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.