Garden Creek Gap is the defile Garden Creek cuts through as it flows toward Marsh Creek on the east side of the Bannock Range after draining a sizable chunk of territory on the west side of those mountains. Climbing nerd type people may have noticed it off to the west while traveling I-15 south of Pocatello. In the gap the stream has cut into a resistant layer of quartzite and thus exposed some rock climbing. If you do not rock climb but like to scramble, this has the best class 3, 3+ and 4 scrambling near Pocatello.
My first visits to the place were nearly a decade ago but I had known it was there and looked over to it while travelling since I was a little kid. My brothers went out there scrambling a few times so I went and clambored around once, gaining the top of the south side via some class 3. Our family quickly purchased both Lopez guides when they came out and we then learned that technical climbing did take place out there. Since that first visit I took up climbing and have for years been keeping my eyes and ears open for any additional beta about the place. Once I went out and found a place to trad top-rope. Recently I searched everywhere that I knew of for specific beta and found nothing that could help me reach a known climb.
Recently I went out again and searched the area for sign of climbing now that my eyes are somewhat more trained as to what that looks like. I found several routes and the potential for many more. I have decided to post what I found because I would and do appreciate similar efforts for other areas I have been. A few other climbers would clean some of the routes that are now a bit dirty. I do not ice climb and know nothing about the routes that I have heard and read exist.
From the Arimo exit head west to the unmistakable gap.
None; although I have no idea what the policy is for placing bolts, as I've never done that before. Someone or some people are developing sport routes out there.
Since a county road goes down the bottem of the gap, be careful with the rocks on loose routes or approaches. There is not very much parking in the gap. Try to stay out of the road--there are many blind corners.
On the east side of the gorge is private farmlands. On the west side is still more rural farmland and rangeland where places to camp can be found. Some of the landowners who hold land between the road and the forest service lands higher up do not welcome visitors. Hawkins Resevoir, to the south has a place I camped a long time ago, but I do not remember if it was free or very developed.
This website has more information about Garden Creek Gap than anywhere else I know of though "Idaho A Climbing Guide" by Tom Lopez also mentions it.
North Side Climbs
The first large ridge/buttress on the right (north) side heading upcanyon has a number of good climbs. I'll number the climbs so when I add pictures the captions will be easier.
1) On the lower part of this first ridge it splits into two aretes with an appealing looking dihedral and large crack running down the middle. At the top of this dihedral is a large block/roof. Above this block is a belay place where I found old webbing and rope wrapped around a large chockstone. The dihedral offers about 100 feet of well protected trad climbing with the crux feeling like 5.7. I've never had the opportunity to rate a climb, though somebody else surely must have tried this line. Bring large gear for this route
2) Starting from the same place you can climb the wall on the right side of the dihedral up past nice sloping cracks to the arete crest, where the climbing gets easy but the protection gets harder. I top-roped this climb. The bottem is nicer than 1 and felt like 5.8+ or 5.9
3) Following the base of the buttress to the west you reach a bolt line that faces southwest and heads up the tallest part of the buttress before it becomes more broken. This climb is 5.5 to 5.6 except for one harder move around a roof that is 5.8 or 5.9. It is a well protected 10 bolt route that tops out at some slightly rusty but probably still very burly chains. Slightly above, behind, and left are some very new bolts that can also be used as a top anchor. The top can be reached by scrambling off to the left of where the climb goes.
4) At the bottem of the scramble to #3's top is the base of another sport climb. This climb faces south and is positioned just right of a deep ugly looking chimney. It has four bolts to some shiny new chains. This climb has really good rock and is respectably hard (for me at least). I would say it is in the 5.10s with a hard clip on the fourth bolt.
Further west is another nice crag that has a slightly overhanging jam crack that I did not try. A scramble to the west side of number four accesses a single bolt that might be used to top rope the crack. There are many opportunities to back it up with trad gear. Above this bolt and the top of the crack an appealing arete goes on higher and with an involved class four scramble you can reach the top. This, too, can be trad top roped.
Maybe 75 yards west of all these routes is a small square south facing block with some good rock, horizontal cracks, and some overhang. I plan to try trad top roping this feature sometime.
Heading upcanyon on the road from this area you will pass a number of other aretes that must have some climbing. I found some slings in one gully that I reached via some class 4. One face perhaps 400-600 yards upcanyon on the right is a great top roping wall that is protected by slinging a huge boulder. It could offer some good moderate sport climbs.
Some of the north side of garden creek gap trad route (#1) on the north side of Garden Creek Gap
South side climbs
Two major gullies cut the north face of Garden Creek Gap underneath the highest point. The easternmost gully slants as it exploits a weakness in the strata of the face. In between the two gullies is a subsidiary point that juts out from the main face. The north side of this point has the biggest, steepest looking wall in the whole gap. This is the area that I first noticed and explored. There are some overhangs and many steep cracks and I suspect this is where the best multipitch climbs might be located. I recently climbed a handcrack at the top of a distinct ramp. Halfway up this crack I moved right and followed different cracks up to a two bolt anchor with slings. The climb had good protection and mostly nice cracks. One 60 meter rope can be used to rappel (and top rope) from here.
I found two sport climbs and one or two bolts that appeared lost on other routes. Further west and lower on the ramp is bolt line with 7+ bolts up an appealing steep face. On a recent try I couldn't manage a move at the second bolt and thus made at least the second use of steel bail biner. On an east facing slab at the west end of the bigger north facing main wall are some chains with four bolts leading up to them. This climb turned out to fell similar to the CMC face of Moran. I would rate it 5.6. Above this climb you can scramble (class 4) to the top anchors of the 7 bolt climb. Two other places on this face have an isolated fixed anchor apiece but I don't have much else to say about them until I make further visits.
Some of the south side of garden creek gap