Don't let your vacation be boring.
Let's talk about doing some rock climbing.
FAQ about rock climbing with Sylvan Rocks climbing guides.
Where is Sylvan Rocks located?
Most of our courses meet in front of the Sylvan Lake General Store. All the course prep and directions info will be shared with guests when they make a reservation. Call 605-484-7585 to learn more.
Should I tip my guide?
If you feel your guide did a good job, it is certainly normal and greatly appreciated. Your waiter brings you food, your climbing guide takes you on the experience of a lifetime.
What do I need to know before I arrive to rock climb? Click here.
Where will we climb?
Many options exist: Within the Needles of Custer State Park there are the Outlets behind Sylvan Lake, the Ten Pins along Needles Highway, the Cathedral Spires, Needles Eye area, and many more granite spires..
We also offer climbing tours at Mount Rushmore Climbing Area, Devils Tower National Monument, and Palisades State Park (on the eastern side of South Dakota). If you are climbing with us for several days, we will generally choose a different area each day based on your abilities, desires, and the teaching objectives for the day.
Do I need to be able to do a pull up in order to rock climb?
No. Attitude is everything. One of the best things about rock climbing is that so many people enjoy it at so many levels. If you are eager to learn, enthusiastic and in reasonably good shape, you’ll likely enjoy climbing outdoors. Best of all, with the great sticky rubber climbing shoes we supply, you spend most your time standing on your own two feet.
You might discover some muscles you rarely use, but your guide will instruct you on efficient movement over the stone. Most any person with the desire to rock climb and the ability to enjoy adventure walking (or a walk around the block) can enjoy climbing at their level.
Is Climbing Dangerous?
Yes. Climbing is an adventure, and an experience which can be dangerous. Just like when you ride in a car going down the highway, the driver cannot promise total safety and neither can we. Still, riding in a car is something most of us do every day. We will work with you to minimize the risk of climbing as much as we can by following the “rules of the road” and using specialized equipment.
What is the AMGA?
To quote their website “The American Mountain Guides Association is a non-profit organization that seeks to represent the interests of American mountain guides by providing support, education, and standards.” They are the authoritative voice in the guiding world. They offer classes and certification of individual guides and climbing schools by setting high safety standards of operation. Sylvan Rocks is an AMGA accredited climbing school. AMGA Site Link.
Why should I climb with a guide?
We know how to access the routes in the maze of granite spires here in the Needles of Custer State Park and the Black Hills so that you can spend more of your vacation summiting the classic climbing routes rather then wandering around looking for them. We are trained and eager to pass on the traditions of climbing outdoors to beginning and experienced climbers. We take an inherently dangerous activity and do our best to teach you how to mitigate the hazards. We give you the tools to quickly expand your bag-o-climbing-tricks to become a solid climbing partner who moves efficiently up routes. We teach the tools needed for a lifetime of adventure.
How high will we climb?
The depends on the course you take, your ability, and comfort level. The climbing routes up the Needles of Custer State Park range in length from one to three pitches. A typical “pitch” is 100 feet.
Is it normal to be scared or afraid of heights?
In a word, YES. The little voice in your head is sometimes what keeps you alive…sometimes it’s just good to turn the volume down a little! Respect of heights makes climbing outdoors fun and exciting. The fear of heights during climbing should never totally go away, but with education and proper understanding of the equipment it should be controllable.
How strong is the equipment?
Climbing gear has come a long way from the hemp ropes, steel carabiners and pitons of yester-year. The nylon ropes and most all the gear strong enough to be used to pull a truck out of a ditch after its life as rock climbing gear.
How far will we have to hike?
The climbs behind Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park and around Mount Rushmore can generally be reached with a 10-15 minute walk. The approaches for Cathedral Spires and Devil’s Tower are generally up hill and can take from 20 to 50 minutes from the car. We strive for more climbing and less walking.
Where are the best places to climb?
Each route and rock carries its own unique character. We will take you up a variety of routes and let you make that decision for yourself.
How many students are in each course?
Our Discover Climbing adventure is our group course and you will be going out climbing with other people in a 6 to 1 ratio with your instructor/s. Our guide days (both 6 and 8 hour) are private courses with just the group you bring and your instructor. In a guide day setting, if you have more than 4 people in your private group you will be set up with additional guides.
How young can children be to take your courses?
All minors will need to be with an adult. Children 5 and up can take most of our courses with an adult participating. For families who are visiting with children, we feel that you can best judge when your child is ready for rock climbing. In general, we find that about any five year old or older child with good verbal skills will have fun rock climbing at their own level. Parents must be present to sign liability waivers for all minors prior to us setting out for a climbing course or have made prior arrangements to obtain and sign a form that arrives with the minor taking the course. Our liability waiver can be found here.
What time do courses begin each day?
Most courses meet at 8 am each day and usually finish up between 12:30 and 4:30 pm. Some guided climbs such as those on Devils Tower may start much earlier and or might go later. We will take a few minutes on the morning of the first day to outfit you with rock equipment (rock shoes, harness and helmet) and then head right out to the crags. If you are signing up for a private 6 or 8 hour day we will try to work with you if starting at 8am can’t happen and also adjust our start time early and late season as needed, but otherwise please be on time so that we can get stared, go climbing, and be back down before afternoon thunderstorms begin. If you are climbing Devils Tower, plan your lodging to be near the Tower the night before, as we often start at 4am during the summer months.
What is your cancellation policy ? Full explanation.
What is the policy for rain or bad weather?
Arrive prepared with proper clothing, and plan to climb even if conditions are less than ideal. When possible we will go out and have a good time despite the conditions (bring some warm waterproof clothes). We often focus on ground school tasks while it’s clearing up and generally get plenty of climbing in when a shower moves through (everything dries fast here once the sun returns). If the weather does not allow for your entire day of climbing we will work with you, and do our best to reschedule, but once your day is half over we will not issue refunds due to weather.
What is it like on the top of Devil’s Tower?
Well, we hope that we can take you there so you can see it for yourself. Until this happens, imagine a Wyoming prairie hilltop that you can’t see the sides of (a really tall hill). It’s grassy, and there is an old piece of wood, probably an old rung from the original stake ladder, stuck in a cairn of rocks at the high point. On a nice day, it’s very pleasant to sit up there and enjoy the 360 degree view.
Where should I stay and eat in the Black Hills? Click here.