On the way to your favorite local crag, do you ever stop to think how that manicured access trail came to be? Or who has granted you access to the land you happily trod over to reach the rock? Well, if you’ve climbed around Bozeman in the last decade, odds are that a certain local group has helped you do it. Since 2002, the Southwest Montana Climbers Coalition (SMCC) has made great strides in building trails, replacing bad hardware, and keeping area climbers on good terms with the Forest Service and the community. Their most recent victories include keeping Hyalite plowed in the winter for ice climbing and organizing new access to the Bozeman Pass when the ultraconvenient parking lot was closed.
Near the end of the 1990s, as the number of climbers slowly began to grow in the Bozeman area, locals Bill Dockins, Tom Kalakay, Pat Callis, and HJ Schmidt began to realize the importance of creating a voice for those who enjoy the sport. With an expanding number of people utilizing a finite resource, usage and access inevitably became an issue. When the Forest Service found a trail near their Shenango helibase, they decided to shut down the Scorched Earth crag to “make an example out of those renegade climbers,” says Tom Kalakay. This, coupled with the landowner closing down Allenspur and a potential loss of access to the Gallatin Tower, led Bill and Tom to rally local climbers and officially create the Southwest Montana Climbers Coalition.
Their mission is simple: to gain access to climbing throughout Southwest Montana. “As the climbing population grows, it's important to have adequate representation of our community,” says Bill Dockins, local guidebook author and founding member of the SMCC. As an attorney, Bill has donated countless hours of legal work helping the group resolve access issues. “Particularly with the Forest Service, they were looking for someone to step forward and help solve different problems. Now they know who to call,” he says. Bill feels that even though the climbing community may factionalize over issues like bolting and ethics, the SMCC can unite the group over common concerns like access and safety.
But the SMCC is more than just trail-building and gaining access easements. The organization is hosting a bouldering competition at the Homestake Lodge outside Butte (at press time, it was slated for August 14). “It’s a celebration of the climbing community, available to all abilities,” says Tom Kingsbury, SMCC member and local bouldering fanatic. With its somewhat central location, Tom hopes to bring in climbers from all across the state, including Missoula and Helena. “We’re going to have music and food at the lodge and climbing competitions at the Bourbon boulders, a great area I’ve helped develop,” he says. “We’ve got about 300 established problems; it's really gonna be a great time.”
For more information, check out montanaclimbers.org.