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A climbing gym presents an aesthetic challenge: How do you decorate a half-acre of wall space?

“We had an idea of having something to make the walls a little less white,” said Claudine Tobalske, chairwoman of the Western Montana Climbers Coalition. “We decided to open a photo contest, with scenes of western Montana representing the current climbing scene.”

Many of the coalition’s several hundred members connect through the Freestone Climbing Gym. Tobalske put that variety to work, seeking out images that represented the pastime that defined their free time.

“It’s not just grizzled old guys doing stuff in the boonies anymore,” Tobalske said. “We wanted the exhibit to reflect all ages, women and children having fun outside. We wanted to show bouldering and traditional climbing and sport climbing and ice climbing.”

The first results, which went on display at the Jan. 5 First Friday art exposition, include 27 photographs. Tobalske said more will be added through future contests. There’s plenty of wall space to fill.


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Natural Resources & Environment Reporter

Natural Resources Reporter for The Missoulian.