Basin Electric employee spreading love of rock climbing

Rock climbers

Climbers scale a section of Square Butte in the North Dakota Badlands.
(Courtesy photo)

This story was originally published in the May 2017 issue of ND Living Magazine.

The rugged, vertical thrusts of prehistoric rock in western North Dakota have been 75 million years in the making. Now, in the last couple of years, adventurous, young, skilled climbers have formed a group dedicated to scaling these formations. The result is a great marriage of some very old and very new faces of the state.

Dustin Snyder, Basin Electric lab technician at Antelope Valley Station, is one of these climbers. He discovered climbing in college.

“While I was at college – at Minnesota State University – Moorhead (MSUM) – I got really interested in rock climbing, and did a lot of climbing at MSUM’s rock gym,” Snyder says. He adds picking up this skill was a next chapter in his family life, which emphasized outdoor adventure. “I really loved the outdoors growing up. I went out to the Badlands hunting with my dad, and out there with my family and grandparents. I definitely have an appreciation for that country, and the buttes and everything about it,” he says.

Snyder, Hazen, ND, says early rock climbing experiences included climbs in Yosemite Valley, at Devils Tower, Grand Teton National Park and in the Black Hills. While residing previously in Dickinson, Snyder and friends there followed their mutual interest in rock climbing, scaling nearby buttes and sandstone formations.

Dustin Snyder

Dustin Snyder, while climbing at Square Butte. His hands are taped for protection from jamming them into cracks in the rocks.

“Once we got out there, and even spoke with some local old-time climbers in the area, they told us about the spots to check out. Sure enough, we found some rock that as made for some pretty good climbing – even some routes that had probably been climbed before in the early 1990s, or even earlier than that,” Snyder says.

Recently, Snyder and fellow climbers communicated via the Internet with other climbers across the country – several of them North Dakota natives. Sharing North Dakota climbing routes, and experiences, has led to the creation of the North Dakota Climber’s Coalition.

“We are just a group of people really interested in the climbing here, coming back and checking out the rock that’s here, connecting with the other North Dakota climbers, and having fun,” Snyder says.

He says climbing commonly occurs with two-person teams, with one person belaying rope (releasing in intervals) attached to a climber, ascending one rock segment after another.

The climber ascends the rock using hands, legs and agility, aided by fall protection pieces inserted in rock along the climb route.

For Snyder, Square Butte, Sentinel Butte and Bullion Butte in the North Dakota Badlands are affording him and other climbers with spectacular climbing experiences.

“Those are all real large buttes, where we found good climbable rock,” Snyder says. “Once you’re up on them, it’s a 360-degree view and you can just see for miles and miles. It’s really a breathtaking vista being up there.”

Snyder says access to buttes and other high rock formations is made simple because several are on national grassland public lands. He adds that the climbers have also had success communicating with private landowners, gaining access to climbing sites on private property.

The fellowship in the new North Dakota Climber’s Coalition is about mutual sharing of climbing enjoyment experiences, and the desire to share accounts with others.

“There are pretty good climbs here, enough of them for you to have fun and stay busy for a weekend, and give you many return trips out to the Badlands,” Snyder says. He says the North Dakota Climber’s Coalition welcomes folks to join in their efforts and enjoyment, and to help with their goal of cultivating and protecting the climbing areas of western North Dakota.

The North Dakota Climber’s Coalition can be followed on Facebook.

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