Hyalite Canyon Ice Climbing

November 29 - December 2

Loren came up with the idea of driving over to Montana for some early season ice over the Thanksgiving day weekend, and it didn't take long for Jens, Ben Manfredi and I to jump on the idea. Hyalite Canyon, outside of Bozeman was the destination.

We left Seattle reasonably early Friday morning, and cruised the 10.5 hour drive over to Bozeman, with Loren taking the whole shift. Jens was, however, able to convince the rest of us to stop at the World Famous 10,000 Silver Dollar Store. Here one could buy every sort of trinket and medieval weaponry that your heart desired. We left with a shot glass, some moccasins (no, not the rock shoes!) for the kids, and a set of throwing knifes (never know when those might come in handy).

Saturday __________________________________________________________________________

Packed and ready to go, the alarm woke us at 3:45 am. We ate an early morning breakfast at Perkins cooked up by an infamous Bozeman chef. When we arrived, our waitress notified him of our presence with, "Hey Critter! We've got a table!"

We arrived at the trail head around 5:45 am. It gets light around 7:30. Undaunted, We followed Jens up into the darkness, looking for the Genesis Area climbs. These start 15 minutes out of the parking lot, and the first cliff we found was Genesis I (WI 4-) and the Diversions (WI 4-5). The climbs here were really wet due to high water flow, and low(er) elevation, so we decided to head left and look for Genesis II and Upper Greensleves (WI 3+). After stumbling around in the woods, looking up and down small drainages, I finally spotted Greensleves. It was huge! Loren and I headed up to check it out, while Jens and Ben looked for Genesis II (WI 4-).

Loren starts up the first pitch of Upper Greensleves.

There were three independent lines here, with the left most being the longest and most popular. The first part was a huge rolly pitch of WI2 with a steeper step at the start. We opted to make our first pitch of the year a solo one.

Loren set in a belay on a tree and I lead the second pitch which was about 30m long.

Dave taking the lead on the last pitch of Greensleves. Photo by: Loren.

Ben leading the last pitch later in the day.

I climbed past a massive anchor at the top of the steep stuff to check out the ice above. It took a mighty grunty mantle to get up there, but the remaining ice was choked with 2" diameter branches, and was pretty low angled. I lowered off and Loren cleaned the pitch.

We walked back down and over to the far right climb of the drainage. It has a nice 20 ft WI3 step, and then more rambly ice to a final 25-30 ft section of very steep ice with a thin hooking finish. A very nice lead by Loren.

Loren placing a screw on the last steep section of Greensleves far right.

Jens and Ben showed up, having climbed Genesis II, and set off on Greensleves. Loren and I got a good laugh when Ben rhetorically asked him self on the solo up of the first pitch, "Should I be doing this??"

While they were climbing, I lead the middle Greensleves climb. A nice 60m WI2+ with steep moss and tree climbing at the top. We then hiked back down to the talus field, and then up through more steep sidehilling in the woods to the base of Genesis II.

Loren leads off on the soft hero ice of Genesis II's initial wall.

Genesis II is a great climb. It starts with a 40ft section of 70-75 degree ice, and then rolls up towards a final steep 20-40 ft step. We liked the climb so much that once we rapped off, I lead it too! However, on my lead I got us kicked out of the Mountaineers (for the 3rd time that day?) for running out almost the whole first section. It was just that fun.

Daylight was waning so we met up with Jens and Ben who were down toproping on The Diversions. The climb was in steep and technical WI5 shape, with unfortunately, not enough ice to hold a screw placement. Loren literally hiked up the thing, and we made it back to the car just as dusk fell. Ice season had officially begun!

Sunday __________________________________________________________________________

Again the alarm woke us at 3:45, again we ate the exact same breakfasts at Perkins, and again we headed out under headlamps. We had wanted to climb at the "Unnamed wall" today, but the entire wall was just wet rock. Instead we headed up the canyon to climb the classic 4 pitch climb, The Dribbles (WI 4). The approach was exactly as described on montanaice.com, and took exactly an hour.

The Dribbles. Jens and I's belays at red circles.

We were a little disappointed when we saw the climb. Even though it was huge and impressive, the middle "gully" pitch was half formed and spouting water. The long 3rd pitch was thin with holes as well. It was not in as good of shape as the pictures we'd seen, but still in plenty good condition to climb. We set off somewhat simultaneously, with Ben and I taking the first pitch.

Ben heads up the first steep curtain.

The ice was actually really nice and plastic, and the climbing was steep and enjoyable with good gear. Loren came up, and he decided to tackle the half-formed gully pitch. When Jens joined me at the belay with out his goretex shell, we decided to inspect other options!

