Save East Rosebud

Overlooking East Rosebud Lake from the main trail. A true mountain paradise. Photo by Alton Richardson

Although it had taken about 30 minutes of intricate bush whacking following what really wanted to be a trail, the small 50m dome we were climbing on was still considered to be “road side” for this area of Montana’s Beartooth Mountains. You could in fact still see the car; when it wasn’t raining, or sleeting, or groppling, or hailing, or snowing or some combination thereof. In fact if you don’t like the weather here, wait 5 minutes and it will likely be sunny. 5 more, snowing again. We were in a ping pong ball of wind and everything wet that could fall from the sky, trying to rappel off the top the dome, now with with small cascades running down the face. 

All at once, the wind pulled back the curtain of white, giving us a glimpse of East Rosebud Lake, just a few miles up valley, surrounded by dozens of tiny cabins, most of which have been passed down through the generations of each different family. Above that lay some of the gnarliest alpine terrain I’ve personally laid eyes on. There were still large formations of potentially climbable ice high on the valley rim, even in May. Not to mention the awe inducing First Wall or more commonly known as the “Bear’s Foot.” (Alex Lowe only got one pitch off the ground on this formations.) Down the valley lay the East Rosebud campground, with no services and only requiring fee’s from Memorial Day - Labor Day, this is a PRIME campground that most locals would rather you not know about and would immediately go directly to the top of any avid campers list. We eventually made it back down, leaving our now stuck ropes for later and scurried back to the cabin to resume drinking and watching the “Alpine TV” off the front porch.

Fading light on the Bear’s Foot, an unclimbed big wall deep in East Rosebud. Photo by Alton Richardson

The East Rosebud area is absolutely pristine, heralded as one of the most beautiful valley’s in the Beartooth Mountains and appearing as if it was transplanted directly from the high alps. With it’s small but breathtaking network of trails, mostly intentially un-documented rock climbing, a plethora of truly wild animals and fly fishing that I can only assume is completely off the charts, it only takes about one minute after stepping out of the car to realize how important and how natural this land is. To think that there is real potential for this land to be fracked is scary. It’s already occurred nearby in the Red Lodge area, against the plea of many of the local landowners. After drilling began there, local famers and members of the community filed a complaint against the drilling company for allegedly stealing their water. 

The road leading to East Rosebud lake is long, dotted with farms and pasture. The snow melt up high feeds the mile long lake, which flows down the valley, bringing water and life to these farms. Further down, the river eventually splits where it flows into dozens of lower elevation lakes and water ways in South Western Montana and eventually into the Yellowstone River. A quick look at a map and one can only imagine the impact that a contaminated East Rosebud Creek would have. 

Alton Richardson begins following an unknown route on Double Book Dome, in the rain. Photo by Karissa Frye

Alton Richardson begins following an unknown route on Double Book Dome, in the rain. Photo by Karissa Frye

Formed by the local community, Friends of East Rosebud is a small organization aiming to protect East Rosebud under the “East Rosebud Wild & Scenic Rivers Act.” What would this do? It would permanently protect East Rosebud from drilling and daming operations and ensure the area’s economic success, which is largely dependent on agriculture and tourism. The East Rosebud Wild & Scenic River’s Act passed unanimously in the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in July of this year. Now, the group is attempting to get the act added to a larger bill for full senate vote this fall. The chances of this being successful would significantly increase if it were to pass the Committee on the House side first, however the chairman of the house hasn’t included the act on the agenda yet. Pressure from Congressman to do so is needed. 

Alton Richardson pulls into the steep hands crux on The Ramp (5.8, 5 pitches), one of the few “documented” routes in the area. Photo by Julie Ellison

Two members from Friends of East Rosebud have traveled to Washington D.C. to meet with congressman from different states to argue for the “East Rosebud Wild & Scenic River’s Act.” However, as is common in these situations, strength in numbers is needed. By following the links below to their webpage, you can sign the petition to designate the area as “Wild & Scenic as well as find information on how to contact your local congressman and help argue for the act. They have made it easy by providing a list of the members of the House Committee on Natural Resources as well as drafting a sample letter that you can copy & paste and send out. We ask for you help with this on September 7th. However, continuing through the remainder of the week is only going to help. 

Help this community survive. Help keep this land free of visible industrialization and help make the East Rosebud an official “Wild & Scenic” place. And then when you’re ready, find it on a map and go there. Camp, hike, climb, skinny dip in the lake. Because other then electricity, fiber glass canoe’s and modern climbing gear, this place hasn’t changed in over 100 years and it deserves to stay that way. 

Viva la East Rosebud! Power on Compadre! 

Friends of East Rosebud:

For more about East Rosebud climbing:


Ben Hoiness and Alton Richardson explore some boulders off the East Rosebud Lake trail. Photo by Karissa Frye


Ben Hoiness onsights an unknown bolted route on Double Book Dome. Photo by Julie Ellison