Category Archives: Tobacco Roots

Recent Developments

Been developing like crazy lately.  Too much stone to climb.  Made two trips out to the Tobacco Roots – one to Lower Mason Lake and the other to Hollowtop Valley.  The day trip to Hollowtop Valley ended up being a full value day of bouldering.  I decided to check out some potential on the way to the Valley, which made the 2-2.5 hour hike into a 4.5 hour hike, but I did see some cool rock on the way.  There was some bouldering that probably wasn’t worth the hike, but there were some really cool looking cliffs:

Looked like a few potential splitters, but I didn’t get close enough to gurantee quality.  Any traddies out there up for some hiking?

I finally made it to Hollowtop Valley and warmed up on large boulder with a cool section of crystally rock:

From there I went to the main event – a perfect 30-40 degree overhanging finger crack that I found last year – the Punisher.  I got semi-shutdown on this when I tried it last year and I knew I wouldn’t have too many trys because of the painful nature of it.  The problem is basically two super painful finger locks, a really tight/insecure hand jam and a dyno – not long by any means, but not short either.  I quickly made sure I could do each move individually, then gave it all I had and sent!  I have no idea on the grade, mostly because cracks are my biggest weakness, but this is definitely one of the best problems I’ve done and one of my proudest FAs.

The Punisher:

I finished up the day by doing a cool lip traverse near the Punisher and started the long 2 hour hike back.  Luckily it’s a little quicker heading back because it’s downhill, but it was still the most tired I’ve been in about 5 year.  I was just about falling asleep while hiking.  I managed to find the same cool tree that I found on my way out last year:


After getting my Tobacco Root fix, I turned my attention to Yankee Jim, more specifically the Hidden Valley – a new area Ho and I found a couple months ago.  This small area is starting to become chock full of great easy to moderate problems.  Last trip out I was lucky to put up one of the best V1’s I’ve done – the Ram’s Horn.  It’s a perfect line of crimps and slopers up the back side of the largest and most aesthetic block in the whole area.

The Ram's Horn (chalk line on the right)

Lodged in the talus at the base of the Ram's Horn

Starting hold on the Ram's Horn

The next photo is the front side of the Ram’s Horn boulder.  It’s hard to tell the scale of the boulder from the photo but it’s about 35 feet from the top of the boulder to the jumbled talus below.  I wouldn’t even call these highballs, maybe deathballs?  They look fantastic though and I may put in a top rope anchor sometime.

Frontside of the Ram's Horn boulder

Here’s another video of some of the best problems I’ve put up at the Hidden Valley:


Last, but not least, make sure you’ve got your calendar free on Saturday, August 27th – it’s the return of the Butte Bouldering Bash!  Last year was a blast and it sounds like this year should be even better.  Hope to see you at the Northern Bourbons!  For more info check out Bouldering the Backwaters.




Hollowtop Valley

I made it up to the valley that I spotted from Hollowtop Mtn last week.  For lack of a better name, I’m calling it Hollowtop Valley.  The weather’s looking a little sketchy for this weekend so I decided to take a pad and make it a long day trip instead of risking an overnighter this weekend..  It was a perfect day, sunny, but chilly all day.  Although I didn’t scout everything, most of the stuff that I saw last week from Hollowtop Mtn. was too small for bouldering.  But, there was tons of stuff in the trees surrounding the 3 highest lakes that looked good.  Definitely tons of potential.  I think this would be a great place to head up once or twice a year for a weekend.  If nothing else, it’s and absolutely gorgeous area.  Here’s the pics:

Hollowtop Valley, you could do worse for places to spend a day bouldering…

Cliffs along the North side of Hollowtop Valley

The best crack boulder problem I’ve tried anywhere.  About 10-12ft tall and 30 degrees overhanging with a few well placed finger locks.  I found it as I was hiking out, cleaned it as fast as I could and tried it for a bit to no avail.  I have no idea on ratings for cracks like this, but it felt comparable to a V5.  It would probably feel a lot easier for better crack climbers.  Just like all harder finger cracks (from what I’ve heard) it’s probalby going to end up being 50% strength/ability and 50% pain tolerance.  I can’t wait to get back on it, but it may have to wait until next year.  I don’t know if I’d have time to get back up until October and it may be snowed in by then.  We’ll see…

Another view of “the Punisher Project” after I cleaned it.

A cool tree I saw on the way out.

Hopefully y’all can get out this weekend between the potentially crappy weather.


Hollowtop Mtn

I went up to Hollowtop Mountain yesterday, mostly just for a fun peak/hike, but also to see what kind of rock was visible from the highest peak in the Tobacco Roots.  The views didn’t disapoint… Here’s the canyon that caught my eye.

