Ascent of Black Elk Peak on 2015-10-18

Climber: Gustav Sexauer

Others in Party:Katrina and Luke
Date:Sunday, October 18, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Black Elk Peak
    Location:USA-South Dakota
    Elevation:7231 ft / 2204 m

Ascent Trip Report

I had to take Luke and Katrina up Harney Peak on our wedding weekend because Harney is one of my favorite places in the Black Hills. Katrina didn't understand the Black Hills' appeal when we drove through them back in June coming from the west, but this time we were coming from the east and she GOT it! I was very pleased. After camping in Luke's tent and accidentally driving up Cicero Peak we drove to Sylvan Lake and paid the steep fee for a state park pass (it's actually cheaper if you buy it elsewhere like at Bear Butte). We parked and got our things together. I had to wear a leg brace for this as I slammed my knee four days earlier and may have bruised a bone. We got on the trail with Luke and I wearing packs, and Katrina keeping it light. Luke was downing a half gallon of chocolate milk and telling bad jokes for the first hour, but then he ran out of milk and was only telling bad jokes from there on. We passed a few great lookout points that I didn't recall from my last time up, eight years ago. We got great views of all of the spires in the area along with other crazy rock faces and formations. The day started heating up and we were overdressed in our long sleeve shirts. Near the top there are a lot of dead trees and we heated up even more due to the lack of shade. When we reached the stairs I wondered if there was a way to climb around them, but with my knee in a poor state, I didn't look into it. We reached the tower which had maybe ten people in it. A few more were walking around the somewhat flat area marked by prayer flags to the west of it. Last time I was here I didn't look for the top rock as I was new to peak bagging and cohping. It weighed on me that I had finished the "seven summits" aka the Midwest Mountains (1000'P) list without having done more than just going in the tower last time. I clamored around the tower and found the highest rock to be up against the wall on the north side. We took some goofy photos there, but it's not a photogenic spot compared to almost anywhere else on the top. Katrina was a bit creeped out by the inside of the tower, and it was true that some of the rooms were cellar or prison-like. We ate some snacks and then headed back down. At one point getting way ahead of Luke as nature had called. We realized we were then without the trip leader that we had designated at the wilderness entrance and that he had better catch back up. He caught us, but it was after we were back in non-wilderness area. We made it back in decent time, I thought, for my slower than normal hiking speed. My knee didn't really give me trouble. I think that we all enjoyed the hike, Katrina very much so as this is the kind of thing she misses the most in Iowa. It was also her second state highpoint, Luke's first state highpoint, and my second repeat.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1815 ft / 552 m
    Extra Gain:387 ft / 117 m
    Round-Trip Distance:6.6 mi / 10.7 km
    Route:Harney Peak Trail (9)
    Trailhead:Sylvan Lake  6190 ft / 1886 m
    Grade/Class:Class 2
    Quality:5 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Scramble
    Weather:Pleasant, Breezy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Time:1 Hours 42 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:1 Hours 31 Minutes

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