ross park

A rock climber nears the top of a route Saturday at the Sunny Side crags of Ross Park in Pocatello. Temperatures approached 40 degrees and offered pleasant climbing in the sun.

On Saturday, I wanted to skip the snow and go rock climbing outside. It was, after all, March for goodness sake.

So a friend and I drove to Pocatello’s Ross Park and were greeted by lots of pleasant sunshine and plenty of mud. You know the saying: April showers bring May flowers and March brings the mud.

But it was OK, because the mud was mostly avoidable and things were dry around the rock walls.

Let me say that climbing outside is sweet. When I’m just climbing indoors all winter, I tend to forget how special and awesome the real thing is. It’s like running on a treadmill compared to running on a mountain trail.

We climbed on the smallish cliffs on the Sunny Side of Ross Park. That’s the side featuring the water park, zoo and baseball fields — only farther down by the railroad tracks.

There are more than 60 routes on the Sunny Side, and generally something for most abilities — easy to hard. Many of the routes are bolted for lead climbing, but the routes are accessible for top rope climbing by hiking or scrambling around to the top of the cliffs. Rather than having anchors hanging from the face of the wall near the top of the cliffs, Ross Park routes have bolted hangers on the horizontal surface above the wall. To set up anchors, bring some long runners or a 4-foot sling to hang over the edge of the cliff. Along with the slings, bring a few locking carabiners to hook things up and run the rope through.

The other unusual thing about the crag is that all of the routes are tagged at the base with difficulty ratings. A Boy Scout had as his Eagle project the task of tagging each route with a fancy, jar-lid-sized marker. It’s like an outdoor climbing gym.

There were three other groups climbing at Ross Park on Saturday. I was expecting more. The temperatures were pleasant most of the time unless a cloud passed by and cast a chilly shadow. Only a few of the routes had water in some of the pockets. Generally, if the temperatures are close to 40 degrees or warmer and the sun is shining, climbing is good to go.

That temperature is good for many of the other crags in the area, such as Pointless and South Park (near Wolf Flats along the South Fork of the Snake River) and Massacre Rocks west of American Falls.

One note about Pointless Crag: Don’t hike around to the top of the crag with the purpose of setting up top ropes until after April. That area is under a wildlife closure. If you climb there, you’ll need to lead climb the routes.

Another reminder: Please don’t top rope through the anchors. Instead, top rope through your own gear (carabiners or quickdraws) so as not to wear out the permanent anchor hardware. Replacing the anchor hardware is a lot of work and expensive.

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