(Devils Tower, Wyo.) "Work smarter, not harder," warned Amanda Peterson. "It's kind of our motto."
This weekend County 17, along with members of the Montana Conservation Corps and volunteers at Devils Tower, helped Park Rangers and members of the Access Fund clear out dead trees, invasive plants, and rebuild a natural stairway up to the Durrance Approach.
Mike Morin and Amanda Peterson are expert trailbuilders sent out for 10 months of the year by the Access Fund to help restore pathways to America's greatest climbs.
With over 5000 rock climbers attempting Devils Tower every year, half of those climbers use the Durrance access point, which is on the south side of the tower, and presents an easier free climb than other portions of the Tower.
Two spots on the trail had been identified as damaged by rockfall in the previous year by Morin and Peterson. Boulders, rocks, and gravel had to be dug up, carried over to the trail, and re-packed to try and preserve the walking path up the boulder field. Here's a look at how we spent some of the morning:
It might be hard to tell from the before and after photo how the trail has been improved. But if you're carrying your gear up the steep side of the Tower, you may appreciate having solid pathways to shorten the time it takes to climb the boulder path. Because the tower is so steep, if they were to cut a formal hiking trail up to the Durrance approach, it would have to have multiple switchbacks.
The before photo on the left shows the large rock (center, at the bottom) that fell on to the trail and damaged the retaining wall and "steps" in place. On the right you can see where that rock was buried and a better box step was constructed.