Saturday, May 18, 2013

Steamboat Butte and the Leaning Tower of Pitons

I just graduated from MSU-Bozeman with a teaching degree, got a job teaching 7-12 science, and then spent the last week at my parents farm near Billings, house sitting.  While at my parents farm I went exploring in the Bull Mountains of Montana (Just north of Billings). 

Farm life

I bought a few BLM maps and located some public lands that may potentially contain some climbing, but as far we know there have been no climbing routes recorded in the Bull Mountains; thus the rock could be terrible.  What I found on my solo drive out to the 'Bulls prompted me to call (the) Olin (ator) and go exploring with ropes and cams the next day.  We went to an area called steamboat butte and it was much bettter than expected, actually it was great!

Olin with the Butte in sight
On the first scouting trip we explored the entire butte, found a few rattlesnakes, stumbled on a historic site with knappings and petroglyphs, and climbed two beautiful splitter cracks. 
This butte, we agreed, was a very special area, thus we were determined to have as little impact as possible while climbing.  We determined the ethics of the butte to have two factors;
1.) no fixed anchors/gear
2.) do not disturb the historical markings and artifacts in the pursuit of climbing the splitter choss
It was obvious that the butte had been visited/abused by many others in the past (the cliff was bullet hole ridden and people had carved their names in the sandstone near the summit), all I'm saying is that we as climbers are better than this, so lets just go climbin'.
The next day we convinced a crew of fun Billings climbers to join us in picking the plumbs of the area, here's what we found:
The crew:  Bridget, Echo, Olin, Chad, and James.

Myself on the first ascent of "petroglyph crack"
Olin beneath "Petroglyph crack", which takes a plumb line to the summit of the butte
James Melnyk climbing the beautiful "Friendship crack"
Chad Chadwick climbing "friendship crack"
Echo Oaks on Olin's awesome climb "House Cleaning"
Olin rapping on a gear anchor onto the short crack named "Masters of the Universe"
Myself on the first ascent of "Bull Mountain Jam"
Chad on "Bull Mountain Jam"
Bridget on top of the summit block over the zig-zagging crack she climbed.  The butte is set up in two tiers, so to get to the top you need to climb two pitches (or do the scramble on the backside of the butte).
We also climbed the brilliant leaning tower of pitons (aka the pinnacle) in Billings, Montana.  If you want a desert tower experience within city limits, this tower should not be missed!

  It's a bit run out until one reaches the crack.

parting shot

Cheers, Loren

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