As the season transitions into another so does a climber's focus and with winter setting in my priorities shift to accomodate this unfavorable weather. It is hard getting used to the idea of possibly climbing outside one day a week after spending most of the summer and all of the fall being in the woods four to six times a week. Truly sad and very difficult to become used to. However, now is the time to don your day-glow orange hat and vest, shoulder a rifle or pad (both for the diehards), and get out in the woods on the hunt for animals and stone. Lolo is rich with both and, like I have said in the past, the amount of stone in Lolo is simply staggering. Stone exists nearly everywhere in the forest but finding worthy blocks is the true challenge. Walking for hours on a hunch to find shoulder high turds or completely blank walls or utter garbage is disheartening to say the least and there will be many outings that will have you bitter about your findings leaving you with nothing more then a long walk back to the car. But there also exists opportunity for amazing finds.
A few weeks ago Levi and I got in my car early one Saturday morning on a mission to find out if this spot we had been talking about for the past year would become Montana's premier bouldering destination. Dylan initially saw a picture of the area in the book Montana Roadside Geology that was of houses being dwarfed by an endless field of boulders that sat beneath a dark cliff band. We had combed Google maps looking at these boulders for months wondering if we had stumbled upon something that would soon consume all our free time. The time had come to find out what this place was all about. Our hopes were high and the 4+ hour drive seemed much longer than it actually was with the anticipation building coupled with the anxiety of sacrificing one of the last good weekends here. We turned off the highway on to a rutted dirt road with a wealth of rock in the distance and the sun shining.
With eyes fixed on the distant rock we nearly drove completely off the road into the tall grass prairie on more then one 90 degree turn en route to the boulders. As we approached it was apparent that the houses in the picture we had poured over were abandoned and we quickly left the car in the middle of the road and were soon in the midst of the boulder field. The rock was really good requiring nothing more then a once over with a wire brush to take off the outer layer to clean and the features were very unique ranging from softball sized protrusions, large plates separated by deep cut seams, pockets, and pinches. Unfortunately, most of the boulders were just too small.
There were of course some true beauties. The square boulder had an awesome leg-snapping, pinball landing that crushed any hopes of climbing it without gear.
It was a bust. The houses must have been occupied by dwarves because they were barely over head height which threw off our entire basis for being house-sized boulders. However, the walls behind the boulders look phenomenal and for any interested party it is located just north of Square Butte and south of Geraldine on the west side of the highway.
The weekend was salvaged by stopping in Bozeman to visit friends and climbing in Butte with Kyle and Joe giving us a tour of what they have been developing.
The hunt continues for next season's sweet spot.