Climbing Skyline 5.6 in the Gallatin Canyon, Big Sky, MT

Climbing in Bozeman can be defined by the Gallatin Canyon. Although there are many other crags in the Bozeman area, the Gallatin Canyon's metamorphic Gneiss is nice. Everything here is traditional clean climbing, meaning there are no bolts (there have been some bolted routes put up here and there) - so bring your cams and nuts. Long crack climbing and hand jams, chimneys, and tall spires make up the heart and soul of southwest Montana cragging. New to trad climbing? This post outlines the tallest and longest route in the Gallatin Canyon, Skyline 5.6. This route is the perfect introduction to not only trad climbing and building anchors, but also multi-pitch climbing. Keep in mind that climbing grades in the Gallatin Canyon are usually rated by the easier moves on the route ie. a 5.6 climbs like a 5.7. Top out of the canyon looking down on the Gallatin River and the vast valley. Attach your Chacos to your harness for a luxurious walk off.  

Justin Kauffman on the last pitch of Skyline

Justin Kauffman on the last pitch of Skyline

From Bozeman, head south on US 191 toward Big Sky until reaching Lava Lake's parking lot on the right. You will pass a large famous rock in the Gallatin river called House Rock. This is the river's class 4 section of whitewater. Lava Lake has two parking lots on both sides of the river - park in the lot closest to the highway. From the parking lot there are two ways of accessing the approach. DO NOT cross the highway to the obvious trail - this is dangerous and frowned upon by the local climbing coalition and forest service. Please locate the highways bridge and follow the trail underneath it and leave traffic uninterrupted. This route brings you close to the rivers edge and onto an old logging road. Follow the trail along the river until cutting into the forest and to a distinct fork. The right trail has a climbing access sign posted to a tree. Follow this up a series of switchbacks until passing a "bus sized boulder" with chalk from bouldering. This boulder is very far up the trail - keep going! Do not exit towards the lower buttress. The climb begins atop the first buttress.

Once above the first buttress, continue on the trail to the base of the Skyline buttress and hike to its right until finding a short exit towards some low class 5 scrambling left. Here you will find yourself on a prow with the first pitch starting on the left and heading up a small, flared chimney to a short face. The first pitch ends at bolts. Rappel from these bolts to the right 5 meters to a small ledge.  The second, and most involved pitch heads up an open chimney and finishes with a tight squeeze. 

All pitches after the first, require gear anchors. Once you have topped out, follow the buttress to dirt and descend climbers right. A single rack will do.