SMCC Statement on Retrobolting

In response to the recent “retrobolting” of Raven’s Roost and other routes in the Bozeman area, Southwest Montana Climbers Coalition considers the practice of adding permanent protection to preexisting and/or well-established routes unacceptable. This includes lead protection as well as anchors. In a situation where the original physical characteristics of the climb have changed, thereby requiring retrofitting, every effort should be made to contact the original route developer or first ascensionist for approval. If this is not possible, a dialogue with the community should be held in order to assure that the local ethics are observed and maintained.

Southwest Montana Climbers Coalition’s Anchor and Hardware Replacement Program “retrobolts” preexisting hardware (including top anchors and lead protection bolts/hangers) that have deteriorated beyond safe-use standards. Replacement of lead protection hardware is attempted in a “one-for-one” manner, wherein the deteriorated hardware is replaced using the same hole with high grade stainless steel equipment. In the situation where the old bolt cannot be extracted, a new bolt is placed as close as reasonably possible, in order to preserve the original character of the route. The program does not add additional protection to the climb, in any situation.

Summer 2020 Volunteer Opportunities

Help us maintain the trails at Bozeman area crags this summer! We are hosting an evening work party on the 4th Wednesday of every month, June through September (plus bonus days in July and September) and we hope you can join us. SMCC will provide sanitized tools. Please bring your own work gloves, snacks, water, etc.

  • June 24 – Gallatin Tower trail maintenance
    • Meet at the Tower parking pullout at 6pm, we will work  until dusk.
  • July 8 – Carters Bridge FAS/Allenspur litter pickup
    • Meet at the Carters Bridge FAS at 6pm. SMCC will provide trash bags and hand sanitizer but please bring your own gloves.
  • July 22 – Practice Rock trail maintenance
    • Meet at the Practice Rock parking area at 6pm, we will work  until dusk.
  • August 26 – Bozeman Pass trail maintenance
    • Meet at the Bozeman Pass parking area at 6pm, we will work  until dusk.
  • September 12 – Mill Creek trail maintenance
    • Meet at the Lady Fingers pullout at 9am. We will work until 1pm and then break for lunch (and climbing!). Volunteers for this day are limited to 15 and RSVP is REQUIRED! Please sign up here if you plan to attend!
  • September 23 – Scorched Earth trail maintenance
    • Meet at the Scorched Earth parking area at 6pm, we will work  until dusk.

Climbing in a pandemic

Spring has sprung and many in Southwest Montana are itching to get out and go climbing. Which brings us to the big question – can we go climbing during a pandemic???

Right now the most important thing to do is to follow public health official guidelines and state/local requirements. Things change frequently, but it’s important to stay up to date with the latest information and advisories. The Montana Department of Health and Human Services coronavirus website is here. Be sure to also check the County health department website for wherever you might be, as things vary by locality. As climbers, we need to consider what health officials are saying and apply their guidance and direction to our climbing decisions, erring on the side of caution for the health of all.

Nobody at SMCC is an epidemiologist and we don’t feel it’s our place to dictate individual actions, however, the BLM, Forest Service, and Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks can and will close climbing crags and access points if there are large groups and inadequate social distancing.  Although the Governor’s restrictions are subject to change, here are our guidelines for the current situation (as of May 1, 2020). 

  • Be nice to people. 
  • Don’t go to the crag if you’re having COVID-19 symptoms, no matter how mild, or think you may have been exposed to COVID-19.
  • We don’t know if climbing surfaces hold the virus, so assume they do.
  • You could be an asymptomatic carrier, so only climb with people in your household.
  • Select objectives that are well within your limit and climb cautiously.
  • Avoid busy climbing areas and crowded trailheads. If your first choice is busy, go to a second option, and maybe even a third.
  • Don’t put the rope or gear in your mouth.
  • Stay six to ten feet away from those not in your household, whether you’re climbing, belaying, hiking, or hanging out at the crag.
  • Use hand sanitizer before and after climbing a route, eating, and going to the bathroom.
  • Bring a wag bag and know how to use it.
  • Keep it local. This is not the time to go to Ten Sleep (or anywhere out of state) but if you do travel, be self-sufficient with food and water. Montana has a 14-day quarantine for anybody entering the state – this applies if you leave for a weekend and come back too!
  • Remember, not everybody has the same access to the outdoors that we have here in Montana. Be considerate of others emotional health when posting on the internet.

