Climbing The Waltz in the Gallatin Canyon
September in SW Montana is awesome. It snows one day and is sunny the next. The temps drop well below freezing during the night, but warm up nicely during the day – making for great conditions to go climbing in the Gallatin Canyon. Today, Opie Jahn and I loaded up the Tacoma and headed down to the 35 MPH bridge on Highway 191 to climb The Waltz.
The Waltz is a 5.8 multi-pitch trad climb located on the east side of the Gallatin Canyon gneiss formations. After a quick (20-30 minutes) stroll down the Gallatin River Trail, we turned uphill by the Climber’s trail sign on the rock. According to Gaia GPS, the simple hike totaled about 1 mile and 250 vertical feet and dropped us right at the base of the The Waltz.
The Waltz is a Gallatin Canyon classic climb. The 3 (or 4) pitches of the Waltz are a fun way to spend a lazy Sunday. Most people only climb the first 2 pitches and skip the 3rd pitch. Opie and I have done that many times, but today we climbed all three pitches and it was a blast.
The 1st pitch is rated 5.7. It can be climbed directly from the base, but this ups it to a 5.10b due to the large roof. Instead, Opie and I skirted to the South of the formation and geared up. We climbed an easy 5.4 section up to a ledge where there are a couple of bolts. We flaked the rope and started climbing. Our route took us up the left side crack to a small roof and then we scrambled up a chimney to a set of bolts on a large ledge. Opie and I have also climbed the right side and a few other variations of this pitch. It’s decently easy to protect wherever we’ve traveled. At the top of pitch 1 there is a walk off – we headed to pitch 2.
Pitch 2 is rated 5.6. It’s a beautiful crack that cruises up to another large ledge and a set of belay bolts. The crack is super easy to protect with Camalots the whole way up. It’s easy to look down and see the whole pitch from the belay ledge. A few meters east of the grassy belay ledge is a set of rappel chains. It’s easy to rappel off of the second pitch and call it day. We used the chain to rappel down to a small ledge that we used to belay pitch 3.
Pitch 3 is rated 5.8. We broke this up and climbed a hard to protect crack/scramble up to a treed ledge and set a second belay. From there we started on the right side near the tree and worked our way up and left on to the face. We’d been here before and cleverly avoided the sucker bolt on the right side of the formation. We ran into some rope drag issues, as we meandered up the face. Overall the pitch had easy to find large jugs to grab hold off and with a bit of simple footwork, it was a fun climb. The bubbly gneiss made it harder to protect than on the first two pitches. We zigged and zagged and quickly found our way to the top bolts. I didn’t think they were located in the best spot, but they worked.
A short scramble eastward lead us to the climber’s trail back to the base. There were great views of Skyline and Sparerib a bit higher up in the canyon. While we were putting on approach shoes for the walk down, we got a good look at Crystal Caper – looks fun!
The Waltz is a classic climb. It was first climbed by Pat Callis and Brian Leo on July 18, 1975 – almost 40 years ago. Each pitch is unique, but I can see why people often skip the 3rd pitch. It’s not the most challenging 5.8 in the Gallatin Canyon, but it’s certainly one that’s worth climbing. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday. I’d do it again.
A gallery of photos from climbing The Waltz in the Gallatin Canyon:
All 3 pitches of The Waltz were climbed on September 14, 2014.