The Montana Centennial Route
by Nick Frazee
Last week my friend Alex Wakeman and I had the opportunity to climb a classic route here in Montana, just a short drive and a long walk from town. I've been waiting to climb the Montana Centennial Route (Grade IV, 5.11a, 1600') for a couple years now, and with Alex on board we were ready to give it a go. This would be the first time we would rope up together, as well as the longest alpine rock climb either of had attempted, though neither of these points had any effect on us, we were psyched!
I finished up waiting tables at 10:30 pm on Saturday, Alex was at the bar waiting for me, my car and bags were packed and we immediately got on the road. After an hour and a half drive we started the eight mile hike in, under a nearly full moon, the views of Silver Mountain Ridge lines progressively more distorted by the haze commanded our attention in the quiet night. After over 4,000' of elevation gain we arrived at elbow lake at 3:30 am. After staring at the moonlit prow across from us that we would climb, we threw our bags and pads on the ground and enjoyed a three hour nap while waiting for first light.
The morning started with another climber crutching out past me with a broken ankle, and our own broken water pump. Once we dealt with both situations and left the lake, things began to flow.
We ro-sham-boed at the base for first pitch, and swapped leads from there. The first couple pitches climb through broken 5.8 terrain, essentially the approach pitches to the route. At the base of the third pitch the rock improves substantially and the real climbing begins. The next nine pitches flew by in a flurry of amazing climbing, ear-to-ear grins, and lots of hooting and hollering. The climbing itself consisted of, but was not limited to: a beautiful and endless corner, some fun slab, perfect hands for days, solid finger locks, an airy hand traverse, a seeping fist crack traverse, plotter cracks, great pro throughout, and more beautiful corners.
The weather held and we sneaked through the route without clouds or wind, temps were perfect. We enjoyed the views for a bit as the sun began to sink behind the nearby ridge-lines and as we exited the loose death gully descent right at dark I couldn't help but feel like this day had been gifted to us by someone, somewhere.