Elevation: 4,368 ft
GPS: 46.65, -111.595 Google Map · Climbing Area Map
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Shared By: The Morse-Bradys on Feb 1, 2013 with improvements by Matt Wenger and 2 others
Admins: grk10vq, Zach Wahrer

Description

The Big Belt Mountains are a range east of Canyon Ferry Reservoir outside of Helena. The range runs from southwest of Great Falls to the Northern Bridgers. The central and northern portions of the range (north of Highway 12, between Townsend and White Sulphur Springs) hold the most interesting features from a climber's perspective. In particular, the canyons on the western side have abundant limestone outcrops and cliffs, and some of the rock is even good quality. Given the sometimes friable nature of the rock, most routes are bolt protected, although some mixed and trad routes have been established. Helmets are a good idea, particularly on newly established climbs that have not cleaned up, and in the spring, when loose rock created by the freeze-thaw cycle may be exfoliating.

Beaver Creek, Trout Creek, Hellgate Gulch, and Avalanche Gulch have the most developed climbing, ranging from short single pitch routes next to the road, to multipitch lines in the back country. Many of the routes can be found in guide books like the 1995 "The Rock Climbers Guide to Montana", the more recent but out of print "Central Montana Rock", and the recently published, "The Big Empty". Plenty of climbs are not in these publications or on Mountain Project, so climbers should expect to see unlisted routes at most crags. Some have dog tags with the route name and grade hanging on the first bolt (Avalanche Gulch in particular), others are listed on beta sheets available at Stone Tree Climbing Gym in Helena.

With careful route and area selection, it is possible to climb here year-round in all but the most snowy and cold conditions. Winter Wall in Hellgate Canyon is usually pleasant on sunny winter days. In the heat of the summer, it is possible to chase shade in all areas, but areas in upper Beaver Creek and Trout Creek are particularly nice. Many of these areas are also popular with the OHV crowd, and campsites (established and dispersed) can be busy on summer weekends. Hellgate and Avalanche gulches in particular can have a near constant stream of trucks, quads, and dirt bikes. For those seeking a quiet climbing experience, Beaver and Trout both offer the option to climb further away from the road.

Most crags in the range are under an hours drive from Helena, and around two hours from Bozeman. Dispersed camping can be found on the surrounding National Forest lands and developed camp sites are available at the Trout Creek trail-head east of York and in numerous campgrounds on Canyon Ferry Reservoir.

Getting There

The northern most areas, Trout and Beaver Creek, are best accessed through Helena and York. From Helena navigate to York Road off of Custer Ave. Drive this northeast to the York Bar and either turn left to Nelson and Beaver Creek or stay straight to get to Trout Creek. Hellgate and Avalanche Gulches can be accessed from Helena or Townsend. From Helena, head east on Canyon Ferry Road off Custer or take the 284 cutoff from Highway 12/287 to get to Canyon Ferry Road. Follow the road over the dam, through the development, and past Magpie Gulch staying on the main road. After the speed limit increases, you should see national forest signs on you left for Hellgate and then Avalanche in around a mile of so.

If you are coming from Townsend, head east on Highway 12, but before you reach the mountains go north on Highway 284. After about 20-30 minutes you should see signs for Avalanche then Hellgate Gulches. You can stay on the road until you reach Jimtown Road near the north end of the reservoir if you are headed to Beaver or Trout Creeks via York, but unless you are making a stop on that side of the lake first, it is probably faster to come through Helena.

86 Total Climbs

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Classic Climbing Routes at Big Belt Mountains

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b
 5
The Beach
Sport
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
 13
Dirty Bird
Sport
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
 8
Weird Science
Sport
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
 5
Serenity Now
Sport
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
 5
The Fire Spire
Trad 2 pitches
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
 5
Tall Boy
Sport
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
 3
Nude Beach
Sport
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
 11
Takin' Care of Business
Sport
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c
 7
Drowning in Flame
Sport
5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c
 4
Unknown 11 (not Bar Fly)
Sport
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
The Beach Avalanche Gulch > Nude Beach
 5
5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b Sport
Dirty Bird Avalanche Gulch > Blue Collar Wall
 13
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c Sport
Weird Science Hellgate Gulch > Winter Wall
 8
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Sport
Serenity Now Avalanche Gulch > Bukowski Buttress
 5
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Sport
The Fire Spire Avalanche Gulch > Fire Spire
 5
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Trad 2 pitches
Tall Boy Avalanche Gulch > Bukowski Buttress
 5
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Sport
Nude Beach Avalanche Gulch > Nude Beach
 3
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Sport
Takin' Care of Business Avalanche Gulch > Blue Collar Wall
 11
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Sport
Drowning in Flame Avalanche Gulch > Bukowski Buttress
 7
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c Sport
Unknown 11 (not Bar Fly) Avalanche Gulch > Bukowski Buttress
 4
5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c Sport
More Classic Climbs in Big Belt Mountains »

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The Morse-Bradys
Lander, WY
The Morse-Bradys   Lander, WY
If you can still find Jake Mergenthaler's "Central Montana Rock" book in print it's definitely worth having, particularly for getting to some of the more obscure areas. May 15, 2013
Ty Morrison-Heath
Bozeman, MT
Ty Morrison-Heath   Bozeman, MT
As of 5-22-13 we still have several copies of Central Montana Rock at Spire Climbing Center in Bozeman. May 22, 2013
Aaron W  
Cool area with a lot of sport climbing much of which is not listed here. There looks to be some cool boulders on W Shore Drive as well. Grades here range from fluffy to sandbagged. Probably best to leave the rack at home as even the cracks have been bolted here. Avalanche has a much wider range of climbs then Hells gate. Oct 12, 2013
bryan dalpes
Livingston, MT
bryan dalpes   Livingston, MT
I would suggest bringing a light rack as some of the great climbs such as Fire Spire, Sturdy Girdy, etc. require a few gear placements. That is, of course, only if your not comfortable with 30'-50' foot run outs on 5.9 climbing... Jul 25, 2017