S.W. Face A.K.A. "The Old Aid Line"

S.W. Face A.K.A. "The Old Aid Line"

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: 5
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 moves 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 to the base of the Butterknife on the S.W. Face proper.

Route Description

S.W. Face a.k.a. “The Old Aid Line” First Ascent: Jim Kanzler and Bill Antonioli, 1968.
S.W. Face A.K.A.  The Old Aid Line The S.W. Face Route. Image supplied by gato For an uncluttered view see Here

Pitch 1 (5.7):
This pitch is actually the first pitch of The Butter Knife (5.8), and serves as a common pitch to both The Mutt and Jeff (5.8+) and S.W. Face. Begin on a slab of granite called the butter knife. Climb with good gear to the top of the butter knife, step up and left with good holds to a featured face with no pro, but solid feet and hands. Climb to a horizontal crack with a bolt and small roof above. Smear to the roof and pull the roof on right side, careful of the loose block you grab before pulling the roof. Continue up crack until coming to a featured (big horns) face. Either climb higher and place a piece of protection (large stopper or medium cam) and then downclimb or sling the horns. Traverse left ~20 feet using the horns for your hands until reaching a wide crack. Climb up ~20 feet to the belay notch. Belay here is a slung chockstone and an old ¼ inch bolt. 160’.

Pitch 2 (5.8):
Climb up and right in a nice crack with good gear until reaching the first of three small roofs. Pass each roof (great pro) on the right with nice options for holds. After passing the third roof (awesome!) continue up the crack a short distance. You will see several ¼ inch bolts above leading into the chimney along the right side of the Cyclops Eye. Once you see the old ¼ inch bolts, look left for a nice little ledge with a two bolt belay. 150'. Longer slings, a #3.5 and #4 Camalot are useful on this pitch.

Pitch 3 (5.8R):
Step up and right from the belay and get a couple solid pieces of gear below the rusty ¼ inch bolts. Smear up to old ¼ inch bolts (2) around the eye of the cyclops, and into long vertical chimney (~80 feet) with little to no protection. A #0.75 Camalot placement above the bolts and just before entering the chimney provides a bit of relief. About mid way up the chimney a horizontal crack is encountered taking TCU’s, tri-cams or #2 Camalot (farther in to the left). Get solid gear here! As the climber continues, the chimney becomes steadily narrower. At the top of the chimney (protection available here) step right onto friction face and follow a beautiful steep hand crack with good jams, lie-backs, and protection. Near the top of the crack step back left onto a decent friction face and up to a small block in a corner for the belay. Belay here is small gear. 160’; Sustained 5.8 climbing with run outs through the crux chimney.

Pitch 4 (5.7):
Follow the wide crack up and right of blocks until intersecting the summit ridge. The climbing becomes easier as the climber approaches the summit ridge. 70’
N.B. You can combine pitches 4 and 5 if you can put up with the rope drag

Pitch 5 (5.4):
Follow the ridge to the top (little to no pro) Easy climbing with solid holds and smears.

The standard descent follows the ridge to the east with a tricky down climb to the rappel anchors. A belay is a nice idea for the down climb. A single 60m rope will take you down (the north side of The Wedge) into an open book. A small section (40 feet) of 5.2 down climbing gets you on terra firma and back to your packs.

Essential Gear

Protection: Camalots #0.5-#4, Metolius TCU's #1-3, 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, four alpine draws, a screamer, two 12 inch draws, and a 60m rope.

N.B. The guide books mention that a 50m rope works for the belays and rappels.

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

Personal Note

Although I never met Dwight Bishop, I spoke with him once about the wonderful climbing around Butte. Sadly Dwight is no longer with us but his stewardship and presence is prevalent around the Butte climbing areas. The next time you are climbing in and around the Butte area remember Dwight. Hoist the drink of your choosing, "Here's to you Dwight!".



Parents refers to a larger category under which an object falls. For example, theAconcagua mountain page has the 'Aconcagua Group' and the 'Seven Summits' asparents and is a parent itself to many routes, photos, and Trip Reports.

The WedgeRoutes