Growing up on the Tower

By Sarah Pridgeon

When Joshua Eisenberg first climbed the Devils Tower, he was a spritely seven years old. He wasn’t the youngest to ever do so – that honor goes to a six-year-old adventurist, according to Frank Sanders of the Devils Tower Lodge – but he may be the first to grow up from such a tender age still clung to the side of the national monument.

Now 20 years old and studying engineering at Northeastern (with rocket science as a particular interest – although, sadly, no plans as yet to build a rocket pack to help him reach the summit), Eisenberg and his father, Mike, have returned regularly from their Pennsylvania home to Crook County over the years.36-web-eisenberg

It’s the atmosphere that draws them, they say, and the experience of staying at Sanders’ lodge – not to mention the fresh air and the scent of pine needles.

This time around, on August 26, the father-son team and their guide, Gabe, woke up at 3 a.m. to start a day of climbing that would see them reach the summit three times. They started the climb at 4:30 a.m. and took Durrance, Pseudo Wiessner and El Cracko Diablo, routes with increasing levels of difficulty, finally reaching the ground for the last time at 1:39 a.m.

It got tougher as the day went on, Joshua says, culminating in a final climb that took every ounce of their endurance.

“At least for me, part of why it was so hard was that we were already low energy and it seemed like a route where every move had to be a high energy move,” Joshua smiles. “It’s all big, big steps and the handles are small too, so I’d end up having to do one or two moves and then I’d have to hang again before I could get enough energy to do the next couple of moves.”

Meanwhile, the rope would stretch as they hung, lowering them a few feet back and eroding a little of their progress. Undeterred and fully rested, two days later they were planning another climb, and also their next vacation.

Joshua has three more years of school ahead of him with summers free to explore. He and his father plan to spend part of that time at the base of Devils Tower, enjoying the camaraderie that has brought them back time and again over the years.