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Cliff Notes

Locals’ Secrets: [Re]making Idaho’s Best Sport Climbs

Riggins is a theater of eccentric and colorful personalities, and a backwater Northwestern sport-climbing destination known for its rather controversial routes.

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Mike Bockino was sleeping in his car at the Riggins camping area when the Sasquatch ripped open the door. Sightings of the mythic man-beast are common in this neck of the woods. Bockino screamed for his life until he realized he wasn’t being eaten or mauled … just dry-humped.

The Sasquatch was actually Brian “Ray” Raymon, a climber from Spokane, saying hi.

“He gets his ideas for jokes from his job as a public defender,” Bockino says, reflecting on the traumatic incident. “Thank god for the high-loft down between us.”

Riggins is a theater of eccentric and colorful personalities, and a backwater Northwestern sport-climbing destination known for its rather controversial routes.

Three and a half hours north of Boise, Idaho, and hidden within the sub-alpine forests of the Seven Devil Mountains, the Riggins crag is eight miles from the sleepy river town of the same name. Perhaps its remote location allowed Riggins to quietly become one of the more heavily manufactured areas in America.

Riggins rock, a type of limestone called accreted terrane, is fine, pale and steep. There are over 100 routes, ranging from 5.8 to 5.14, on two walls: the overhanging Amphitheater (aka the Cave) and the more moderate Projects Wall just up the road. The rock here once comprised a reef out in the Pacific Ocean, which eventually moved along the Pacific Plate and collided with North America. Now situated at 5,000 feet, the area is the go-to sport crag for southern Idaho in the summer.

In the early 1990s, frustrated with the 100+ degree seasonal temps in Boise, a motivated group of climbers, led by local Jeff Landers, scoured the city’s surrounding hills, hoping to find something steep and shady.

“You couldn’t just look on Google Earth like you young guys do now for boulder fields,” Landers explains. “We got a tip from a caver at IMT [Idaho Mountain Touring, a gear shop] in Boise and had to hike all over the place looking for this. I even took a geology class at BSU [Boise State University] to learn more about it.”

Bushwhacking up a drainage in the spring of 1991 Landers came upon this overhanging amphitheater of virgin stone. Development continued all year, with Landers, Mark Edmundson, Tedd Thompson and Matt Fritz contributing most.

Now, 20 years later, the locals have installed some 30 routes in the Cave, and 70 more at the upper Projects. From warm-ups like Shiver Me Timbers (5.11a) to testpieces like The Maddening (5.14b)—one of the few natural routes in the cave—there is a quality climb at practically every grade from 5.11 to 5.14. A vast majority of the routes, however, have drilled or manufactured holds of some sort.