Climbers Guide To Montana – Pat Caffrey Book Review


Book Review: Climbers Guide To Montana – Pat Caffrey

Climbers Guide To Montana by Pat Caffrey
Climbers Guide To Montana by Pat Caffrey

Pat Caffrey’s Climbers Guide To Montana is a fantastic resource for any Montana mountaineers out there. The guidebook covers 1150 Montana peaks in 34 different mountain ranges across the state and it features over 500 photos. There aren’t many guidebooks like this around. It’s impressive.

The first thing that struck me as fascinating about Climbers Guide To Montana  is the sheer number of ranges and peaks in Montana that had never come across my radar. You could spend a lifetime peak bagging here.

Montana’s mountains are a paradox. Elsewhere one can find higher peaks, cleaner rock, and well-defined routes. But here the peaks lie on the horizon in lingering obscurity. One finds vast solitude, unobtrusive challenge, and more sheer diversity than probably any other place of comparable size.” – Pat Caffrey

The book covers all sorts of summits – climbs, drives, scrambles, technical routes, hikes. From fun day hikes to technical, multi-day adventures – Montana’s mountains will keep you thrilled for a lifetime. Whatever level of mountaineer you are, this book is worth picking up – if you can get your hands on it.

Climbers Guide To Montana has a thorough introduction and then gets into the good stuff. Caffrey breaks down the peaks of Montana by Range. Each range has a brief profile with description, geology, access, and ownership info. Then each peak in the range has the peak name, elevation, a brief description, and the level of climb.

Here’s an example description for Wilson Peak in the Madison Range:

Wilson Peak 10700 [C] Register. Usual approach up the east ridge, gained from trail above Hell Roaring Lake. you may prefer to belay on the pointed summit. The north face has technical options.

Every page has a selection of small, but high quality, black and white photos to help you capture your imagination. There are even a few maps to help orient yourself. Overall, the Climbers Guide To Montana offers a beautifully vague glimpse into the mountaineering potential of Montana. It lacks the detail of Turiano’s Select Peaks of Greater Yellowstone, but covers a much broader area and many more peaks.

Sample Page
Sample Page

The book is a fantastic a starting point for getting you into the mountains. Look up a summit in the book, then grab a map, do a bit of Googling, give it a spin on Google Earth, and you’ll be ready to tag the summit.

Unfortunately, it’s very hard to get your hands on a copy of the Climbers Guide To Montana. Montana Press Publishing Company only ran one edition of the guide book in 1986. This makes it a rare and valuable resource. I scoured the Internet and was unable to find a copy. Your best bet is your neighbor’s garage sale or eBay (that’s where I finally found my copy). Yes the  book is a bit dated, but mountains don’t change very quickly and the route descriptions are still spot on.

This book could easily have been thousands of pages long with thousands of colorful photos, but Caffrey kept it simple. It’s unrealistic that Caffrey climbed all of these peaks, as it would take a lifetime, but so far I’ve found his info accurate.  If you’re a mountaineer and you can find a copy of this book, buy it.

I turn to the Climbers Guide To Montana before every adventure to see if I can discover new route beta, hidden couloirs I may want to eventually ski, or new summits that I want to climb. Thanks for writing a cool book Mr. Caffrey.


Here are the ranges included in the Climbers Guide To Montana:

Purcell MountainsCabinet MountainsSalish Mountains
Coeur d’Alene MountainsWhitefish RangeGlacier National Park
Mission RangeSwan RangeRattlesnake Mountains
Bitterroot MountainsSapphire MountainsFlint Creek Range
Anaconda RangePioneer MountainsBeaverhead Mountains
Flathead RangeRocky Mountain FrontGarnet Range Area
Boulder Batholith AreaElkhorn MountainsTobacco Root Mountains
Ruby River RangesNorth PrairieBig Belt Mountains
Little Belt MountainsSnowy MountainsBridger Range
Crazy MountainsMadison RangeGallatin Range
Absaroka Range – WestAbsaroka Range – EastBeartooth Range
Lower Yellowstone Area