Flake Fest

Paradise Valley climbs.

Paradise Valley has no shortage—or variety—of good stone along its length: backyard alpine at Mount Cowen, exciting trad in Mill Creek, quality bouldering on both sides of Yankee Jim Canyon. But if you could do only one route while driving from Livingston to Gardiner, it would have to be Flake Fest (10b). No trip to Allenspur (or through the valley, really) would be complete without a trip up that clean, aesthetic arête that just begs to be climbed—so aesthetic, in fact, that it made the cover of the Paradise Valley climbing guidebook.

It’s got a bit of everything: big holds, great movement, skin-friendly limestone, and safe (but exciting) run spacing near the top. Best of all, there are no cruxy moves—meaning that aspiring 5.9 climbers with enough free time can make it to the chains on top rope. The route’s name comes from results of the cleaning process: the next time you’re sitting comfortably on the huge limestone boulders at the base of Flake Fest, look up and realize that they were pried off the cliff face before the first bolts went in.

Most people skip the direct start by scrambling up the 4th-class blocks to the left and leaning over to clip the first bolt, which starts with a blind reach around the blunt arête, leading to a right-facing dihedral with great feet. This takes you to a huge undercling and a no-hands rest for the craftier climber—but keep a wary eye for any lurking pigeons ready to scare the crap out of you. Here, if you’re really feeling adventurous, you can cut right at the fourth bolt and finish up The Terrorist (12a) to the same anchors—but expect thin, crimpy holds and long reaches.

As you venture out onto the arête proper on the final juggy layback, the holds get bigger—but the bolts get farther and farther apart, keeping those synapses firing at full speed before you reach the safety of the finishing slab. As you clip the chains, make sure to turn around and spend a few minutes soaking in the views as the entire Paradise Valley spreads out before you. And even though the top features sport anchors, they can run upward of $50 per—so always rig top ropes with your own gear and do everyone a favor by rappelling when you’re done. 

Once you head back into town, good food and strong drink are never too hard to come by. My favorite post-climb ritual includes a stop by the Murray Bar, which always delivers a great nightlife scene with live music and cheap adult beverages. And for the best pizza around, slide into Gil’s Goods next door for a slice of cheesy heaven.