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Turk's Head
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Turk's Head Ridge 

YDS: 5.8 French: 5b Ewbanks: 16 UIAA: VI- ZA: 15 British: HVS 4c

Type:  Trad, 7 pitches, 500', Grade II
Consensus:  YDS: 5.7 French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ ZA: 13 British: MVS 4b [details]
FA: unknown
Page Views: 4,440
Submitted By: Jay Knower on Apr 10, 2002

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Stew nearing the top of Weissner's Crack after yet...


An alpine route at Devil's Lake? Turks Head Ridge, with the Wiessner Wall finish is seven to nine pitches long. Sure the pitches are short, but its all we've got.

To approach, walk north past the cabins on Tumbled Rocks Trail until you can see a tower about 50 yards above the trail. This is the first pitch (5.3). Descend the tower, and continue on long, mostly unbroken ridge to the base of Wiessner Wall. Continue up Wiessner in two pitches and complete the longest route in Wisconsin.

Pitch two (5.6), an ugly wide inside corner, protects well with big cams. The third pitch, a left slanting finger crack is the crux (5.8) and difficult to protect. It is short, though, and the 5.6 face to the right might afford the leader some respite. After this, it is 5.4 climbing to the top.

For what it's worth, I have usually climbed the ridge in this order:

Pitch 1: The Tower, 5.2

Pitch 2: The Dirty Inside Corner, 5.6

Pitch 3: The 30 Foot Wall, 5.8 or 5.6

Pitch 4: The 15 Foot 5.1 Groove

Pitch 5: The 40 Foot Inside Corner/Ridge, 5.4

Pitch 6: The short Rightward Diagonalling Crack, 5.4

Pitch 7: The Double Cracks, 5.5

Pitch 8: Wiessner's Chimney, 5.4

Pitch 9: either Wiessner's Face, 5.7 or The Crack Above The Tree, 5.2

I feel as though, when climbed this way, you maximize both the quality and the quantity of the climbing. There are, however, numerous variations possible.


Standard Rack--Maybe some big cams. Gear to set belays.

Photos of Turk's Head Ridge Slideshow Add Photo
P7 Magic Ed - most guys his age like to watch golf on a Sunday afternoon - Ed ain't afraid to do a little soloin'
P7 Magic Ed - most guys his age like to watch golf...
P3 A nice casual solo
P3 A nice casual solo
The tower of pitch 1
BETA PHOTO: The tower of pitch 1
The above topo was written by Joe Block and appeared in Vertical Jones, Issue 10, July/August 2001. Posted with permission.
BETA PHOTO: The above topo was written by Joe Block and appear...
The 5.5 cracks above the alcove make up pitch 6.
BETA PHOTO: The 5.5 cracks above the alcove make up pitch 6.
Magic Ed likes the solid rock - been climbin' the Potrero limestone way too much!
Magic Ed likes the solid rock - been climbin' the ...
You can do this route as 5.4, or maybe easier, ALL YEAR LONG! Here is the boulderfield at the start - first tower visible top center.
You can do this route as 5.4, or maybe easier, ALL...
A couple of the good ole boys on a casual Sunday solo of the Ridge. P3 shown here.
A couple of the good ole boys on a casual Sunday s...
P1 The first tower
P1 The first tower
Turk's Head Ridge
BETA PHOTO: Turk's Head Ridge
P2 The way I like to climb this pitch - very easy and cleaner than the corner, just more exposed
P2 The way I like to climb this pitch - very easy ...
If you bring a rope, finish on Weissner's, if not, go North around the base of Turks Head tower, then up this chimney - easy and interesting
If you bring a rope, finish on Weissner's, if not,...
Stew and the gang starting up P1 of Turks Head Ridge.
Stew and the gang starting up P1 of Turks Head Rid...
The final pitch if you use the Turks Head chimney option instead of Weissner's. Someone will need to post this thing in full winter conditions!
The final pitch if you use the Turks Head chimney ...
P3 The inside corner is easy on this pitch - the 5.8 crack is just to my right, and 5.6 on the far right of this wall.
P3 The inside corner is easy on this pitch - the 5...
P5 Starting out on my favorite pitch, the 40 footer. Take the left crack system up to a big ledge, then an airy traverse right to the right corner
P5 Starting out on my favorite pitch, the 40 foote...
Stew standing atop a small spire found at the base of P2 on Turks Ridge.
Stew standing atop a small spire found at the base...
P6 I like to do the corner left of the 5.4 crack on this pitch - seems like one 5.6 move. You can go further left and do it at like 5.2
P6 I like to do the corner left of the 5.4 crack o...
Stew coming up P4 of the Ridge.
Stew coming up P4 of the Ridge.
P7 - the double cracks to the left are really fun- I'm doing the face to the right  - easier variation
P7 - the double cracks to the left are really fun-...

