Ice Climbing in Bozeman
The summit is what drives us, but the climb itself is what matters
~ Conrad Anker
To Bozeman we go!
For our 2017 annual climbing trip, Haley and I decided on going ice climbing in Ouray, Colorado! We planned on meeting up and climbing with our friends Katherine and Mitch who live close to Ouray. We were planning on getting there around December 22nd and staying all the way to new years! However, the unseasonably dry and warm conditions in Southwest Colorado changed all our plans.
Our friends Gergo, Joei, Sam and Alex had recently returned from a trip to Bozeman, Montana and had highly recommended, a trip out there. The ice season in Bozeman starts early and the ice was in wonderful condition in the 2017-2018 season. Most of the ice climbing in Bozeman is in the world famous Hyalite Canyon, located 45 miles south of downtown, Bozeman. There are over 150 ice routes in less than 3 square miles making Hyalite Canyon the most concentrated, natural ice climbing venue in North America. Hyalite is famous around the world for classic lines such as Cleopatra’s Needle (WI5), Mummy Cooler (WI4 ) and Winter Dance (WI5-6 M8) but has ice routes of all grades and difficulties. After learning about the great conditions and based on the climbing history and lore that Bozeman based climbers like Conrad Anker, Alex Lowe, and Joe Josephson have forged, we decided to go to Bozeman.
A day in Hyalite Canyon
When planning the trip, Haley suggested we fly but I thought a road-trip would be more fun and proposed we drive. San Diego, California to Bozeman, Montana is a distance of around 1,200 miles, a drive that stretches through seven states and can take about 19-20 hours. A good way to express this great a distance is that while San Diego is around 20 mins from the Mexican border, Bozeman is just a few hours from the Canadian border! Regardless of the distance, our drive turned out to be a memorable one. We listened to our favorite music, podcasts and talked about several important and not so important things. We ate some of the best vegan food, at Zest Kitchen & Bar in Salt Lake City, Utah and drove right through a blizzard in Beaver, Utah. I ended my long drive in Bozeman by grabbing a few drinks with a friend and well-known rock and ice, crusher Jon and his wife Liz .
The drive from San Diego, California to Bozeman, Montana is only 1,156 miles a driving time of 18:42 minutes
Welcome to Bozeman, Montana
All the right gear for the trip!
Climbing with Matt and Natalie
While Haley wanted to take a rest day, I was ready to get out and climb! I met up with AAC Montana Section Chair, Matt. Matt is truly a man of many talents! He is a logistics coordinator, an owner/operator of trucking company, a guide, AAC Montana Section Chair, Bozeman Ice Festival Organizer, and an all-around badass climber. It was an absolute blast to get to climb with him. Since Matt lives in Bozeman he was able to give us some insider tips about climbing at Hyalite and recommend some of the best restaurants and bars in town. Matt also keeps a journal with post-climb notes from all his climbing partners, something I would like to do my self!
Through Matt, I met Natalie, who was in Bozeman just for a few days. During the day, Natalie is a Product Manager and Engineer at Uber working to build us autonomous vehicles. During her time away she turns into this climber of steep rock faces and ice walls and explorer of high mountains! Matt, Natalie and I climbing Hang Over (WI3) which was in excellent condition and Upper Green Sleeve (WI3) also a fantastic route but with a a tricky approach.
While in Bozeman, I also met up with Chad and Melissa. Melissa and I got together to climb when the temps. hit the all-time trip low, a bone-chilling -20F/-28C. Chad and I did not get to climb but instead got together for some beer and climbing stories at Rocking R Bar. Chad told us about his adventures on Beartooth Mountain where he climbed the iconic route, California Ice (WI4) which has 3,000 feet of continuous ice climbing.
Natalie, a Washington native that lives in California and climbs stout lines on rock and ice, all over the world!
Hang Over, WI3
Following Natalie’s lead up Hang Over, WI3
Matt and Natalie heading up, Upper Green Sleeves, WI3
Genesis I Area
Temps in Bozeman
(For those outside these United States, -8 F is about -22 C)
Haley, hiking into Hyalite Canyon with temps around -10 F/-23 C
Haley and I still having fun, climbing ice in the Genesis area (Temp. -10 F/-23 C)
Climbing with Conrad
Next day, Haley and I drove to Hyalite Canyon. It was a cold day with the temperature around -5F/-20C. We decided to climb around Genesis I area and get a lot of time on the ice. A few hours after we got there, two climbers showed up. One of the climbers approached me and politely asked us if he could play their music at the crag. This climber seemed to have a familiar voice and on further examination, I realized he was non-other than Conrad Anker.
Conrad had just returned from his Antarctica expedition where he along with Jimmy Chin had put up the first ascent of a route on the North Face of Ulvetanna, the “Wolf’s Tooth” a 9,613 feet; 2,930 meters mountain in Queen Maud Land, Antarctica. I have always looked up to Conrad and even though I knew he lived in Bozeman, I had no idea I will run into him while climbing. We briefly talked to Conrad and I even got a picture with my hero!
