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Monthly Archives: December 2009

Etymology: the history of a linguistic form shown by tracing its development since its earliest recorded occurrence in the language where it is found, by tracing its transmission from one language to another

As I reflect on our family vacation this past summer to the Pioneer Mountains, there is no finer attribute for our state than it’s name. Albeit with a slightly different pronunciation, Montana is mountain in Spanish. The early explorers named the state after the dominant geologic features. For the peaks that ring our valley, that nurture our rivers and provide cover for wildlife there is no finer attribute. To live in place as scenic and unspoiled as Montana is pretty special. We are, by our own admission, privileged to inhabit this state.

With rights come responsibilities. The beauty of Montana is in its unique wild feel. From the buffaloes and geysers of Yellowstone to the mountain goats and aquamarine lakes of Glacier we have two iconic natural preserves with in our boundaries. The parks, established by the federal government 137 and 99 years ago, are quite a draw for our state. Yes the parks are tremendous, yet between the two places is a large segment of nature that is home to animals, timber, water and recreation opportunity. It is our responsibility, as the current generation, to take care of this heritage that defines Montana.

In July of 2009 Senator John Tester introduced S 1470, The Montana Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, the first comprehensive land management bill in 26 years. The bill is a co-operative effort between the wood products industry, sportsmen, conservationists and motorized recreation groups to find a balance that benefits the wild heritage we share. We’re grateful Senator Max Baucus supports the bill. Congressman Dennis Rehberg has not announced a position. Endorsing Tester’s bill is a meaningful way to break the gridlock between the various stakeholders on our national forests. These groups have worked to create a bill that, in the spirit of working together, has a wide level of support.

To measure cooperation we look at the diversity of the people that support S 1740. The timber companies, tired of battling legal cases are looking for clear direction on acreage that can be harvested. The cuts outlined in the bill will benefit local timber companies, hence the support from Sun Mountain Lumber, RY Timber, Roseburg Forest Products, Smurfit Stone and Pyramid Mountain Lumber. For our lands stressed by the pine bark beetle, fuel buildup and drought this will lead to healthier forests.

For sportsmen the benefit equates to protected habitat, which will allow elk and similar game to find shelter. The balance between timber and habitat is supported by science. The habitat improvement will benefit today’s hunter along with tomorrow’s generation.

Part of the brokering required for this is accepting that all of one’s objectives might not be met. For conservationists having more land designated as wilderness is certainly a sticking point. Conversely, the proposed 51 miles of motorized trail to be closed, out of 6,736 accessible miles is a draw back for motorized users. When two disparate groups such as these both quibble it is a sign that the act is indeed a balance of various user groups and their respective needs. With organizations as varied as Trout Unlimited, Troy Snowmobile Club, National Wildlife Federation, Kootenai Ridge Riders ATV Club, Montana Wilderness Association, The Wilderness Society, Montana Backcountry Horsemen, and Lincoln County Snow-Kats supporting S 1470 it is difficult to argue that there is not broad support.

The root of our state is in the mountains. The animals, trees and water that create this landscape need our stewardship. Senator Tester’s bold plan is the most logical way to keep wild Montana healthy and create jobs. We are of the mountains and we need to keep it that way.


Ice climbing and surfing are both water sports. There is probably an 80 degree Fahrenheit difference between the two disciplines. Which is pretty vast. What they do share is that they are both conditions dependent. The ephemeral nature of surfing is that one needs the right wind that creates the swell, atmospheric pressure and perhaps alignment of the stars. For ice climbing it is probably the same except that in there is no swell. Periodically surfing is given a huge season. The surfers go nuts and the legend grows.

So it is with ice. Hyalite Canyon in SW Montana we are totally happy to be in the first month of what promises to be an epic season. To start off the Mummy climbs received an ascent on the second weekend of October. Then in November the seldom seen climbs started filling in. The Big Sleep, Black Magic and Winter Dance all were climbed before the 1st of December. The standard climbs formed in well.

So what brings on a good season for Hyalite Canyon? First of the geologic layup of the canyon favors ice climbing. The canyon is on the east side (read cold) of the divide and drains north. The peaks sit atop a layer of volcanic mudflow and andesite – both a bit more impermeable to water than the country rock above. Combine this with a very wet summer, a cold October and a heavy Sierra grade layer of snow the second week of November and everything lines up! Ice grows fastest (albeit brittle) when the temps are cold.

Just for the record – I am a totally novice surfer. I aspire to get better, but until then I’ll have to be happy with dicey run outs, falling ice and the occasional smile at the top of a pitch.

The family at the 3rd annual Huffing for Stuffing 5 & 10 K Fun Run on Thanksgiving Day. Our community raised 20 K $ for the food bank. Good karma.

Sunday 13 December somewhere on Interstate 15 near the town of Monida, a tiny village straddling the border of Montana and Idaho. I’m 15 hours in to an epic bus ride across the basin and range of Nevada, up on to the Snake River Plain and into Montana. This past weekend on the 12th of Decemebr Isaac participated in the United States Track and Field Junior Olympic Cross Country running meet. Over 1200 young runners descended on Reno, Nevada. Saturday’s meet was chacterized by blowing snow, packed snow, light snow , wet snow, icy snow, slushy snow, sugary snow and even more snow. Lucky for the Montana contingent this kind of weather is de riguer in the latter part of the season. Our one week to race run was a five miler in ten degree weather.

Isaac, Colter & Theo!

Some of the runners were from climes a bit warmer. A young lady and her mom from South Texas were completely challenged. Mom was in training shoes, not water proof and the runner was tip toeing about in racing spikes. Which have about as much insulation as a pair of dragon fly wings. The family was super psyched to be part of the event – the snow was a real treat.

Blowing snow could be considered a homefield advantage for the kids from Helena, Great Falls, Butte and Bozeman. Which it was. Eight runners made “all American” (top 25) and the Girls Youth Team took second in team points, edging out the powerhouse Bowerman Team from Portland Oregon.

Cross country running is the perfect mix between pure athleticism and trail running. The courses are generally set on rolling hills with a few obstacles – sharp turns and other runners that fall over for good measure. My haunch is that kid runners will follow through with the sport for the rest of their lives. I did.

Not all is cream and peaches. This past Thursday the climbing community lost one of it’s guiding lights. Guy Lacelle of Canada fell to his death in Hyalite Canyon. A small pocket avalanche caught Guy as he was transitioning from moderate to low angle terrain. Guy will be dearly missed by the international climbing community. He was a tree planter in BC because he loved to care for nature. He was an ice climber because he loved nature in its most rare and ephemeral state.

Miss you Guy……. thanks for the 17 years of friendship. The day we caught Happy Days in nick is one of my most memorable moments.