Comments on Turk's Head Ridge Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Jun 13, 2012
By Tom Anderson-Brown
From: Madison, WI
May 28, 2002

I did Turk's Head Ridge this weekend with Jan Brown and I really enjoyed it! We did the 5.5 and under variation and in my opinion the experience is highly recommended. Give it a try. It does somewhat resemble alpine climbing although the pitches are [much] shorter.
By Joe Block
Jul 4, 2002

From the author of that topo:

It is in NO WAY authoritative. As anyone who has climbed this beast knows, it's less of a "route" and more of a "pick your own way" type of climb. Please add additions/subtractions/modifications. I made that topo as an attempt to give those new to the climb a general idea of what the ridge we're all talking about is.

Does anyone do this thing in the winter, preferably during nasty stormy conditions, or is it just me (I doubt it's just me)?

And, if you're going to climb this (not necessarily for speed) you must finish on the 5.7-ish face route on Wiessner, not the 5.2 cheater (which I use, admittedly, at times). A spectacular finish.

A possible modification to the gear list: I don't think there's a need for anything larger than 1.5 inches. Maybe on top of the last pitch, but you can use the rock spike or sling one of the monster blocks behind the face (not the loose boulders).

By Jay Knower
From: Campton, NH
Jul 7, 2002

Joe, If you climb the "true" second pitch--the inside corner to the left of the tower and below what you call the "30 foot wall"--big gear may be helpful for the wide crack. I think it is a shame to skip this pitch, or should we call it a pitch-let? It is more of a boulder problem, and the moves are scary and insecure for it's sandbag 5.6 rating. The Swartling guide lists the pitch as an alternative to the tower and calls it a "20 foot overhanging dirty inside corner". Sounds classic, eh?
By Joe Block
Jul 7, 2002

I actually have that "pitchlet" listed as an alternate in a write-up that Tom has on Turk's Ridge. I believe he's going to post it at some point. It basically follows the description in The Guide, but adds more variations at the top of the Ridge. And as you know, having climbed the ridge, there really are a few good variations down low as well, variations/pitches The Guide seems to omit. Sometime this fall I plan to get out there with my GPS and a digital camera and finally nail down a good description of the ridge, the stuff below Turk's Head, and the stuff below and to the south of the Needle.Thinking about the second pitch (to the right of the tower), you're right, it does take some big gear.I've been climbing Turk's Ridge for a decade now and it's still hard, at times, to nail down a good descirption of the area. I was happy as hell to see yours, though, knowing that someone else actually really likes the formation.
By Joe Block
Jul 7, 2002

Jay,If/when Tom posts my descirption of Turk's Ridge, it would be great if you modify it to reflect your true second pitch down low. I see that what I call the 2nd pitch would be the third, by your description (which I think is better).Or, Tom, if you're reading this (which I suppose you are), I can just resubmit that route description to reflect Jay's detailed descriptions down low on the ridge (and then my descrpition seems to fill out the upper pitches).
By Joe Block
Jul 8, 2002

