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Bozeman Ice Festival: Accounts from the Players


A Weekend in Bozeman

By John Irvine, British Columbia, Arc'Teryx

After a wintry and cold Thursday, Ice Breaker teams were literally running back to the parking lot with that stoked gleam in their eyes. JoJo was there to greet them with a trunk full of beer. A unique brother and sisterhood developed along with plenty of PBR (when in Bozeman, drink as the Bozemanites) that inspired multiple high fives, big hugs, stories from the day and a parking lot party the climbers did not want to end. Not long after the last climbers collected at the tailgate of JoJo's car, the sun escaped, and everyone headed back to town exhausted and dehydrated but psyched.

A full house for Guy Lacelle's slideshow. He can be seen in gray, in the right foreground. [Photo] John Irvine

Thursday night's gathering at the Baxter Hotel lured eager women, keen to try out the latest in demo gear. All were preparing for the next day's women's clinic. Gear and beer flowed as other climbers flooded to see the opening slide show of the festival with legendary mountaineer Kitty Calhoun, who, for her prowess on some of the hardest alpine and ice ascents in the world, has been in the spotlights of the climbing community for decades. Her slide show chronicled the ambitions of her past days along with her alarm at the effect of global warming on climbers' playgrounds, where ice melting from the famous steeples of the world, perpetually changing the vertical landscapes of past climbers' delight. Some ascents will never be done again as a result of these irreversible changes.

Dozens of women gathered Friday morning for what has become the largest women's ice climbing clinic in North America. Bozeman's best mountain guides (headed by Mike Cooperstein and Amy Bullard of Montana Alpine Guides), and celebrated athletes like Jen Olson, Sarah Hueniken, Shelly Huisman, Kitty Calhoun, Brittany Griffith, and Zoe Hart were on hand to share their experience with women from Bozeman and abroad. Climbers retreated after a very productive day to the parking lot, where hot chocolate with peppermint Schnapps, and homegrown elk sausage, cheese and crackers were passed on thanks to Arc'Teryx's Rick Alexander.


Back to the Baxter, where the crowds filled in to experience ice through the eyes of one of the world's most prolific ice climbers, Guy Lacelle. Guy's presence on the climbers' scene over the years is likened of a peaceful monk's quest for enlightenment. He is quiet and confident, and his multimedia slide show speaks of discovery and adventure as he has traveled the world in search of the most fantastic water ice on earth. A narrative of Guy's travels to China, Norway, France, Italy, Iceland, the US and Canada were chronicled as he portrayed his respected opinions on his favorite ascents worldwide. In over twelve years of Bozeman Ice Festival history, the turnout for Guy was the biggest ever.

Clinics on Genesis 1, a wall featuring a range of climbs of different difficulty levels, perfect for instruction. [Photo] Erik Lambert

The parking lot was full on Saturday and Sunday mornings, with nary a spot for putting on your crampons. The likes of Sean Isaac, Guy Lacelle, Zoe Hart, Stephen Koch, Dean Lords, Kris Erickson, Whit Magro, Amy Bullard, Jack Tackle, Jack Roberts and many other local hard men and women were on hand to relay the ins and outs of water ice and mixed climbing to dedicated clinic participants. Pre-teen to septuagenarian, experienced to debutant—there were dozens eager to absorb climbing knowledge. One of the signatures of the Bozeman event has long been the more intimate nature of the entire event, where participants get plenty of one-on-one time with athletes, guides and reps while on the ice and over beers back in town. This year was no exception.

Chris Alstrin was in Bozeman to show his wonderful film Higher Ground on Saturday night. The Baxter was packed to see this film that has received acclaim at film festivals wide-reaching. The film reads like a book, with chapters on the world's best climber's and mountaineers as they dash up ascents in the Canadian Rockies, Colorado, Utah, and Coastal British Columbia.

Special thanks really need to go out to Greg Caracciolo of Northern Lights Trading Company, Chris Naumann of Barrel Mountaineering, Mike Cooperstein of Montana Alpine Guides and, last but not least, Joe Josephson of First Ascent Press. These guys were the heart and soul of the festival and clearly love ice and mixed climbing and sharing it with others. They delivered an incredible spectacle that delivered insights, inspirations and a passion for this upward, wintry pursuit.

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Hey! Are you the Brian Prax from MN who attended CSS?!? If so, e-mail me (Carie) back at

2008-06-04 14:54:33
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