With clear skies, a bright sun and a week's worth of high 40’s weather in the forecast, this past February’s tortuous temperatures already seem like a distant memory. Though the hills still hold their winter coats of white, those eager to ditch the skis, picks and snowshoes for chalk bags and cozy crags can begin to enjoy their first taste of Montana’s climbing season.
Anyone looking to have some fun after class and catch a 7:30 p.m. sunset can kick back and clip bolts at the lower limestone of Gallatin Canyon. Scorched Earth and The Hantavirus cave both boast short drives and great spring climbing—the latter offering more challenging classics like Weapons of Mass Destruction (5.12c) and Canne Dune (5.12d).
Anyone in search of a little more adventure this spring can crawl up the canyon to the historic gneiss formations (just don’t forget a good pair of boots to trudge through the snow and sludge to get there). The sunny south sides of the ribs and fins stay dry and warm so long as the clouds stay out of the sun’s way. Climbing at Blackline Buttress, the south face of Skyline or The Waltz offer the most guaranteed opportunities to climb on any given day.
Those setting out to crimp, crank and crush some Cold Snacks will find solace in the boulders of Whiskey Gulch and the surrounding batholith. With almost 500 problems ranging in difficulty from V0 to V11, Whiskey Gulch offers more than enough challenges for any climber. While the hour drive down I-90 makes it a tough afternoon or morning session, the density and variety of the area make for a great full day of climbing through March, April and May.
Hop on I-90 the other way out of Bozeman (also known as “east”) and keep going to Natural Bridge State Park to find some of the finest and most scenic limestone in Montana. While most venturing out to the park are called by the steep walls and tough grades, the area also holds a handful of moderate routes for those still building up their summer skin.
Though the inevitable spring storms are sure to put the snow melt on pause, any one of these great areas will be warm, dry and ready again after a few days. So grab a helmet, harness and a homie to soak up the sun and don’t forget to check your knot.