In 2013 I tried my hand at ice climbing a few times and absolutely loved it. I found the experience exhilarating and wanted to give it another shot, but life got in the way. So, imagine my stoke upon seeing it as an option on a recent trip to Visit Montana with my friend and badass photographer Nick Lake. Spoiler alert: it was HIGH and yes, that’s a climbing pun.
Nick and I filled our packs with snacks and layers galore, then headed to the Spire Climbing Center in Bozeman to meet up with Sam, owner and guide extraordinaire from Montana Alpine Guides. After borrowing some necessary gear and chatting about our objectives and skill levels, we hit the road for the beautiful drive into Hyalite Canyon. Hyalite Canyon is home to the largest concentration of naturally occurring ice in the lower 48 and it’s incredibly beautiful to boot.
From the parking lot, we hiked up the hill for about 30 minutes or so to Mummy 2/Scepter area. Sam went over some fundamentals with us, and shortly thereafter the fun began. Nothing makes you feel quite as badass as swinging tools into a frozen waterfall and hearing that refreshing “THUNK” when it sinks in. Pair that feeling of power with the ruggedly beautiful landscape and the occasional blast of spindrift to the face and you have my idea of a perfect day!
A few things to consider:
Montana Alpine Guides can provide you with all the technical gear you need, so don’t worry about flying with mountaineering boots or crampons. Save the luggage space for layers and room to bring back some souvenirs!
While some familiarity with basic climbing principles (tying in, belaying, etc.) is useful, you don’t need a ton of experience to get out and have an amazing day. Simply communicate your skill level and experience to your guide and they will make sure to pick terrain that will be fun and comfortable for you!
You will be responsible for bringing certain items of clothing! Your guides will send you a list, but I want to emphasize the importance of layers so you can bulk up when you’re done climbing to stay warm and dry! I also highly recommend bringing a thermos of some hot tea, soup, or broth. Trust me, you’ll be thankful for it!
Winter Leave No Trace (LNT) ethics apply. That means packing out all food and human waste. If you’re not sure how to do the latter, check out my blog about how to do your business outside!
I hope you have the chance to get after some ice if you visit Montana this winter! If you do, I highly recommend a post-climb dinner at Bridger Brewing where the beers are gluten removed, the food is delicious, and the staff will take incredible care of you!
Let me know how it goes if you make it, I would love to hear more!
Note: The Montana State Tourism Board sponsored the trip, but has not asked me to create this content. I just had such an amazing time that I decided to spray about it via blog post because the experience was phenomenal and I can’t recommend Sam from Montana Alpine Guides strongly enough.