Sometimes, you gotta get a bit high

Sometimes, you gotta get a bit high

The limestone colosseum of The Fins with the Big Southern Butte

The limestone colosseum of The Fins with the Big Southern Butte in the background.

I never intended to become a rock climber, let alone a rock climbing guidebook author. In fact, during my college years I would drive by the local crags en-route to an afternoon mountain bike ride and shake my head at the seemingly docile figures congregated at the cliffs. Adorned with strange webbing-like things wrapped around their legs and groins, silly helmets on like they were coal miners and even sillier-looking footwear, I often wondered what the appeal was. Climbing seemed like such a lethargic, sloth-like activity and I wanted no part of it. However, I had yet to actually try it.

Fast forward 22 years. Guess who’s wearing the crotch-cinching webbing and silly shoes now?

Yup, I got hooked. A friend of mine convinced me to try it one afternoon. Initially, I was scared shitless but something was sown on those first few outings. What started that summer of ‘98 as a casual, something-to-do-before-beer:30 among friends became an all-out obsession for me.

As I befriended like-minded individuals, I began learning about more and more places for rock climbing in the southeastern Idaho region. I was blown away by how many climbing areas there were (near and far) and by their diversity. I had to visit them all. I began collecting and obsessing over guidebooks and eventually co-authoring one for the southeastern Idaho region. I felt the need to share these local gems with fellow aficionados and perhaps reciprocate the motivation and passion I still feel when visiting climbing areas new to me.

Most local climbers reading this are keen to the many climbing areas in the southeast Idaho region. However, for the uninitiated and inquiring minds, this is for you, an abbreviated list of my personal top 5 recommendations:

Pointless Crag

Heather Lords climbing at Pointless Crag. Photo courtesy Dean Lords

Pointless Crag

Perched above the scenic Snake River upstream from the Heise Hot Pools, this little gem of basalt is host to about 20 climbing routes that vary from short to tall. While primarily beginner-friendly routes dominate here, intermediate climbers will find enough to keep them occupied for a day or two. Wildlife sightings such as osprey, beaver, deer and moose are common. When your forearms are trashed you can pull out the fishing rod and drop a line in the Snake.


Climbers competing in the Pocatello Pump at Ross Park. Photo courtesy

Ross Park

Located in the active college town of Pocatello, Ross Park hosts 2 separate short, yet wide, basalt cliffs to accommodate climbers from beginner to intermediate levels. With its ease of access (1 min. walk from car), northeast and southwest facing cliffs (think summer shade or winter sun), and nearly 200 climbing routes, Ross Park is a winner-winner chicken dinner. (History tidbit: The Pocatello Pump, the longest running climbing competition in the U.S., is held at Ross Park every Sept.)


John Roark climbing on Eagle Wall at Massacre Rocks.

Massacre Rocks

Roughly 10 miles southwest of American Falls as the crow flies, among the sagebrush and junipers, lies Massacre Rocks. Comprised of basalt cliffs exposed over 14,000 years ago when Lake Bonneville (Utah) breached its northern shoreline, the numerous cliffs at Massacre Rocks are home to over 700 climbing routes. Beginners to advanced climbers are entertained here nearly year-round. Warning: don’t pet the rattlesnakes.


Climbers on the patinaed west face of Flaming Rock at the City of Rocks. Photo courtesy City of Rocks National Reserve.

City of Rocks

Nestled within the hilly landscape of southern Idaho, City of Rocks is a collection of towering granite monoliths that protrude from the arid landscape just west of Almo. With over 600 climbing routes that attract novice climbers as well seasoned veterans, City of Rocks is literally a mecca for climbing. No B.S. (History tidbit: City of Rocks lies along the historic California Trail used during the Gold Rush era of the mid 1800s.)

The Fins

The limestone version of Elysium. Even Homer would agree.

Standing sentinel high above the Arco desert, overlooking the small town of Howe and the INL, the bulletproof limestone cliffs of the Fins jut out of the stony ground like the back plates of a stegosaurus. Advanced to expert climbing is the name of the game here on dime-edge sized handholds and double-to-single finger holes. Steel yourself for pain, humility and a crushed ego.


Sarah Anne Perry climbing on the impressive Discovery Wall at The Fins. Photo courtesy Nate Liles / Orographic Visual.



Matt TeNgaio

Pixel pushing
rock enthusiast