Wyoming’s Devil’s Tower rises more than 867 near-vertical feet from its base, reaching skyward to a height of 5,112 above sea level. It became the first United States National Monument back in 1906. The first known climb of the columnar tower was in 1893, though as a sacred site for Native Americans, who knows when the first person really scrambled over the summit.
We do know, however, who the oldest person to climb there is. Dr. Bill Weber, who, last month decided he wanted to scale the vertical face of the Devil’s Tower for his 91st birthday.
“National Park Magazine had a little squib around February last year that an 87-year-old, the oldest man to climb the Tower, had succeeded,” Weber said. “An 87-year-old? Damn, that’s something I could do, I thought.”
Weber chose the TAD route, a 5.7+ climb that requires about 300 feet of actual climbing, after winding up a steep trail to the belay area. Weber had two guides with him, and his two adult sons.
They’d all had experience decades ago climbing in the Tetons. Weber sent his sons to climbing school and they all climbed together and camped throughout their lives.
“I said, boys, are you up for one more adventure with the old man?” They certainly were.
Weber was a practicing veterinarian for many years. After retirement, he took up wildlife photography. He even bagged magazine covers. Often, he’d photograph animals around Devil’s Tower and frequently expressed an interest in climbing it.
Once he’d read that a climber named Frank Sanders had made the top at age 87, and in only 15 minutes, Weber figured, what the hell, he could do it too.
He spent a day practicing with guides, working on climbing techniques and rope usage, spent a day resting, and then, with his two sons by his side, made his bid for the summit.
16 hours later, Weber pulled himself over the final ledge, to stand on the windswept plateau on the roof of Devil’s Tower.
“I doubted whether I was going to make it,” Weber said. “But I thought, if I croak while I’m doing this at least I’ll die doing something I wanted to do and I’ve had a good and long run.”
Photo: Cheri Glenn