Saying please at Devils Tower

  • Climbing Devils Tower

    National Park Service
  Rock climbers routinely conquer obstacles and they don't take kindly to "no." But the conflict between rock climbers and Native American tribes over Devils Tower in Wyoming may be easing, thanks to a voluntary climbing ban.

The National Park Service says 85 percent of the tower's climbers complied with the trial ban in June. The measure emerged from a new management plan that addresses both the cultural and environmental impacts of climbing the 867-foot tower (HCN, 10/3/94). More than 20 tribes claim cultural ties to the volcanic butte, and some use the site for religious ceremonies, especially around the summer solstice.

During the month the tower was off-limits to climbers, eight out of nine commercial climbing guides stayed away; climbers who showed up at the site were either unaware of the ban or refused to comply. John Gunnels of the Northeast Wyoming Climbing Club says as long as the ban is voluntary, most climbers will continue to respect it. "If they ever use the word mandatory, watch out," he said. "They'll be arresting me."

*Diane Kelly

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