Until there is a vaccine, we have to figure out how we can modify our behavior to reduce the impact of this virus. Each week we are learning a lot more and things change frequently, so please stay in tune with what is happening and alter your actions accordingly

SMCC’s Statement on the Use of Permanent Draws, Project Draws, and Other Auxiliary Materials Installed and/or Abandoned by Individual Users

SMCC discourages the use of all equipment and material that is auxiliary to the permanently affixed metal safety hardware, which includes: bolts, bolt hangers, and/or rappel and lower-off anchors. 

Such equipment and material includes: “perma” or permanent draws; project draws; tat, or slings or cord used for temporary rappels; or other equipment or tools installed or cached by individuals for personal use.

The use of said equipment and materials threatens access in the following ways:

  • On public lands administered by the US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, abandonment of personal property is in violation of 36 CFR §261.10(e). Similarly, abandonment of personal property is prohibited on public lands administered by the Department of Interior, Bureau of Reclamation, under 43 CFR §8365.1-2(b). Therefore, leaving personal equipment should be considered in violation of the laws surrounding use of public lands. 
  • Hanging temporary or “permanent” materials have frequently been cited as being an eyesore to the non-climbers who share public lands with the climbing community. Climbing hardware is seen as being a non-natural addition, and a potential distraction to users who are visiting to experience nature.
  • In areas with special cultural significance for Indigenous People, climbing hardware and/or materials may be considered offensive.
  • Equipment installed on the permanently affixed hardware is susceptible to higher failure rates and shorter lifespan. In some cases, its wear and subsequent failure has caused catastrophic injury and/or death. 
  • The SMCC does not have a plan to replace or remove worn or abandoned equipment.  It is therefore unclear who will accept the responsibility of caretaking. This leads to a scenario where abandoned equipment, such as perma draws, are more likely to become worn and potentially fail.  



The SMCC has no plan to remove or replace abandoned equipment (e.g., perma draws, project draws, tat, or slings or cord used for temporary rappels) from local crags, nor does SMCC promote the theft or removal of personal gear from a route. The SMCC recommends that climbers address differences of opinion about these practices among themselves in an open, mature manner with a primary focus on protecting access to climbing.  


Recommended Best Practice

SMCC encourages the climbing public to adopt a strategy to help promote continued access and safety in Southwest Montana’s natural climbing resources: 


  • Do not leave any personal equipment on any climbing or rappel route, unless it is for a warranted safety concern;
  • Leaving “project” draws up for an extended amount of time is strongly discouraged as this is in violation of Federal regulations;
  • Before leaving materials at the crag, the situation should be considered appropriately and with care, and with the consideration that to leave such materials is a threat to future access. The community must act as a whole in an appropriate manner to ensure continued access. 



  • “Perma” draw – a clipping unit (constructed of any material) that is intended to remain affixed to the bolt hanger(s) of a route in perpetuity. Also known as a “fixed” draw.
  • Project draw – a clipping unit (constructed of any material) that is installed by an individual with the intention to remain on a route until the user removes them at their discretion.
  • Tat – short for “tattered.” Abandoned hardware (usually sling or rope material). 

Allenspur Access – Know Before You Go

Allenspur is unique among Southwest Montana climbing areas. While most of the climbing is on public (BLM) land, the only way to access it is to cross private land. In 2005 Southwest Montana Climbers Coalition negotiated a legal easement with one of the private landowners adjacent to Allenspur for climbers and other hikers to access the crag on a designated hiking trail. This easement remains in effect and we are working with the current landowners to ensure responsible and respectful public access through their property.

The map below shows where the SMCC easement across private property is located. Park in the public fishing access lot at Carters Bridge (do not block the private driveway), walk north up the driveway, and follow the marked and designated trail until you reach BLM land. When passing through private property stay on the designated trail, don’t litter, and help out by picking up any additional trash you find along the way.

Map courtesy of Joe Josephson

Aside from the SMCC easement, many climbers access Allenspur by walking up the East River road from Carters Bridge, crossing the fence on a small ladder, and cutting across a privately-owned field to head directly to the cliffs. This is also shown on the map.

 This access is provided by a different landowner than the property through which the SMCC easement passes, and access is allowed on a voluntary basis. This parcel of private property also includes the Main Cliff and Beach Ball area. The public holds no legal right to cross this field or climb at these two areas and the landowner can revoke access at any point. It is very kind of them to allow climbers to access Allenspur through their property, going so far as to set up the ladder so we can easily cross their fence, and allow climbing on their land. In order to maintain this access, climbers must behave responsibly and abide by their rules. First and foremost, stick to the signed trail and do not wander off-route across private land. Second, they ask that people not bring dogs through their property – this is not voluntary. Don’t bring your dog to Allenspur.  Finally, and this should go without saying – do not remove any of the signs marking the trail or noting private property.  