Unfortunately there is no easy way to get here.  From Bozeman, it’s a 1.5hr drive and probably a tough 2 hour hike (maybe a little less).  I’m hoping to hike in sans pad next week and see how good it looks from the ground.  If it looks good, I’d like to do an overnighter over labor day weekend so I could have a full day of climbing.  More photos to come…


the Mason Boulders

Since the last post on the alpine blocs, I’ve made it up to the Mason Boulders three times. While they aren’t going to be the mecca I was hoping for, they will definitely be a lot of fun for a long time. Last weekend Joe and I went to the Lower Mason Boulders. Unfortunately, it was pretty hot, so we avoided the talus and stayed in the trees developing a large boulder, the Mosquito Boulder. We put up about 8 new problems from V1 to about V5, with most being average quality. The one standout was “Deet” a V4 that Joe did. Dead vertical with good hand holds and poor feet. I got video of Joe doing it, see below.
I made two more solo trips since then. I went exploring at Upper Mason Lake with my light pad, since I wasn’t sure what I was going to find. I would say there isn’t as much potential in the Upper Mason talus as the Lower Mason talus, but I did find some good looking boulders below the lake on the way out. Because I was alone with a smaller pad, I had a hard time finding anything worth climbing that had a decent landing. I got lucky and found a sweet, steep compression problem on nearly perfect rock. It went at about V3 and there is an even lower start about five feet down that I didn’t try b/c of the pad situation. I called it “A River Runs Through It” (I could hear a stream running underneath it) and it’s also in the vid below. Here’s a pic of the talus and cliffs above Upper Mason Lake. I don’t care what kind of climbing you like, if you can’t find something to climb here, you’re not trying.

Lastly, I made a trip up into the Lower Mason talus the other day to check out the upper cluster. I ended up doing one of the best problems I’ve ever done. It’s slightly overhanging moves on perfect rock to a terrific (terrifying?) mantle on good slopers. If the landing were perfect, it might not be an issue, but its pretty uneven with a large rock, snow, and a fallen tree underneath it. Anticipating the snow, I brought a shovel and was able to fill in a lot of the gaps, but I still didn’t want to test an uncontrolled fall. After a few tries I made it to the lip, committed to the mantle, and topped it out “One Way Ticket to Midnight”. Although it was one of my proudest moments bouldering, it may not have been the smartest thing, considering the somewhat remote location. It’s about V3, but I think it would be at least a grade harder for anyone shorter than me. I also did a cool little arete on the same boulder that it pretty much a slab dyno. I wanted to do another problem before I headed back and it was the only thing with a good landing. Luckily, it ended up being a lot better than I thought it would be. Both are included in the vid:

Although the temps were much better the last two trips, I’m might hold off on the next trip for a couple weeks for even better conditions. There’s definitely some hard-man potential in the cluster with “OWTTM” Here’s a couple more photos from the last few weeks.
My new truck at the parking area for the Mason Boulders:

Cataract Reservoir and the road to the Mason Boulders:

Also, I hope everyone is planning on going to the Butte Bouldering Bash next Saturday, August 14 at the Northern Bourbons. Even if you aren’t big on comps, it should be a fun time with lots of terrific people. Hope to see you there!

Alpine Granite Boulders!

Lower Mason Lake Boulders, I’ll let the pics do the talking.

Yeah, not too shabby.  About 2.5 hrs from Bozeman to the boulders.  I didn’t bring a pad, but there will probably be a padded mission this weekend (Sat?).  You want in?


North Willow Creek

Here’s a vid of yet another new area in the Tobacco Root Mountains, North Willow Creek.  The bouldering is fairly spread out and it won’t be a huge quantity of problems, but the rock is excellent and the setting is very nice (like most areas in MT).  I’m guessing there will be about 50+ problems ranging from nearly roadside to 1.5 miles up a good trail.  The trail goes on for 5 miles to Hollowtop Lake (I think?) and I’m sure there are tons more boulders all the way up to the Lake, but for now I’m just climbing the problems that are relatively close.  It’s pretty close to Bozeman, too!  It’s almost exactly one hour from my house to the parking, which is about as good as we can ask for unfortunately.

It looks like it’s going to be hot this weekend, so I think I’m going to get my bouldering fix at N Willow tomorrow evening before the heat comes in then do some recon on Sat & Sun.  I’ve got pretty high hopes for one of the areas I’m going to check out and if it’s anywhere near as good as it looks from afar, you’ll be hearing more about it from me in the future.  Hope everyone has a great weekend!


the Angel Boulders Vid

As promised, here’s the video of some of the new problems we put up on Sunday.  It’s a great area and I’m really excited to head back and see what more it has to offer.