Exit 99 to The S.E. Chimney

Exit 99 to The S.E. Chimney

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 45.46000°N / 112.63°W
Additional Information Route Type: Trad Climbing
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer, Fall
Additional Information Time Required: Most of a day
Additional Information Rock Difficulty: 5.8 (YDS)
Additional Information Number of Pitches: 4
Additional Information Grade: II
Sign the Climber's Log


The Wedge lies within The Humbug Spires Wilderness Study Area. Managed by the BLM, this pristine roadless area contains many granite spires and monoliths. The tallest of these is The Wedge. The Wedge was one of the first developed climbing areas in Montana and many of Montana's best climbers have climbed here at one time or another. The Wedge has something for just about everyone, from long moderate traditionally protected climbs on the west and southwest faces to harder test pieces on the north face of the rock. Climbing here is a wonderful experience in a beautiful setting. Please respect the traditional ethics of this wonderful place. Leave your dogs at home and get as close to a true wilderness climbing experience as possible. LEAVE NO TRACE IS MANDATORY!

Getting There

From I-90

To reach the Wedge, drive south on I-15 for approximately 26 miles to Exit 99, Moose Creek Road. Turn left at the stop sign and follow the improved gravel road for 3 miles. A nice sized parking area, vault toilet and an informational kiosk mark the trailhead.


Follow the well maintained trail for 4 miles. After about 1.5 miles the trail leaves the creek bottom and passes through stands of aspen and fir. A small series of switchbacks gain a small ridge. The trail then gradually descends, crosses a spring and eventually comes to the base of the Wedge. Hike uphill following no distinct trail arriving the base of the Butterknife on the S.W. Face proper. Continue hiking for a few more minutes around the southern tip of the Wedge. Passing a large boulder and the start of Spellcaster and Balcony Direct. Slightly uphill, nestled in the trees is arête and the start of Exit 99.

Route Description

The Wedge, SE ChimneyExit 99 to the S.E. Chimney. Image by T Sharp

Exit 99 to the S.E. Chimney Variant: 5.8, 400ft

A Brief Description:
Looking up from the start of Exit 99 an obvious chimney is seen. This is the link up to the summit of the Wedge. Exit 99 follows the rounded arête for a full pitch. The route then trends to climbers left and ascends the chimney and final friction face to the summit.

Exit 99 Pitch 1: (5.7-8) 140-190ft.
First Ascent Ron and Gerald Brunkhorst
Exit 99Exit 99
Climb the arête following 6 bolts to a chain anchor. The style lends itself to smearing and pocket climbing with little options for hands. The move from the ground to first bolt seemes to be the crux. There is a two bolt anchor on the lip above the arete, or continue approximately 50 feet for a gear anchor.
Protection: 6 bolts

S.E. Chimney Pitch 2: (5.7) 80ft.
View of Pitch 2Pitch 2
Step left from anchor below obvious chimney. Ascend a wide water groove to the right of the chimney. Protection through this section is not quite perfect but the climbing is fairly secure. Climbing directly in the chimney would require large gear and a great deal of scrumming. To avoid rope drag, belay on a nice block (on the right) ~80-100 feet up below where the chimney narrows.
Protection: To four inches
Matt and Fred Pitch 2Matt (climbing) and Fred (belaying) on Pitch 2.

Matt on Pitch 3Matt on Pitch 3
Pitch 3: (5.8) 80ft
From the belay step left and ascend increasing vertical chimney. Continue to stem wider and wider using the back of the chimney for protection until coming to a body sized pocket below a roof. Protection here is in the 3.5 Friend range. Pull the roof (excellent exposure) on a nice rounded horn and friction climb to a two bolt belay on a comfey ledge below the last pitch.Protection: to 3 inches
Belay Pitch 3Belay, Pitch 3

Start of Pitch 4Start of Pitch 4

Moving up to the second bolt.Moving to the second bolt. pitch 4, S.E. Chimney

Pitch 4Pitch 4, S.E. Chimney

Pitch 4: (5.8) 60 feet
Climb from the belay to the top of the block and clip a bolt. Down climb about 5 feet and swing out onto the face (crux, great exposure) using delicate hands (two finger nubbin) and feet(smear). Once on the face, friction climb past two more bolts to the rappel anchors. One can either descend or continue to the summit (~50-60ft 5.2) and retrace the route to the rap anchors.
Protection: 3 bolts

Essential Gear

Protection: Friends: #1.25-#3.5. Camalots: #3.5-#4, Metolius TCU's #2-3, a green and yellow Alien, the four smallest tri-cams and a set of WC Rocks.

Slings/Cord/Rope: A half dozen over the shoulder slings, two 36 inch slings, six alpine draws, a screamer, and a 60m rope.

Guide Books

Butte`s Climbing Guide, by Dwight Bishop 3rd edition First Ascent Press.

The Rock Climbers Guide to Montana, edited by Randall Green et al. Falcon Press Publishing, Helena, MT

Weather Information

In his climbing guide Dwight Bishop (R.I.P.) mentions that "any route to the summit requires a dose of mountaineering care" Get an early start, climb efficiently and keep an eye out for storms. The Wedge is the highest thing around for some distance. Don't get caught on top!
Current Weather and 7 day Forecast


Thanks are in order for Tims' wonderful pictures. Although not visible in any of the photos, he climbed every pitch, muled gear, drove, and took all of the pictures! Thanks are also in order to my two great climbing partners without whom the day would not have been possible. Thanks guys for another great day on the rock!



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