Saturday, July 14, 2012

Braxton for Summer

Kurt nearing the top of Cowboy Variation

Braxton Roof Rock is a (literally) cool place to climb on Lolo pass. Not in the Falcon guide, it's a word-of-mouth crag that sits under the radar. But with a 2-minute approach off Highway 12, plenty of trees, a steep main face that goes into shade during daylight savings time around 5pm, not to mention after-climbing burgers and beer 2 miles down the road at Lolo Hot Springs, it makes an ideal evening destination for summer months.

Three years ago a few of us got motivated and upgraded the existing lines plus added a few new routes, extensions and variations. There were several excellent climbs already on the main part of the crag but they had chain links in place of hangers. Keith and Dane took a Saturday to replace the links. (The studs themselves were fine, and nothing was changed in terms of the location or number of bolts.) Of the new lines we added, most notable are Bear Hug Arete (aka Grapplin' with a Grizzly), Unnamed Direct, Cowboy Variation and Rat Mitten Extension.

Bear Hug ascends an improbable blunt arete and requires an interesting mix of technique and power. It’s in the 12b range. Unnamed Direct gives a mixed bolt/gear start in the 11c/d range to the existing "Unnamed Route" that itself is one of the best 10d's in our region. Cowboy Variation ventures off Unnamed on the other side and heads up to the left edge of the main roof. It's named for Missoula Rock Garden alumnus Mike "Cowboy" Day who sussed it and gave it a brushing a year earlier. And Rat Mitten Extension takes the existing sinisterly tricky 10b Rat Mitten farther up the rock to finish beneath the roof, leaving the original anchors below the obvious v-slot for those who want to stop there.

In addition, there are 2 bouldery top rope problems that have yet to see an ascent. Their anchors are reached by traversing right beneath the roof from the top of Rat Mitten Extension. Keith also scrubbed a nice problem on the large boulders below the climbs. There's room for several more problems for someone willing to put in a little cleaning effort.

We put together a quick topo listing the routes we know of. Note that we were only able to find out the name of one of the existing lines, Rat Mitten. For the others we used names like "Unnamed" and "Legacy Crack." If the original names ever come our way, we'll update the topo.

So when it's hot in town and you're itching to get out, jump in the car late afternoon and head up to Braxton to enjoy the shade, the trees, and a small collection of quality climbs. Maybe we'll see you there.

Bear Hug Arete

Bear Hug Arete

Unnamed Direct

Rat Mitten Extension