The end of an era: Saying goodbye to Spire’s boulder

Over the past few days, Spire Climbing Center was noisier than usual. Not from an increase in climbers, but from the deconstruction of the beloved boulder in the north side of the gym. This large boulder had been at the gym since 2004. Made of concrete plaster, the boulder had numerous features that aren’t typically seen on boulders in climbing gyms. There were a couple of finger cracks, as well as an overhanging hand crack that would spit off even the best of climbers. It seemed to be a permanent feature of Spire, with trad-climbing wannabes attempting the large overhanging crack, or staring in awe at those who could climb it.

Personally, the loss of this boulder brings on a wave of nostalgia. My first time climbing there was in fifth grade and I looked on in amazement as climbers scaled the overhangs. I would try, with no success, to get off the ground. My friend, Isaac, had managed to get off the ground doing a sit start on the large holds. The entire Montana Outdoor Science School class cheered him on as he climbed it. I thought it was a feat of superhuman strength.

As I got older and began to actually climb—not just visit Spire on the occasional field trip—the boulder became less and less of an attraction. People were more focused on climbing the routes in the bouldering room, only here and there did people start to play on it when everything else was busy. Yet still, I would see someone attempt that overhanging crack. And always, someone would get spit off of it, looking up with confusion and wondering how something like this could be climbed.

Spire expanded in 2015, coming to what is now 18,000 square feet of climbable surface area (minus 220 square feet once the boulder is removed). With more options in the new expansion, the boulder was barely used. It was around this time that I was finally able to climb the notorious crack that rejected climbers of all abilities. Starting at the base, the first hand jam felt like an old friend and I floated up, smiling with the change from my first attempts at climbing the crack. After that, like everyone else, I tended to avoid the boulder, focusing on climbing elsewhere in the gym. It started to get in the way and deteriorate. For the employees at work, it created a blind spot, making it harder to check on groups in the north side of the gym. The t-nuts—which keep the climbing holds on the boulder—were all stripped bare. The plaster siding was excessively chipped. The boulder that had been there for what seemed like forever, needed to go.

So now, twelve years after becoming a part of Spire Climbing Center, the boulder is being torn down. It feels like saying goodbye to an old friend, with an understanding that you’ll never get to see or interact with them again. For many who climb, that boulder was an important and influential part of their climbing career through the years. Yet, times change and life moves on to new endeavors. Accepting that change is just part of life. However, for the Bozeman climbing community, that boulder will always be stay in our hearts.

Goodbye, old friend.