Where to climb in (relative) comfort.
The soft skin and atrophied muscles of spring climbing are painful enough without enduring cold wind and icy approaches. Luckily, there are myriad crags to polish up those winter-worn climbing skills without undue hardship—places where low elevation, sunny aspect, and protection from wind can make even early-spring climbs feel more like summer. Ask around at local climbing shops for additional suggestions, and have fun this spring—even if your fingertips split and fall off.
If it’s warm and sunny in town, it’s probably pretty nice at Practice Rock, near the mouth of Hyalite Canyon. Because of its proximity to town and five-minute approach, it receives a lot of traffic, but that also means clean routes and a social atmosphere dominate. Climbs range from 5.6 trad to 5.12 testpieces, with plenty of rock for all ability levels.
Just south of Livingston, Allenspur is a logical choice for spring climbing. Low elevation and a sun-catching southwesterly aspect can make it a warm place to get honed for the season, but watch out for the famous winds of Paradise Valley—they can cool things down in a hurry. There are multitudes of limestone sport and trad routes, ranging from 5.6 first-timer climbs to pitches strictly for genetically enhanced mutants. Dogs aren’t allowed at Allenspur, so leave Fluffers at home.
Located along the Madison River just below Red Mountain Campground, this locals’ favorite has a limited number of routes, but surprisingly light traffic and intense afternoon sun make it a viable spring option. Mostly trad climbs with some bolts scattered about, Neat Rock has everything from 5.5 cakewalks to 5.11 overhangs for those so inclined. Warm sun, good rock, and Madison River views make Neat Rock pretty… neat.
Aptly named, Scorched Earth is another early-season hotspot where climbers can pull down on a variety of challenging sport and trad routes. Difficult bolted routes predominate, and routes no easier than 5.9 will punish winter-softened fingers. Located across Storm Castle Creek Bridge in Gallatin Canyon, this limestone wall is easy to access and receives abundant sun and little wind. Views of the Gallatin River and adjacent canyon walls alone make it worth climbing here.
Just upriver from Neat Rock on the Madison, Winter Wall faces almost due south and is a warm and sunny place to ease back into climbing. Bonus: the Beartrap fire of 2012 cleared out the brush at the base of the climbs and reduced the number of hiding places for the area’s infamous rattlesnakes. Most climbs are moderate one- and two-pitch affairs located just steps from the road. Stick to more heavily climbed routes, as choss abounds.