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Ice and Access in the Hyalite Canyon


The Hyalite Canyon moderate classic, The Mummy II (WI3+) during teaching sessions at the festival. [Photo] Courtesty of Chris Hamilton

Home to all-time classics like Cleopatra's Needle, Black Magic, Mummy Cooler, Winter Dance—one of the top ten routes in the world (yes, I said world)—and over 140 additional routes in a mere two-and-a-half square miles, Hyalite ice climbing is unique.

Cody's South Fork might have more vertical, but it's spread out and inconsistent, with scrappy approaches. Ouray has way more concentrated ice than anywhere else, but most of it is in the ice park, the climbing equivalent of farm-raised salmon (and about as overcrowded). North Conway has killer ice—when it's not raining. Of course the Canadian Rockies, both the Mecca and Medina of the frozen world, has over ten times the number of routes Hyalite has, and all of them longer—but over an area roughly the size of Maryland. I've been to them all. So cut it any way you like; declare yourself a hero because you prefer long alpine or "M-whatever" mixed climbs; stir in whatever hyperbole you favor and pass the single malt... Hyalite is the most concentrated, easily accessible and consistent natural ice climbing venue in North America. And I'm not the only widely-traveled climber to say it's also my favorite.


Obviously this is a scant overview, if not a dramatic re-telling of the events. But the battle to protect Hyalite access is not yet over. We are all volunteers trying to keep the rest of our lives above water, and there remains much more to do. We need your continued help and support.

Visit for more detailed information and the plan for future action steps.

Hyalite Canyon Access Issues

After lengthy discussion, both climbing and skiing advocacy groups reached an agreement with the Forest Service that preserves certain access provisions to Hyalite Canyon. The coalition of various climbing groups involved has made the following statement regarding the current rules.

"In a nutshell, we've all agreed that it's going to take a few seasons of effort, and some degree of trial and error, to sort through the various issues and strategies of implementation. Furthermore, it is agreed that it is easier to start with broad, gradual ideas, see what works, see what doesn't and then whittle it down; rather than major restrictive changes put in place right away (it's always easier to take things away than it is to add them later)... the acting Forest Supervisor Tom Puchlerz has unilaterally decided to more or less maintain the status quo for the Hyalite Road for the 2007-08 winter season. Please keep in mind, the status quo refers to the road only. All other aspects of the travel plan will be implemented. That is, no snowmobiles off the road, across the reservoir or beyond the Grotto Falls or Emerald Lake Trailheads."

What this means for ice climbers and other user groups is still to be determined fully. During the 2007-2008 season, access will be allowed via automobile as it has been in the past. Future seasons' access remains in jeopardy and is contingent upon the completion of various components of the plans and agreements reached by all involved. Steps include lobbying for and raising highway funding to improve the road into the canyon, which will allay safety concerns on all sides, as well as the construction of separate skiing and snowmobiling trails on differing sides of the reservoir. This construction likely will reduce some of the tensions between various user groups.

The Southwest Montana Climbers Coalition and the Access Fund are the two primary organizations fighting to maintain climbers' access to Hyalite Canyon. A summary of their efforts, containing more detailed information on this topic, as well as what you can do to help, can be found on the First Ascent Press website.

The 2007 Bozeman Ice Festival

Alpinist Magazine is proud to announce its sponsorship of the annual Arc'Teryx Bozeman Ice Festival, November 29 through December 2, 2007. All proceeds from the festival go toward saving access to this unique and special ice climbing gem.

Along with a full slate of ice climbing clinics—including the very popular "Women's-Only Day" featuring Kitty Calhoun—slide shows, demos of the latest ice gear, tons of prizes, hanging with some of the best ice climbers on the planet, and the now-legendary wrap party on Sunday, this year's festival includes very special headliner Guy Lacelle.

Over the last twenty-five years, Guy has climbed an astonishing amount of water ice. 2007 marks his Montana debut—the only major ice venue in the world he has yet to visit. Guy will be presenting a slide show on his favorite 100 ice climbs.

This year the festival will be launching a unique, new twist with the inaugural Grivel North America Hyalite Ice Breaker on Saturday, December 1. The Ice Breaker is an ice climbing competition organized so climbers of any ability and experience (as long as you can lead climb) can be competitive. Check out the festival website for more details.

Space is limited, so reserve your spot and learn more about the details of the festival at

[Photo] Courtesty of Chris Hamilton

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