National Register of Historic Places

Devils Tower Ladder

Crook County

Date Added to Register

Monday, July 24, 2000

Smithsonian Number


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The historic ladder is located on the southeast side of Devils Tower. It was first constructed and used in 1893 by William Rogers and Willard Ripley, local ranchers, in their exhibition ascent of the tower. About 1,000 people came from up to 12 miles away to witness this first formal ascent of the tower. Rogers' wife Linnie ascended the ladder two years later, becoming the first known woman to reach the summit of the tower. An estimated 215 people later ascended the tower using Rogers' ladder. It was last used in 1927 by stunt climber Babe (''the Human Fly'') White. Rogers and Ripley's ascent initiated a pattern of sport climbing of the tower that has lasted until the present day. The ladder presently consists of a series of wooden stakes connected on the outside by vertical wood planks. One end of each stake is driven sideways into a rock crevice, vertically ascending the tower. Attached with nails and/or bailing wire to the other end of the stakes are 12-foot lengths of 1 x 4-inch lumber. The ladder ascends from about 100 feet above the ground to the summit, and is about 170 feet long. Sources vary on the original length of the ladder. Some say it was 350 feet and others say 270 feet; it is uncertain which figure is accurate. At some time during the 1930s, the decision was made to remove the lower 100 feet of ladder for safety reasons (to prevent climbers from using it). In the summer of 1972, the park restored the remaining 170-foot length of ladder by straightening old stakes, replacing about 18 linear feet of missing pegs, and by attaching a 1 x 4-inch lumber rail, similar to the original, to the outer ends of the pegs.

Department of State Parks & Cultural Resources