Climbing with Confidence

It’s hard not to feel like a kid in a candy store at Bozeman’s Spire Climbing Center. With over 8,000 square feet of climbing at an indoor facility that features new Skittle-colored routes every week, novice and expert climbers alike would be hard-pressed to find a better way to spend the day. I recently took their Women’s Climbing Clinic, and am happy to report that I caught the climbing bug.

The dozen or so women with whom I spent six Tuesday nights came from a variety of climbing backgrounds: some, with the toned forearms of seasoned veterans, wanted to refine their skills, while others (including me) were weak-fingered and brand-new to the sport. I was a little intimidated at first, but it quickly subsided, as our instructor Leigh joked about sloths and sculpted biceps with such ease that it was impossible not to be reassured.

During the first two-hour class, we learned everything from basic knots, terminology, and techniques, to more advanced skills like belaying sans device—which we were told many climbers who’d been at it for years still couldn’t do. The next week, we covered endurance, efficiency, and body awareness; I left the clinic covered in chalk and with such a high that the people I passed afterwards almost definitely thought I was on drugs.

Over the next five weeks, we learned anchor cleaning, rappelling, lead belaying, and bouldering. Leigh worked with us patiently and thoroughly, appealing to each of our individual levels of proficiency. And my fellow classmates were equally as easy-going, willing to help when someone needed assistance, shouting encouragement like “You got it!” up the wall and giving a congratulatory “Nice job!” upon touching down.

The final class was an outdoor ice-climbing field trip where we got to take our new and refined skills into the world. I started knowing nothing about climbing, and within two months I was outside doing things I could have never imagined. That was the best part of the whole experience—pushing myself far beyond what I had set out to do. Thanks to Spire, my confidence on the wall—and in other parts of my life—is through the roof.

Spire’s next Women’s Climbing Clinic costs $230 for members and $300 for non-members. They also offer both an Introduction to Climbing ($30/40) and Introduction to Lead Climbing ($35/45) every Thursday. If you prefer some one-on-one time, they offer private lessons that are $30/hour for members and $45/hour for non-members. All classes include gear rentals. Check out for a full list of clinics.

Photo by Chris Ebeling