A Weekend at Governor Dodge State Park

This past weekend Henry and I made the drive down to Dodgeville, Wisconsin to experience the boulders of Governor Dodge State Park.   Our journey began Friday after work.  With the car packed full of crash pads and camping gear my furry companion and I set off South on US Highway 52. We were taking the scenic route through the rolling river valleys of Southeastern Minnesota and Northeast Iowa.  After about 5 hours of driving, getting thrown off coarse by google maps a time or two, and making the mandatory stop for a 6-pack of Spotted Cow, we had made it to our destination of Black Hawk Lake Recreation Area.  After setting up the tent, meeting some of my fellow Twin Cities Rock Climbing Meetup Members, and snapping some photos of the bright “Honey Moon,” Henry and I settled in for what I was hoping would be a good night’s rest.


Apparently 5 hours stuck in a car and a night sleeping in an unfamiliar place makes for a restless dog, so at 5:30am Saturday morning I finally succumbed to Henry’s whines and got up to bring him out for his morning ritual.  This early morning wakeup call granted me the opportunity to view the sunrise over Black Hawk Lake, which was a beautiful site indeed.

 

Sunrise over Black Hawk Lake


Once a few of my fellow climbers had been roused out of bed a few hours later by the sounds of the surrounding forests, we made for Governor Dodge State Park and the sandstone boulders we had come to conquer. 

Our destination for the first day was the high concentration of boulders at Group Camp B.  After bush-whacking through thorny brush we came upon the ridge of sandstone boulders which offered a myriad of holds to get your hands on.  After warming up on High Anxiety and Seperation Anxiety we started to work on Split Personality, a slightly overhanging, crimpy V5.

Kyle near the top of Separation Anxiety

 Warning, Beta spray ahead! 

After working out the body positions for the bottom section I was able to easily make it to the relatively decent right hand pocket.  The next hold is a small, sharp left hand side pull; if you’re able to hold on and bring the left foot up to one of the crimps below, a small hop to a fairly positive lip will finish up the bulk of the problem.

Here I am about to go for that sharp left-hand sidepull(Photo: Carl Siegler)

From here we made our way along the West Backbone Ridge sector of Group Camp B.  One problem that stood out for me along this side of the ridge was the V2 highball, Scarete.  Around my third attempt I made it past a tricky section of the boulder about 15 feet up, and was able to make it to the top out at 25 feet.  Being that high off the deck brought to me a level of focus I have not experienced previously in my climbing, in addition to an exhilarating rush of adrenaline.  Perhaps they were one and the same.

East Backbone Ridge came next.  This side includes the classic V5, Hangman, and its V7 extension, Highly Executed.  With some beta from MNCC climber, Brian, and some left over tick marks, I was able to pull out a flash of Hangman!

After a little more climbing our crew was growing weary, so we trekked back to our camp site where hot dogs were roasted over the fire, odd pies were baked in cast iron, beers were consumed, and deep discussions of childhood dreams were had.  The night was topped off with Angel Food cake for Paul’s “89th” birthday!

Sunday had rain in the forecast and our fate for the day was unclear, but luck was on our side and it turned out to be another beautiful day.  Our goal was the Godfather boulder in the Box Canyon Boulders area of Governor Dodge.  Going straight up the proud rear face of the boulder was its namesake problem, The Godfather.  Starting on jugs this problem moves upward on side pull crimps then into some pockets near the top, finishing on a good slopey horn at the lip, and a good jug edge about two feet over the top.  I managed to flash this classic problem as well, another high point of the trip!  We got on a few more problems on The Godfather boulder, one of which was Cosa Nostra (V4 PG-13).  Cosa Nostra starts on crimps as you make your way up to the slab avoiding the arête as you go.  Looking down and right shows a big potential fall off the edge of the boulder, but sending this problem was definitely worth the temporary anxiety.

Sean gingerly making his way up Cosa Nostra

When we were finished bouldering for the day we packed the crash pads into the cars and made our way to Eau Claire for a final meal at the fine Mexican restaurant, Tacos Juanita.  With our bellies full of Enchiladas, burritos, and margaritas we said our parting words, got in our respective cars and continued on to our homes in Minnesota.  It was truly a great weekend.  The weather was beautiful, the rock was solid and the company was superb.  I can’t wait for the next adventure!  

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