with tentacles ripped through the water and tipped over the canoes.  As the warriors screamed, others witnessed this horrible scene on the shore.  All were lost.

The Nakota also report seeing a huge, fish like creature.  The tribe described the large creature as having a long neck, small head and wide body.

To pay tribute to the creature, the Nakota held a festival every year. The tradition carries through to this day.  Animals are no longer sacrificed (as they once were) – instead, it’s more of a picnic and celebration.

It’s very possible that this creature existed, say researchers.  The Nakota description resembles the fresh water plesiosaur that found its way into the lake after the last Ice Age. Whatever the Devil’s Lake Monster is, or was, there haven’t been any confirmed sightings of the creature for some time!

If you would like to read more, here are some interesting reads and our references!