Art of Development, September 25 2016 - Mark Rafferty

                With over three thousand routes in the Black Hills of South Dakota, seems there couldn’t be any rock left that hasn’t been developed. In the Black Hills almost all the climbing areas are very close to the road. Rarely will you have to hike in for more than five minutes to get to the climbs. Which always made me wonder, what about the rock formations beyond these areas? Have they been developed? Is the rock not as good? Why was it that I hardly hear of these outer formations? I believe it’s because we often get spoiled with so many climbs available at the bumper of our cars. Seeing these pinnacles and massifs off in the distance, I can’t help but wonder. Discovering new and unmarked climbing territory is an adventure in itself. Hiking through moss covered corridors, small streams flowing under the thick moss, and of course seeing incredible formations. Venturing out where little people have gone before helps with the idea of “being one with nature” in a way. Getting away from normal climbing areas and to escape to places only a hand full of people have been. Once stumbled upon a small pinnacle or a crack in the middle of a large granite wall, I stand there and imagine myself climbing them. Looking through binoculars to analyze every little crystal feature to help get my started to help analyze what it would take to get to the top. 

                     Going about climbing these formations from the ground up grabs that unknown venture into developing a new route. Not knowing if that large crystal I see ahead will pull off or if I have the strength to pull myself up onto these micro crystals, increase the excitement of the climb. It’s an experience no one will get after repeating a route I put in. Once the battle between myself dissipates and I reach the summit, relief, joy, and ambition floods me with emotion. Where can I get more? Finding, planning, trying, and succeeding make developing an amazing new way to climb in the place I love. When all the excitement is over and I share with others what I had accomplished. I get to hear from another climber what they thought about the route. Development of a route to me is like placing my artwork in a gallery. Years from now climber’s will hike through these valleys or corridors and see countless lines set by other developers. Among those routes will be the ones I put in and will forever be climbed in the way I envisioned it to be.