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Rock Climbing the Pintlers and the Flints

Where is my favorite place to climb? Remote Montana. Backcountry lands where few people travel. Ideally a ways from any roads or trails. Cliffs and faces that perhaps nobody has climbed, or at least not published. The Anaconda area has a plethora of these. It also hosts some good roadside or short hike venues to hone your skills while forgoing the crowds often experienced at more populated areas.

While Montana has many mountain ranges that I absolutely adore--the Beartooths, Glacier, the Bitterroots, to name a few--it’s the mountains close to home where I’ve dedicated a lot of my time exploring and finding engaging stuff to climb. 

Anaconda is surrounded by two mountain ranges, both a bit different from one another. The Anaconda range, aka the Pintlers, lie to the south and the Flint Creek range, aka the Flints, lie to the north.

The Pintlers are a mountain range with lots of high country, beautiful mountain lakes and predominantly Wilderness. From a rock climbing perspective, the range is primarily comprised of chossy sedimentary rock of poor quality. This isn’t the most appealing for grabbing and pulling yourself up, nor is it ideal for placing the protection needed for safely ascending. The rock can be quite loose.  There is a bit of igneous rock on the eastern side of the range in the Ten Mile, Twelve Mile, and Sullivan drainages that offers some good climbing. Maloney Basin also hosts some decent walls of higher quality sedimentary rock in a very aesthetic area. The rest of the range is more reserved for scrambling or winter/spring climbing when the rock is glued together with ice and snow (this subject coming in a subsequent blog).

The Flints are a different animal. This mountain range is positioned between the communities of Anaconda, Deer Lodge, and Philipsburg. It has a bit more of man's foot print on it, including many old roads, dammed lakes, and old mines and cabins. It can lack the wilderness feel offered from the range across the valley, but most of the time I find it quiet and secluded as well. This range offers something heavily valued by climbers--granite. Some beautiful granite at that. From the roadside access of Lost Creek canyon to the alpine walls in the remote Crater, it’s got a bit of everything. It's got many backcountry crags spread throughout it’s beautiful forests, heavily valued by climbers--granite. Some beautiful granite at that. From the roadside access of Lost Creek canyon to the alpine walls in the remote Crater, it’s got a bit of everything. It's got many backcountry crags spread throughout it’s beautiful forests.

When it comes to roadside climbing, there are more popular accessible crags nearby–head east to the Boulder Batholith, south to Maiden Rock and the Humbugs, or west to Rattler Gulch and the Bitterroot–but there are a few quieter worthy areas closer by. Lost Creek State Park is premium roadside climbing venue in the area offering bouldering, sport, traditional, and multi-pitch climbs; a bit of everything. It’s a great place to prepare for bigger objectives in the mountains. Other reasonably accessed areas include Stuckey Ridge, East Fork Reservoir, and Skalkahoe Pass.

I find the best climbing venues in the area are in the backcountry. Most of these require anywhere from a 2 to 10 mile approach, and many are more enjoyable with some camping. Getting to fall asleep and wake up out there adds to the experience. The best backcountry trips often involve some hardship. Some inclement weather, fording some water, some type two stuff. Combine that with an approach and some camping and it results in a memorable trip into the backcountry. That kind of stuff is not for everyone, but I find some enjoyment in it. Not just awesome climbing, there has to be some adventure with it.

The rock climbing season here can be either short or long depending on your tolerance for cold and inclement weather. Spring typically gets a lot of precipitation and is still quite snowy in the mountains. This season also produces many ticks in the lower elevation areas and I usually avoid them during this season, because well ... I hate ticks. It is a get up higher or travel a bit further out of the area season. Summer is great for all areas. It is typically the best window for the alpine rock routes and offers more enjoyable camping in the backcountry settings. It can be a short season here. Fall is also great for all areas, especially during a dry fall. The occasional stormy fall seasons can shorten the backcountry climbing season. Winter can be one of the best rock climbing seasons on the south facing cliffs at lower to moderate elevations when the temperatures are plus 35 °F and the rock is dry. These days can be infrequent but are good to take advantage when they do transpire. There is just some ambience about it that is difficult to describe.

Tyler Cook is a rock climber, ice climber, backcountry skier, and all around adventurer based out of Anaconda, MT.
Watch for future blogs about ice climbing and other particularly unique outdoor adventures.

Adventure Starts Here - Pintler's Portal Hostel, Anaconda, MT
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4 days ago

What's with the useless bolt ladder to nowhere? So much for conscientious climbers.

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