Scale the Rims

Exploring Billings' Trademark Landmark

Anyone who's been to Billings, Montana, and especially come back to Billings knows how awesome the Rims are. Big, imposing cliffs, 50 to 100 feet high, running the entire length of the Magic City. Sure, Sacrifice Cliffs are a bit higher, but they just don't have the power of running naturally unbroken from MetraPark at 10th St. North to the Yellowstone Country Club and Mormon Temple, over 70 blocks of natural sandstone cliff, broken only twice for 27th and Zimmerman Trail.

 At first sight, they look impenetrable: there may be some teens and college kids hanging out up by the checkered lollipop, but they clearly drove up Zimmerman Trail and parked there. Then you look closer, and see some Boy Scouts rappelling above the MSU practice field. "Alright, they're using ropes" you say to yourself. Curious, you drive up to Black Otter Park, and sure enough there are some stairs carved into the side of the rims where they were rappelling off.

Then you look a little closer still. There, above Rocky Mountain College, you see a tiny figure perched off the rims, holding on with one hand 50 feet above the ground. "Oh no! He's going to fall!" you gasp- and then he does! But you didn't notice the ledge just below him, and in a flash he's out of sight. From below down on Rimrock you can't tell that he's climbing down between a couple cracks in that seemingly impennetrable cliff face. You watch, curious, for a few more moments, and then you see him calmly walk out into sight. He heads off on the base of the rims to the west, head looking up.

If you were to come up to that man, you'd run into me: David Souther, CS major at Rocky Mountain College and avid outdoorsman. Gas prices this summer are ridiculously high, so I try to save my gas for going on excursions that really count- like Bozeman and the Bridgers. Most days, I stay in Billings exploring that awesome facade gracing my town: the Rims. As I was climbing one day, I was thinking It would be a fun project to document all the ascents along the Rims- location, technique, etc. Thus, was conceived.

I was also thinking about this XKCD strip about Geohashing. Geohashing is a great idea- every morning generate a random set of coordinates that won't change once it's been decided, and have everyone meet there on Saturday at 4:00 PM. That works great for large cities like Boston, Denver, San Fransisco, or Seattle, but not so well for Montana. In fact, 50% of the Billings graticule will put you in the Pryor mountains. Geohashing is a great idea, but it needs some tweaking for rural communities, so I got the idea to constrain it a little- rather than choose some place in the graticule, simply choose someplace along the Rims. Still have a 4:00 meetup on Saturdays :) The first meetup will be on the 4th of July-  I'll be due north of Stewart Park watching the fireworks. Feel free to join me.

-David Souther, 27 June 2008

What's Here:


The geohash is an modification of XKCD's geohashing to come up with a location on the rims. The first part is the same- take the date and the Dow opening for the most recent day and MD5 hash it. The second part is actually simpler- map the range of MD5 values from 0 to 3.402823669209385e+38 onto the range of the latitude of the rims- roughly -108.4815 to -108.6515 degrees west longitude. The rims run roughly due east-west at about 45.8015 degres north latitude.

What's Coming:

  • Pictures
  • Route Notebook