Vertical distancing along the Madison.
Spring is officially here, at least according to the calendar, and it’s time to pull on some real rock in preparation for summer. Without the luxury of spring travel, we’ll need to stick to our local spots to test ourselves. Head toward Norris on a warm spring afternoon to get vertical on a low-elevation, sun-drenched local classic, Neat Rock. It doesn't hurt that the rock overlooks the Madison River, lending itself to beautiful views and even some potential springtime multi-sport.
Who: Anyone with trad-climbing experience who wants to get some short multi-pitch practice in before tackling bigger summer missions. Climbers itching to get their hands grated by real rock after pulling on plastic all winter.
What: The standard route on Neat Rock is a short-but-rewarding multipitch climb. If you’re not a fan of trad climbing, check out the plethora of boulders in the Neat Rock area, or just past Norris at Revenue Flats. Check out the links at the top of this article or visit Mountain Project for more details.
When: The lower Madison typically dries out much faster than surrounding areas, so climbing should be pleasant on most spring days (mid-April snowstorms excepted). Some years, climbing is possible year-round.
Where: From Bozeman, head toward Norris. The turn for Neat Rock is a hard right just after crossing the Madison River (Cold Springs Rd.) and the Red Mountain campground. Follow the dirt road south, along the river, for just over 2 miles; you’ll see parking near the Neat Rock formation.
Why: Because it’s spring, and you’re itching to get your mental game back. Because Spire is closed, and you’re worried you will never recover. Because vertical distance is the best way to practice social distancing (no one sneezes upward). But perhaps most importantly, because you could win $50 to Shine Beer Sanctuary & Bottleshop. Simply snap a photo at Neat Rock and tag us on Facebook or Instagram with #OBHitList and you'll be entered to win. Good luck, and remember: sneeze away from the rock.
Editor's note: It has just come to our attention that bats, which congregate in the springtime at cliffs like Neat Rock, can carry viruses such as COVID. All the more reason to wash your hands—we don't want to pass anything on to our native bats, which not only harms them, but could be passed back to us in a never-ending cycle of affliction, much like the vampire-movie pandemic of the late 2000s.