A bit of a dark horse in the rock climbing world, the Black Hills are quietly blessed with some of the most varied and scenic climbing routes in the United States. With an unmatched mix of limestone cliffs, granite spires, and dolomite faces, the Black Hills region is an absolute paradise for climbers looking for awesome routes and few crowds.
Last weekend I followed my avid rock climber husband and his best friend as they headed out to Victoria Canyon for some limestone climbing. Victoria Canyon, or “The VC” as locals call it, is located just outside of Rapid City and has routes that have been developed by local and regional climbers.
The VC is a narrow limestone canyon that enjoys both sun and shade during all times of the day. Depending on the rainfall totals, it’s not uncommon to find a shallow creek running through the bottom of the canyon. However, with our lighter snowfalls and intermittent rain so far this year, the creekbed of the VC was bone dry—enticing me to look for cool rocks that I wouldn’t have easy access to during a wetter season. Near the heart of the crag, I realized several others have had the same idea and had beautifully displayed the balancing rocks for all to enjoy.
The climbing routes offered in the VC will attract a more intermediate to advanced climbing crowd. It’s definitely not the place to send a beginner. The sport routes range in grade from 5.9 to 5.13c; the bulk falling on the higher end of that spectrum.
As a mediocre climber at best, I had a blast scrambling up a couple 5.9 routes—but I had even more fun just kicking up my feet in our hammock, resting my eyes, and enjoying the warm breeze on this gorgeous summer day.
For a break from the climbing, we enjoyed a light picnic in the shade. Then I took some time to wander around and admire the secluded beauty of the canyon, snapping a few pictures along the way. The overhanging cliffs were mesmerizing, as were the unique streaks of color imprinted throughout the canyon walls. Even for a non-climber, the VC is an off-the-beaten-path place worth exploring.
For more information on the climbing routes, click here for more beta on Mountain Project.