Climbing access to Allenspur depends on all of us behaving responsibly and respecting private landowners. If you are climbing at Allenspur please abide by the following rules:

  • Park at Carters Bridge and walk to the crag following designated trails
  • Leave your dog at home
  • Respect private property
  • Leave no trace – pack out your litter and any other trash you see
  • No campfires – Allenspur is dry and windy all year long

Putting the (Climbing and Skiing) Public in Public Lands Event May 23rd at MAP Brewing in Bozeman

Join SMCC, along with Patagonia ambassador Anne Gilbert Chase on Thursday, May 23rd from 5-8pm at MAP Brewing in Bozeman, to learn how climbers and skiers can protect the public lands they love. Right now, we’re at an important moment in time for the Custer Gallatin National Forest (home to Hyalite Canyon, the Beartooth Mountains, and more) and your involvement in the current forest plan revision will influence the future of these places for generations to come. A majority of our climbing resources in SW Montana are within the bounds of the Custer Gallatin National Forest.59972228_10161667835695514_8948165835495571456_o.jpg
Need more motivation to show up? Patagonia has provided some sweet gear to give away AND is buying the beer! (while supplies last).
Thank you MAP Brewing Co. for hosting!

Hardware Replacement Program

The mission of SMCC is to secure, protect, and maintain climbing resources. To achieve such objectives, this all-volunteer organization encourages responsible stewardship for those that use the land, trails, and rock in southwest Montana. On the behalf of all climbers, SMCC volunteers negotiate with landowners, work with government land managers, and build and improve climbing trails.  These efforts are part of SMCC’s primary focus to ensure that climbers maintain a reputation of being responsible, self-maintaining users of public and private land.  Toward that end, SMCC is launching a new program in 2019 to replace potentially dangerous, permanent hardware on established climbing routes.

To initiate the program, SMCC received a grant from the Access Fund’s Anchor Replacement Fund.  SMCC has also received donations of hardware from local climbers.  At first, only the oldest, most worn and corroded bolts will be targeted. In the future, with additional donations of funds, hardware, and volunteer-hours, the program will expand and address hardware replacement on a larger scale.

The SMCC is you, acting as a member of an organized coalition of responsible climbers.  Through the donations of funds, hardware, and labor we all help to secure the future of climbing in southwest Montana.  Begin now by reporting an unsafe anchor or volunteering your time to help replace one.  Also, if you see an unsafe anchor and have the means and necessary experience to fix it, then fix it!

Special Note:

The SMCC policy is to maintain the original style in which a route was established.  First ascensionists will be given the opportunity to decide whether or not their route should be altered.  The SMCC also does not promote the addition of hardware (i.e., lead bolts) to existing climbs that would alter bolt spacing or replace the need to place gear (e.g., nuts, cams, etc.).

The SMCC will not provide funds or hardware for new route development.  However, SMCC does recommend that new route development use only climbing industry accepted stainless steel bolts and anchors in order to extend their usable lifespan and prevent premature replacement efforts in the future.

Through its Hardware Replacement Program, the SMCC’s aim is to provide resources and training opportunities that will assist in mitigating potentially dangerous hardware on established routes. The SMCC does not undertake or assume a responsibility to insure that any fixed hardware is strong, properly placed or safe. It is each climber’s responsibility to evaluate routes and make all decisions incident to climbing them, to climb safely, and to inspect and make individual decisions regarding the safety and reliability of fixed anchors.

A primary goal of this program is to help mitigate the risk of an area being closed because of a climbing accident.  You can help by using this link to report an unsafe anchor or volunteering your time to help replace one:

9th Annual Butte Bouldering Bash Oct. 13

The 9th Annual Butte Bouldering Bash
Benefiting the Southwest Montana Climbers Coalition
Presented by: The American Alpine Club (Montana Section)
October 13th 2018
The Trailer Boulders
Butte, Montana

– Bouldering in Superbia, The Druthers & Trailer Boulders
350+ problems
– Bouldering Competition
Registration starts at 8am
Competition from 10am-4pm
– Raffle
– Films from Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival: Best of the Fest Tour
Films start at sundown
– Food, Fun & Community

Cost: $40

for more information visit: