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North America, United States, Montana, The Prow, Bitterroot Mountains

The Prow, Bitterroot Mountains. In unusually dry weather, I spent eight days finishing the first free-ascent of the 900-foot south face of the Prow. With the help of Steve Porcella and later Ralph Grana, Timebinder (IV, 5.11) links four different routes put up in four different decades. We started left of a white alcove near the center of the base of the spire. The first pitch face-climbed a bolted slab (5.9+) to a crack up and right and to a stance near a large ponderosa. Then a short pitch up a wide crack led to a comfortable ledge. The third pitch headed up another bolted slab (5.10) to a shoulder just right of large roofs. In the middle of this slab is a seam. The intimidating 300 feet above the shoulder had never been attempted and provided Steve and me with difficult route-finding. The fourth pitch diagonaled left (5.9) above the roofs up a series of right-facing comers past a tooth of rock. From the top of this tooth, we climbed through a small roof with cracks (5.10) to a ledge. The fifth pitch ascended a steep bulge to the right (5.10) and then a series of exposed finger-cracks. We belayed on a ledge 20 feet above the final thin finger-crack. The next pitch climbed the right of the Red Tower (5.10), which received its first free-ascent by Bruce Anderson and Keith Schultz in 1988. At the top of the Red Tower, we connected with the original ascent line on the spire, put up in 1977 and 1978 by Tom Shreve, Cory Macalnay and Pete Herbine. Above the tower, we climbed the slab with cracks (5.9), turned the roof on the right and belayed on a ledge. The final pitch was a vertical headwall of orange granite. We started up a strenuous flake (5.10+) to reach a good hand- and-finger crack which ends at a band. We traversed left to a finger-crack which bulges at its end (5.11). We then traversed right on an exposed ledge to belay in a notch near the summit. To descend, we scrambled north and then walked off to the east.

Craig Kenyon, Dirty Socks Club