Rocking out in Bozeman; where to start.
You’ve finally made it to Bozeman, and 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? There are several events each year in southwest Montana that bring the climbing community together. Here are the highlights, but keep your ear to the ground—there’s always something going on.
Intro to Climbing – Bozeman. If you’re not quite ready to take on climbing solo, sign up for a group lesson at Spire Climbing Center. These intro courses meet the second, third, and fourth Thursdays of the month and give you basics on belaying, commands, and technique. spireclimbingcenter.com.
Climb for a Cause – Bozeman. On select Sunday evenings, half of each Spire pass purchase is donated to a local nonprofit. Not only can you wrap up your weekend on the wall, but you’ll contribute to a local cause, too. spireclimbingcenter.com.
Spring Fling – Bozeman. Before you’re outdoor climbing for the rest of the summer, have one last hurrah on the indoor wall. Get together with friends and neighbors to celebrate the climbing community and watch some of Montana’s best throw down. spireclimbingcenter.com.
Tour de Hyalite – Hyalite Canyon. In September, competitors run 14 miles up to Hyalite Peak, then climb the five hardest routes they can at Practice Rock to reduce their time—the harder the routes, the more time deducted. spireclimbingcenter.com.
Full Gravity Day – Bozeman. As winter kicks off and it gets a bit too cold to climb outdoors, 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. spireclimbingcenter.com.
Editor’s note: Dates are subject to change based on weather and other factors. For the most updated information, visit outsidebozeman.com/events.