Get outdoor time at Pocatello's Ross Park climbing area

(Photo by Jerry Painter/Post Register)

Katy Shilling climbs a route at Pocatello’s Ross Park belayed by Collette Smith. The shortish cliffs on the Sunny Side of the city park feature more than 65 sport climbing routes.

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On Saturday, my sweetheart and I pulled into the dirt parking lot on the Sunny Side (west side) of Ross Park in Pocatello expecting a crowd. The day was nearly perfect for rock climbing — sunny, warm, but not hot, and enough breeze to make it pleasant.

There were only a few cars.

“Where is everyone?” Julie asked.

“Probably all went to Massacre Rocks,” I said.

“That’s OK, we won’t have to worry about keeping our distance from people,” she said.

We proceeded to climb until our hands and arms cried for mercy.

The Sunny Side of Ross Park is just south of the Pocatello Zoo across from the railroad tracks. It has 65-plus routes. Roughly half or less of the routes are bolted for lead climbing. The top of the cliff is a large plateau. This time of the year, geese love to hang out above the cliff and can be seen launching themselves off the top. I think it’s their day job to fly across the railroad tracks and munch on grass at the golf course beyond.

At this crag, we generally lead up a climb and set up a top rope on two climbs with one rope — the routes are fairly short. It’s kind of like an outdoor climbing gym.

The top anchor hangers are set on the horizontal surface and require long slings or cordelettes to reach over the edge. If you climb here, remember to bring the appropriate gear to set up top anchors. That usually means several locking carabiners and 4 to 6 foot slings or cordelettes.

It’s also useful to have a clip stick for pre-clipping the first hanger on lead routes. In the name of safety, I generally do this wherever I go. Some of the beginnings of the routes can be a bit tricky and falling off the first section before you make the first clip could mean an injury that could ruin your summer. A clip stick is almost a necessity at many of the crags in eastern Idaho. You never know when a hold will break as you climb to the first bolt.

One criticism I have of Ross Park climbing is that some of the lead routes are poorly bolted and have scary leads. Some of the second bolts are so far above the first bolts that ground falls are inevitable should you fall before clipping in. With some of these routes, we either just top-rope them, or, if our stick clip can reach far enough, we skip the first hanger and stick clip the second bolt hanger.

That said, there are some fun and well-bolted routes along the wall that are worth doing more than once.

If you don’t want to lead climb the routes, top-ropes can be set up by hiking or scrambling around to the top.

On particularly warm days (70 degrees or above), you can head for the east side of Ross Park and the other side of the park plateau. These mini-cliff walls are called the Shady Side. All of the routes on the Shady Side are top-rope only. One 50 or 60-meter rope will easily set up two routes.

Route difficulties range from 5.6 to 5.12. Conveniently, all the routes are identified with difficulty ratings at the base of the cliff. Ross Park is a great learning crag for new climbers. There are also tables, benches and wood chips at the base of many of the walls.