Allenspur: An Intro to Climbing; or, I’m Sick as a Dog

February 26th, 2016

Molly, upon arriving in Montana:


So. THAT’S disappointing. I’ve basically lost an entire week to the curse that is the chest cold. I mean, this is one of those colds that makes is excruciatingly painful to just BREATHE. Guess what’s essential to going out on adventures? BREATHING.


I got to Bozeman on a Monday; recovered from flying on a Tuesday; got sick on Wednesday;  and did nothing but sleep on the floor, breathing steam every hour and popping ibuprofen, huffing my inhalers on Thursday.  By Thursday night I was practically imploding.


LUCKILY, I have THE MOST AMAZING COUSIN WHO DOES COOL SHIT AND INVITES ME TO COME DO IT WITH HER, so I got out of the house on Friday and went with some new friends to check out a climbing rock area in Paradise Valley called Allenspur. 

There are great directions available HERE from the Mountain Project, and finding the trail up to the crag was no problem. There are signs all the way along the post and beam fence directing climbers to a little access ladder and the trail.


The climb up to the spur nearly killed me. Every breath was excruciating so that I had to go Mt. Whitney pace, that is to say, really, really slowly. It wasn’t helpful that I had packed more than an L.L. Bean  canvas bag wielding parent bringing their friends’ eight kids to the beach for the day in 1999. I packed a sleeping bag. I packed a stove. I packed three liters of water and a thermos of lunch as well as tea. I was sick, and by God I was going to be prepared.


Turns out that packing all that crap means carrying extra weight, which makes going up hills harder; a task that was already quite painful. Of COURSE it turned out that I didn’t even really need any of that stuff. The slope at the base of the spur is far too steep and sandy to lay out a sleeping bag, and the sun warmed us up enough that I wasn’t even remotely cold. I did eat my food and drink my tea, though.


Allenspur has at least 18 established climbing routes, most of which are “sport” climbs rated between 5.7 and 5.11c. If you, like I had, have absolutely no idea what any of that means, fear not. It’s actually surprisingly simple. “Sport” climbs are routes up the rock that have been established with the installation of bolts in the rock into which a lead climber can hook a “lead,” which is basically a length of rope with a carabiner on either side. The lead climber feeds the rope through the carabiner that’s opposite the one hooked in the bolt in the rock, and they now have an anchor point which will protect them from falling. Paige is pictured above lead climbing. The principle is illustrated here:

Once a lead climber has reached the top of a climb, they hook into a top rope anchor, be that another bolt or a tree to establish the top-rope belay set up that most of us are familiar with. The other form of lead climbing is “trad.” This is when there are no bolts in the rock, but rather the lead climber has to create anchor points in the cracks in the rock with a tool that looks like this:


It’s insane and amazing that this is something that is done. It was explained to me primarily by Miles, our groups most experienced climber. Turns out that I definitely gave him my cold form sitting next to him in the car, which is less than poor payment for teaching me the basics of climbing, so once again, sorry Miles! But I really appreciate you teaching me all that!


All rock climbs are rated starting at 5 after which a decimal is placed, and the more nuanced ratings begin. They usually go from 5.5 to 5.11. As technology has gotten better, however, harder climbs have become possible, and the rating system has had to adjust accordingly, hence you get climbs that are called 5.11c. The “c” is yet another delineation of difficulty. Katie, Paige, Sam and Miles all took turns going up a variety of routes over the course of the day while I sat around enjoying the sunshine and taking close ups of Juniper berries.


‘Cause everyone loves Juniper berries as much as I do, right?


We were not alone on Allenspur, and we eventually met up with the other group on the rock, sharing our top ropes and getting the most out of our time up there.



Making friends is half the fun!

Paige did an exceptionally tough climb that went snaking around and up an awkward route, but she was all smiles all the way!


Overall, it was a great day to get out. I really think that it helped me get over my horrible chest cold just because it lifted my spirits so much to be with such awesome people learned such awesome stuff. Did I go the next week and buy a membership at the climbing gym because of this trip? You bet I did.


Thanks, friends!



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