The rock ramp off to the left of the 2nd pitch looked like it would go, so he went over and set in a belay. I lead the pitch and it turned out to be great fun, about M3. A tricky mantle started it out, then easy rock lead up to a thin layer of ice and snow. Near the top there was a little crux where I had to scrape my way up some edge-less slab to reach the ledge exiting back to the ice. Little cams and a #1 Bugaboo came in real handy.

As I arrived, Loren was just setting up to tackle the steep and slushy 3rd pitch. He was feeling nervous about the condition of the ice, but the sticks were good, and the pro was decent enough to push on.

Hmmm... Up up up?

Yes! Loren starts to cruise!

Damn stupid-arm! Loren finishes up the last steep bit of pitch 3.

The sun was approaching us fast, so when Ben followed he left the screws in for Jens to "pinkpoint" the ice lead. Had Jens not been wielding tools and crampons, I'd say he looked like he was hiking up a sport climb!

We joined Loren and Ben again while they were finishing the last short steep step to the top. There is a wide wall here with a 20 ft. step of WI2+, but Jens had his eye on a steep "boulder problem". He grabbed a screw or two, and lead up between two thin and vertical curtains. It was a very fun and delicate finish to the climb.

We rapped off the tree atop the climb, and then again from a pair of v-threads atop the 3rd pitch. This took us down into the blazing sun among a bunch of questionable ice. The next rap was going to be steep, possibly free-hanging, and we didn't want to trust a v-thread in this ice. Luckily, Ben spotted a tree a ways down and to the left. Sure enough, another rap station. And what a rap it set us up for!

Jens popping over the lip of the roof. Yes, you do have to rapp right through that tree.

It was blazing hot in the sun back at the packs. Somewhere in the range of 40-45 degrees! We had read about a supposedly shaded climb, Silken Skein (WI 3), which was just around the corner. A 5 minute walk up canyon brought us to the base. The first pitch was in the sun, but we decided to check it out anyhow. So, Loren and I kicked back on our beach towels and worked on our tans as Jens and Ben lead up some slushie.

Jens and Ben start up the first pitch.

Ben and Jens spent some time working the pro in at the base of the steep section, but eventually (with some 3-point anchors) they cruised on up. When I followed, I would basically get a facefull of slush with each swing. But the sticks were solid, and the steps I kicked were huge...

Loren continued to work on his tan by climbing shirtless. Little did he know, he would soon be "freezing his nipples off!!!"

Loren takes the lead on the second pitch of Silken Skein.

Dave and Loren leading at the same time on this nice pitch.
Jacket?!? Wuss! Photo by: Jens

The second part was a sweet pitch tucked behind a rib from the sun. Solid and fat ice lead up to a flat belay ledge on top. Jens was nice enough to loan me his tools which are equipped with BD Android leashes. These leashes are the best thing since sliced bread in ice climbing! I was amazed at how they made getting "in and out" of the leash a total non-issue.

Getting off the top was a bit of an ordeal. If we had it to do over again, we would have v-threaded off from the top of the second pitch. However, the guide book says to exit the gully and go right to a tree rappell. We found an ancient sling around a tree that Loren could push over literally with his hand. We added a sling to a live tree nearby, and rapped off towards a clump of trees below. We found another old tattered sling, and in the fading light Loren rapped off to see if the ropes would reach. With some stretch, the double 60m's just touched down to non-technical ground at the base of the climb.

Monday __________________________________________________________________________

We all needed to be home Tuesday, but that wasn't going to stop us from climbing at least half a day on Monday! So, 3:45 am it was!

Ben and I decided to check out the classic Twin Falls (WI 2-4) while Loren and Jens went to check out The Scepter (WI 5) and the Mummies (WI 2-4-) climbs. Ben and I set off hiking and quickly found the trail heading off towards Twin falls. After crossing the creek though, we followed the tracks back downhill towards the parkinglot. Once we saw the base of Mummies I, we knew we were off course, so we just headed up. Eventually we picked up "the highway" of bootprints again, and arrived at the base of the climbs in an hour and a half from the car.

Ben and Twin Falls Right.

Ben takes the lead up the steepest line on the right hand falls.

Ben lead the right falls in one long 60m pitch while I shivered in the shaded gully. The ice here was much colder and brittler than on the other side of the valley where we had done all of our climbs so far. Still, with the challenging conditions, Ben lead in great style.

We still had time for another climb, so we racked up below Twin Falls Left. As Ben walked back to grab something from his pack, he hooked his crampon on a screamer hanging off his harness and did a total no-hands face plant into the snow. We really began to chuckle when he noticed the edge of a 50 ft cliff about 8 feet away. I lead a nice 60m pitch up a slightly direct line at about WI 3+. Awesome!

Twin Falls Left.

After packing up, we zoomed back to the car in 45 minutes, just beating Loren and Jens by about 3 minutes. We all had a great time, climbed a ton of ice, and met some new friends. Sweet!

Need more? Check out Loren's Report.

[Return to Home Page]