by the editors
A climbing adventure guide for the rookies and the vets.
Living in Bozeman, you’ve probably noticed that the Rocky Mountains are aptly named. Limestone, sandstone, granite, gneiss—we’ve got rocks galore, and that means tons of climbing opportunities await. Getting vertical is in our DNA here, so whether you’re new to the sport, or a veteran looking to tick off the classics, read on for a primer on where to go, what to bring, and how to learn to climb safer and harder.
Check out Spire Climbing Center to pick up essential gear locally. A 60-meter rope is sufficient for most Bozeman-area climbs, though longer routes are going up in places like Wolverine Bowl, where a 70-meter rope may become handier. And dust off those tricams—they can be super helpful for protecting pocketed limestone routes, of which there are many.
If you’re just getting started, take a lesson or attend a clinic at Spire—the good folks there will help you select the appropriate shoes, harness, and belay device to get you climbing quickly and safely. Do NOT buy used climbing gear at pawn shops or on Craigslist—it’s beyond sketchy, as you never know what it’s been through. You can also check out the Outdoor Rec Center on campus for gear.
Right off Hwy. 191 near the 35mph bridge, Gallatin Canyon has dozens of routes and bouldering problems, great history, beautiful scenery, and easy access. The canyon is largely traditional climbing, but there is a smattering of bolted climbs as well. Many of the older routes are appropriately sandbagged, so climb with gusto. Skyline Arete (5.6, six pitches) is a classic crowd-pleaser, and shouldn’t be missed. Step up to the ultra-classic, perfect parallel cracks of Sparerib (5.8, two pitches), Diesel Driver (5.9) or virtually anything on Gallatin Tower (5.8-5.13 options).
Bozeman’s pet crag, Practice Rock, delivers a convenient pump after class or before work. Head up S. 19th, turn on Hyalite Canyon Rd. and continue for 3.1 miles. Park in the pullout on the right, and slog up the talus. Forgot your trad rack? Most of the routes can be top-roped by hiking around to the right; just use caution when doing so. Hundreds, maybe thousands of climbers have experienced their first climb or trad lead on routes like Strawberry Crack (5.7), Jerry’s Route (5.8+), and Rosebush Crack (5.9). Make sure to check out the splitter gear line of Theoretically (5.10c)—it’s a must-send.
If clipping bolts is your jam, head to Bozeman Pass. Limestone routes from 5.6-5.13 are clustered among fins and faces, with relatively quick and easy access off I-90 at Trail Creek Rd. You may also want to check out Bozeman’s coolest—both scenery-wise, and temperature-wise—sport-climbing crag at Wolverine Bowl, in the Bridgers. It’s a longer drive and about an hour-long hike to the base of the climbs, but the steep limestone has some of the best friction around, and route development has been progressing nicely here (though mostly at harder grades). Check out The Beat Connection (5.10b) and Hate Street Dialogue (5.11b) for sure.
Want to meet some new partners? Get together and spray with like-minded rock nerds? Drink beer and climb rocks? So do we. There are several events each year in southwest Montana that bring the climbing community together. Here are the highlights.
Tour de Hyalite – Hyalite Canyon. In September, competitors run 14 miles up to Hyalite Peak and back, then climb the five hardest routes they can at Practice Rock to reduce their time—the harder the routes, the faster your time! Details here.
September [Exact Dates TBD]
Butte Bouldering Bash – Butte. If cruxing out is more your style, check out the annual Butte Bouldering Bash in October. There’s a competition, raffle, food, and a LOT of awesome granite boulders. Check it out on Facebook here.
Full Gravity Day – Bozeman. Before getting lost in a sea of finals, solve some boulder problems at Spire. This is the largest bouldering event in the Northern Rockies, so even if you aren’t competing, it’s worth checking out for the scene. Take a look at last year’s finals here.
Bozeman Ice Festival – Bozeman. Trade chalk for ice axes, and shoes for crampons, at the 22nd annual Bozeman Ice Fest. Expect on-ice clinics in Hyalite, gear demos from industry leaders, an adventure film festival, and much more. Details here.
April [Exact Date TBD]
Spring Fling – Finally, kick off the spring climbing season at Spire, with their Spring Fling rope competition. There are adult and youth classes, and spandex is encouraged—it’s that kind of event. Details will be posted here when the date is announced. Meanwhile, get psyched watching 2017′s competition.
For an up-to-date list of events around town check out Outside Bozeman’s event calendar.