A First Climbing Trip . . . Devil's Lake, 1959
. . .
By John Stannard
In order to get out of Chicago's southside I went to Devils Lake once
in 1959 with a trip run by one of the University of Chicago staff. When
I reached the top of my first top rope problem I found the leader
sitting at the cliff face with the rope going twenty feet back from the
face, running around the top of a small dead five foot tall bush,
thence back to the cliff face and me. On that small face I could not
have accepted the sudden addition of forty feet of slack. My experience
with the use of ropes during haying and some elementary vector analysis
led me to take up caving instead of climbing. Six
years later I was back to climbing however.
I didn't have a car in Chicago so about all I could do was ride the EL
down to the loop or walk over to the Museum of Natural History at the
Lake. That was a great museum! I forget how I found out about the
outing to Devil's Lake
but jumped at the chance to get out of the city. We got up there after
and just threw our bags out where we found ourselves. Some time
the early morning hours I woke up when the ground began to shake. As
whatever it was got closer I was even more interested to hear the
screeching of steel sliding over steel. We had bedded down a few feet
from the outside of a turn in the railroad tracks. All of those loaded
cars were shifting on the tracks - in our direction. More than forty
years later I remember it well.
I have no idea what we did that weekend and I remember nothing special
about the rope. It might have been hemp but I doubt it.
Immediately as I first
saw the rock I was struck by how hard and compact it was. I don't
remember it having any crystalline structure like you find in most
quartzite. At the time I imagined it would ring if struck while cold.
Obviously we were put on easy routes. I do remember a short steep
face with a hold about a centimeter
deep. Who would have thought such a hold would one day be considered a
ledge. The day was glorious, the air was clear, and the exercise
[Comment: John Stannard and I were
at UC at about the same time. Too bad we didn't meet then! The portrait
is by Pat Ament]