Canyon-Wide Bolt Ban Lifted in the Bitterroot, Montana

We are pleased to report that Bitterroot National Forest (BNF) has lifted a canyon-wide bolt ban in the Mill Creek Canyon area of Montana, instead refining the ban to a popular and well-developed sport area in lower Mill Creek Canyon.

Photo courtesy of Dane Scott

Last year, the BNF Forest Supervisor issued a moratorium on all new routes in the entire Mill Creek Canyon area in reaction to a few local residents who were initially protesting a newly developed sport climbing area known as the Tick Farm. This canyon-wide bolt moratorium effectively cut off new climbing opportunities on the alpine walls that form Mill Creek Canyon, which hold countless opportunities for backcountry first ascents.

In June of last year, Access Fund and Western Montana Climbers Coalition (WMTCC) met with the Forest Supervisor to push back on this unsubstantiated moratorium, presenting her with effective climbing management solutions that would allow for new route development while protecting natural resources.

“The Forest Supervisor had been receiving a lot of pressure and misinformation from a few people. This meeting was especially helpful as Access Fund was able to correct the bad information she had been receiving," says Dane Scott of WMCC.

After careful consideration of the resource conditions and recommendations provided by the Access Fund and WMTCC, the Supervisor reversed the canyon-wide ban, limiting it to new climbs at the Tick Farm only—a ban that the local climbing community had already agreed to in 2014. The Tick Farm is already well-established, and BNF will allow existing bolted routes to remain and be maintained.

Climbers are once again free to develop new climbing routes in Mill Creek Canyon, with the exception of the Tick Farm. New routes should be widely dispersed, and fixed anchors should be camouflaged and used only as a last resort if removable protection is unavailable. Visit the WMTCC web site to read Supervisor King’s letter and to find out more on this issue.

We thank Supervisor King for her balanced decision, which also affirms climbing as a legitimate and important recreational activity in the Bitterroot National Forest.