Oldest Climber on Devils Tower

We have had many interesting and awesome guest and I try not to spray about them, but it has been a few years now, and I’ve talked about it, but never blogged about it until now.  But I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Sylvan Rocks guide Tony Schwatz had the pleasure of guiding the oldest free climber ever to the top of Devils Tower.   If I’m wrong and someone older has made the trip, please let me know.

In 2010, Amanda called me from Austria and booked a trip for Siegfried since his english was not as good as hers.  I think she may have mentioned something about him being older, but it was a non-issue.  I didn’t think much about it, as I knew Matt would handle whatever came his way.  So Matt Mieczkowski heads over to the Tower, and met up with this Austrian dude.  That was the year the Durrance Route was closed so they fired up El Cracko without problem.  Come to find out, Siegfried was 81years old and not afraid to perhaps pull on a piece of gear though the crux.   I thought that that was pretty darn cool.  I’ve seen guys young enough to be Siegfrieds great grand children get shut down by the challenge Devils Tower holds.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  Rock climbing up Devils Tower is a blue collar adventure…it is work…there is no easy way climb up that darn Tower of Power.  I wish there was, but if you wanna get to the summit and earn that amazing view from the top, you gotta want to get yourself there.  

So, 2012 rolls around, Amanda calls back and booked several days of climbing in the Needles and another trip up the Tower.  Amanda…Siegfrieds younger wife at the tender age of 67 had started going to the climbing gym with him every week and she got in on the action when she joined Tony and her hubby for the 3 days spent climbing in the Needles, but on Sept 9, 2012 Siegfried chugged his way up the Durrance route.  In Tony’s words…”he was a machine.”  I’d like to think Tony’s great guiding had something to do with it all, but truth be told, Tony just hung the rope for a very determined bundle of energy to blast his way up the route climbing in a controlled, steady, good climbing form.   How cool is that?  If Cheryl and I can goto the climbing gym once a week when I hit 80 and summit the Tower at 83… to say the least, I will be pretty psyched.

In talking to Siegfried, he said he climbed from age 30 to 50, then quit for 20 years, but at age 70…he decided that it was time to get back into rock climbing.  So, I guess that he is set up until 90 or so.  We will hope for another visit from Amanda and Siegfried.  Two of the sweetest, most humble guest I have met.

Just let it be known that while the great Frank Sanders is getting a little long in the tooth…he has another generation of climbing the Tower before he catches up to Siegfrieds age record.  I think the gauntlet has been thrown…lets salute 2 of my favorite athletes.  Amanda and Siegfried.


Since 2012 the “oldest climber” completion has been upped.  In 2017,  Robert Kelman climbed with us for several days in the Needles of Custer Stare Park and then to the summit of Devils Tower while he was 87 years old.   Outside Magazine Article

We all thought that was amazing.  Then last year, in 2018, Frank and his crew got Bill Weber (age 91) and his sons to the top.  Mens Health Article

I have heard from Siegfried during all this, and he indicated he might be interested in defending his record.  Robert also came back with us last season to enjoy the awesome climbing in the Needles of Custer State Park with Taylor again.  Hats off to all these amazing athletes.  May they all continue to enjoy doing what they love with good friends.  

As my friend Peter Lev (who is getting up there in years) has said to me  “nothing else excites me like the feeling I get when I lay my hands on the rocks to climb them.”  


Old man and woman rock climbers.

Young at heart climbers enjoying the view from the top of one of the spires behind Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park.

Many people think they know what rock climbing is like, but have never tried it. There are many different levels of climbing routes and ways to challenge yourself. Standing on top is a unique reward for any climber at any level.