We're pretty much on the same page. My description just combines several of your pitches into one pitch (but I can't look at your description with the way this posting page works, so...) Wandering right towards the top (about 100 feet below the base of Wiessner) takes you into a rather interesting and undocumented area directly below Turk's Head. I'm pretty sure if you go right after the 40 foot "ridge" section (going from memory here) it's possible to link up into some more continuous climbing until you reach the base of the "little" tower in front of Turk's Head. You know you've gone right too soon if you end up in a big talus field (some interesting variations in the winter there, though, and a little bit of ice on occasion).
By Tom Anderson-Brown
From: Madison, WI
Jul 11, 2002

Check out Joe Block's terrific article on Multipitch climbing in the "Features" section of the site. Click on the "Community" button to the left in the sidebar, then click on "Issues" at the top of the page. Thanks a lot Joe for this great contribution!
By Joe Block
Aug 6, 2002

Having just spent two days tromping around the ridge, I've discovered a few things.First, Tom, if you can lighten the photo of the whole ridge, it will reveal a bit more detail. I can provide another photo with the modifications if necessary.Second, the rock to the right (north) of the ridge is much more extensive than I thought. It's all undeveloped (and pretty overgrown this time of year), but surprisingly vertical. It is broken into short pitches, or steps, but is rather wide.There are actually three distinct bands of rock that make up the ridge.

1. The uppermost band extends from the Cleo Amphitheater to the Wiessner Wall to Turk's Head. 2. The middle band extends from the "40 foot ridge" on the south to the broken walls and towers on my topo.3. The lower band extends from several buttresses south (and above) the first tower to a series of overgrown and just less-than-vertical walls to the north.

The abovementioned "fixed" photo really helps you see this description. Once you see it this way, the ridge's terrain is much easier to decipher. Tackling the northern side of the ridge (the right side) is more committing, offering less walk-arounds and trickier third-classing. The "40 foot ridge" section forms the southern side of this band, and is quite impressive. The left side of the ridge (south) is the least committing and easiest route.Now that I've wandered a bit more around there and modified the picture, I can see an easier way to write up a route description, providing hints on pitches to link up. I suspect in the winter the ridge could be done in three long pitches (with some hard climbing), separated by scrambling.The interesting part is the fact that there is, as far as I can tell, a fair amount of virgin rock north of the ridge. The "middle band" particularly offers up a possible continuation of the route via a traverse underneath Turk's Head. I don't know where it ends up, but I suspect it peters out in the wide basin between Turk's Head ridge and Prospect point. (The top of the bluff drops a bit at this point)(The drawn overview map in The Climber's Guide hints at these sections of rock. It's much clearer in the older, '79 edition)I'll post a better description of the pitches in a few weeks.
By Paul Huebner
From: Portage, WI
Aug 11, 2007

This is a fun solo, especially in the winter, when there's no snow for skiing. I avoid the 5.8 on the 30-foot wall and opt for the 5.6. I also like to finish on Turk's Head (5.5), instead of Wiessner's.
By Erik Olson
Oct 23, 2007

Had a great time on a shorter variation of this route. It was dirty and wild. I loved it! The variation was a low angled slab to the right of a wall that had the left to right angling crack that looked about 5.8ish. And went up through a series of ledges for about 120 ft to a ledge N of Turks Head. It was low grade probably like a 5.4 or something, but man was it dirty fun!
By John W. Knoernschild
From: Wisconsin
Aug 18, 2008

What fun this is. A bit grovely at the beginning, but turns into a nice enjoyable climb. Really fun to do pitch after pitch and no stopping. Do it on a nice cool day. I did it in the sun on a warm humid day, sweating balls on every pitch.
By James M Schroeder
From: Sauk County, WI
Aug 18, 2008

This thing definitely needs more traffic. It was full of cobwebs when John and I did it this weekend...
By Stranger Than Iowa
From: ia
Jun 13, 2012

Hike in from the Tumble rocks trail from the south side 300-350ft from the trailhead(last cottage) look left up a talus field to spy the head of a tower, its your goal. Me and my partner bushwhacked right but I think going straight up the field would be your best bet. Dirty but fun.