Meanwhile, the temperature had fallen to -10F/-23C and Haley could not feel her fingers or toes. I immediately helped her back to the car at the trailhead, turned on the heat and gave her some hot tea, soon she was feeling better. We returned back to the climbing area and this is when Conrad offered if I would like to climb with him. To this, I answered with a resounding YES! It was just absolutely amazing to get to climb with your hero. Something I had never dreamed would happen and even though we were not putting up a first ascent in Patagonia, Baffin Island or the Karakoram it meant the world to me. After more climbing and swapping of belays, we decided to pack up and head back into town. We hiked back to our car, started it only to find out that it won’t move! It turns out I was parked on solid ice, the tires would spin but it would go nowhere (Get Winter tires/chains). I tried to push the car out, to no avail. Once again Conrad came to our rescue and pulled our car out of its icy trap with his truck! We thanked him once again and carefully started driving back into town.
Once I got back to the hotel, I sent a thank you message to Conrad. To this Conrad replied with a warm welcome but also inquired if I had his grigri? While climbing we had been using Conrad’s grigri, it was a gift and meant a lot to him. But while packing up, I had hung Conrad’s grigri on a little tree branch and had forgotten to hand it back to him. As I was going to be in Hyalite next day anyway, I told Conrad that I will snag it for him then.
Bright and early, next day I was at Hyalite Canyon to climb and to retrieve Conrad’s grigri! The temperature today was going to be around -20F/-28C so it was going to be another short day! Thankfully Conrad’s grigri was still where I had left it. We climbed a little and then headed back into town. Once I made it back into town I called Conrad to let him know that I have retrieved his grigri. He invited us over to his place, gave us a tour of his gear room and told us all about his expedition to Antarctica! He also gave us some cool Bozeman Ice Fest gear and two carabiners with his initials engraved in them! Conrad is one of the nicest, most helpful and down to earth person you would ever meet and I am so glad that our paths crossed in Bozeman.
Conrad Anker is a personal hero of mine and one of the best all-around climbers of all times. He is an incredible rock climber, ice climber, mountaineer and big wall climber and excels in all forms of climbing. Conrad’s climbing resume is full of first ascents in Yosemite, Zion, Alaska, Baffin Island, Patagonia, Antarctica, Himalaya, and the Karakorum. He is well known for the first ascent of the Meru Shark’s Fin (6,310 meters) in the Indian Himalayas, documented in the movie Meru. But the reality is that he has a plethora of first assents all around the world with a few famous ones being: the first ascent of the East Face of Vinson Massif, in the Ellsworth Mountains of Antarctica. The first ascent of Badlands (YDS VI 5.10 A3 WI4+, 1000m) a route on the Southeast Face of Torre Egger in Patagonia and the first ascent of Continental Drift, a big wall route on El Capitan in the Yosemite Valley. Conrad has also climbed Mount Everest three times, including once leading the National Geographic team to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first American ascent of Everest and once when he discovered the remains of George Mallory helping shed more light on one of mountaineering’s most famous mysteries.
Along with climbing Conrad is also heavily involved with philanthropic work. He is currently serving on the boards of the Montana State University Leadership Institute, Protect Our Winters, Bozeman Ice Tower Foundation, Gallatin County Fair Board and the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation, a Montana based non-profit that funds the Khumbu Climbing Center in Phortse, Nepal.
Conrad’s Website: Here
Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation: Here
Conrad’s lucky grigri
Haley and I with Conrad in his gear room, Bozeman, Montana
CA = Conrad Anker
Thank you for such an amazing, souvenir Conrad!
Seasons Greetings from Bozeman
On our last day, Haley and I once again decided to go ice climbing! Snow was predicted in the evening so we planned on going early and heading back early. However, in the morning when we got in our car, it was dumping with 5-6 inches of snow already on the ground. The city snow plows were doing a great job on keeping the Main Street snow free but as I turned on to the less traveled Hyalite Canyon road my car spun and got stuck in a ditch on the side of the road. Thankfully, I carry a rescue strap and a few Australian mine workers with their large truck were able to pull our car back on to the road.
From years of going into the mountains, I have some experience driving in snowy conditions. I also have an all-wheel-drive, Subaru Forester, one of the best vehicles for snow. However, I was still missing the most essential item when driving on snow, winter tires! Through experience, I have learned that an all-wheel drive or even a four wheel drive vehicle will do you no good unless you have winter tires/chains to maintain the traction on the road. As we live in San Diego, the land of neverwinter, it is hard for us to really use winter tires but now, I wish I had them just for this trip!
With all things as aside, we were happy to have made it back to our hotel in one piece. At the end of the day, 14-16 inches of snow came down and instead of driving we snowshoed around our hotel and made a snowshoe trip to the grocery store. We then rested and packed as we going to say goodbye to the ice and snow of Bozeman and hello to desert rock climbing in Moab.We had a delightful time in Bozeman and at Hyalite Canyon. It is a
wonder place filled with wonderful people. I met and climbed with many local climbers and made several new friends and plan to visit again.
Walking to Vons to get some groceries
Just a little bit of snow
Remembering the icy walls, snow-covered slopes and good times at Hyalite Canyon, Bozeman, Montana!