Boulder Hopping

Dylan Jones's picture
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Breweries and boulders by bike.

My forearms are pumped and my heel hook is just off the mark. I slap my right hand up a few inches higher on a sloping sidepull. It’s decent, but sweat makes it a ticking time bomb. I judge the distance to the next crimp, followed by the big throw to the top. The only distance I can focus on, however, is that to my next pint. I pull the move, downclimb, and throw my shoes in my daypack before jumping back on my bike. It’s only a few miles to Bridger Brewing—the final stop on my Bozeman-breweries-and-boulders-by-bike tour.

Bozeman, bouldering, breweries
My boulder-hopping route

The idea came to me, not surprisingly, over a pint. I was on a two-month road trip and staying with friends in town who suggested I check out the local boulders. I was already curious about the breweries, and after a few beers, the idea had fully materialized and I had a route mapped out.

I started downtown, heading west on Koch St. toward the Bozeman Pond boulder—a great starting piece due to its variety of climbing options. I worked my way up various aspects of the boulder. A crimpy face, slopey overhang, and narrow arête provided a balanced warm-up, and a thick carpet of mulch a safe landing zone. This is a thoughtful addition—leaving the crashpad in the car is a luxury not often afforded to boulderers.

Bozeman Pond, bouldering, Bozeman
Bozeman Pond Boulder

Keeping an eye on the time, I headed north on Yellowstone Ave. to Gallatin County Regional Park. Although the "Badass-in-Training" boulder was designed for the cohort of next-gen crushers, there are enough holds for any climber to build a solid pump while traversing—enough of a pump, at least, to send me to my first pint at 406 Brewery on East Oak St. It was just after noon on a Friday, so the spacious taproom was nearly empty, allowing for some good conversation with the bar staff and a few thirsty locals.

As much as I craved a second libation, I knew I had work to do and distance to cover. I headed north on Rouse Ave. to work up a sweat on the Bozeman Beach boulder. Its width and overhanging design make for a range of powerful problems. Its northwest orientation lets the climber choose shade or heat, and whatever beating you put on your shoulders immediately washes away with a refreshing dip in Glen Lake. The sandy beach's bathing beauties made it difficult to leave, but alas, on with the show. I turned my gaze away from the sirens and focused my attention on the next stop. I weaved my way through the woods along the East Gallatin and cruised down Story Mill Spur, stopping between the Depot boulder and the Bozeman Brewing Company. With moderation in mind, I hit Bozeman Brewing to replenish my hop levels before pulling more moves.

Depot Boulder, Bozeman, bouldering
Depot Boulder

My thirst adequately quenched, I moved on. The Depot boulder, designed to mimic sharp gritstone, reminded me of the finger-shredding sandstone back in West Virginia. Fortunately, the pint I had just downed made it easier to shrug off the discomfort of increasingly tender tips. With a smile on my face and fresh tape on my flappers, I biked southwest on the Gallagator trail to the final climbing challenge.

Uniquely featured and colored with red and black streaks, the Gallagator boulder is a beautiful ode to the powerful forces that shape the rocks we love to climb. I crimped as many edges and slapped up as many sidepulls as I could before my arms were done. Lying on the grass, staring up at the Big Sky, I was satisfied, but still thirsty. And so it was with tired legs and rubbery arms that I stumbled into Bridger Brewing, awkwardly pulling a chair out at the bar. Drenched in sweat and breathing heavily, I closed my eyes and savored my third and final ale, silently revelling in my personal glory.

Gallagator Boulder, bouldering, Bozeman, climbing
Gallagator Boulder

This fall, as snow returns to the mountains, and shorter days rule out out-of-town excursions, look to town for adventure. There's more than enough to keep you occupied until the chairs start spinning and the XC trails in Hyalite are groomed.  

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