Climbing Skyline in the Gallatin Canyon
If you’re going to climb one awesome, aesthetic climb in the Gallatin Canyon, climb Skyline. Skyline is rated 5.6 and is the longest climb in the Gallatin Canyon at 5 pitches. It’s the most southern gneiss formation on the Upper Tier of the canyon and the views are stunning. It gets the name Skyline as it defines the skyline of the Gallatin Canyon.
On September 2, Stew Chumbley and I headed to the 35 MPH Bridge on highway 191 with Skyline as our goal. Within steps of getting out of our car, we spied a roadkill rotting away in the parking lot – would this be a sign of what the day had in store? We certainly hoped not. Just to be safe, we went under the bridge to hit the trail instead of across the busy Highway 191.
The climber’s trail to the base of Skyline is almost the same as the one to Sparerib. Take the first uphill (right) turn with the Climber’s Trail sign on the tree. The trail goes steeply uphill past First Buttress, past the massive boulders, and ends on a ridge near Ashes of Stone. Here the trail obviously goes North (left). Continue on the climber’s trail to the right/south until you are above Ashes of Stone. There is a prominent rib that you must climb up to find the base of Skyline. The trail to this point covers approximately 1.2 miles and 950 feet.
It’s always handy to have your copy of Bozeman Rock Climbs available in case you get a bit disoriented. While Stew read on, I was entertained by the helicopters moving power lines all day. Helicopters are always cool – unless they are flight for life.
The first pitch of Skyline begins on the looker’s left side of the arete. It’s an obvious chimney on the north face – and it’s really cold in the morning before the sun is high in the sky. You also get a great view of Sparerib to the north and the entire north face of the Skyline Arete. It continually amazes me at how many climbing routes have been established in the canyon.
We found the first pitch to go up the chimney and up a couple of quick steps. We stopped just before a set of rappel rings to limit rope drag. Rope drag is a consistent issue on Skyline as the short faces are mixed with low angle scrambles and large steps.
Use the rap rings to rappel about 20 feet to the bottom of an obvious chimney and an wide belay ledge. When you get to the end of the chimney, you almost enter a cave. There is a small hole that a tiny person could possibly fit through. We could not. There is a larger hole closer to the river direction, often called the “birth canal” that you can just stem up too and squeeze through. We had to pass the rack through as we would not fit otherwise.
We then broke up the 3rd pitch into two pitches as we had a group in front of us that we did not want to rush. Let’s call those pitches 3a and 3b. Both pitches are short faces, easy climb, lots of juggy handholds, and good fun.
Pitch 4 is when we felt the exposure start to build. We didn’t have to make any crazy moves, but it’s certainly a long way down. There’s a cool belay spot for pitch 4 and we had an opportunity to sit back and enjoy the views as the other group casually climbed on. The pitch ended after a bit of a scramble to a cool cave/belay zone. Supposedly there is a rappel off the route at some point on this 4th pitch.
Pitch 5 is a quick jolt up to the top of Skyline. We knew we there when we started to see trees and it became an easy scramble.
At this point we unroped and boulder hopped our way uphill. We trended left below a nice buttress. Eventually a notch appeared that dropped us off at the very well cared for climber’s trail – I’d bet they work on this trail regularly. The climber’s trail took us back to the base of Skyline where we grabbed our gear and headed back down to a waiting Tacoma and extra water.
Overall Skyline is a really fun climb that is definitely worth doing. It’s long, but is also one of the easier climbs in the canyon. You can pitch it out how you like as there are plenty of large boulders to sling and cracks waiting for cams. We could make anchors at nearly every large step and sometimes in between. If you’re heading up there, be ready to wait for others as this climbing route is a popular one that shouldn’t be missed.
Enjoy the rest of the photos from our climb up the Skyline Route:
This route was climbed on September 2, 2014.