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The Bozeman Ice Tower

Bozeman Daily Chronicle Editorial Submission for 26 November 2010
© Conrad Anker 2009

Hyalite Canyon, due its northerly drainage and volcanic rock, freezes up each winter to provide the most reliable and varied ice climbing in the lower 48. Thanks to the County Road and Bridge and the Forest Service’s plowing efforts, Hyalite Canyon is accessible for winter enthusiasts be they fishermen, skiers or climbers. The Twin Falls freezes up offering a great introductory experience on water ice. The springtime drips transform into frigid test pieces attracting the best to test their mettle. From the moderate to the extreme, Hyalite Canyon offers a high density of climbs in a remote setting.
To celebrate the sport, each December climbers from around the world meet for instruction and a good time at the annual Bozeman Ice Festival. The cold temps and dependable conditions allow us to hold the first of the seasonal ice festivals. Ice climbing is a global sport with similar gatherings taking place in Korea, Canada, the Alps and Russia each winter. Competitive ice climbing is part of the fun and entails scratching one’s way up a fake cliff dribbled with blobs of ice. Climbers compete in difficulty and speed. Competitions are popular enough that at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics ice climbing will be a demonstration sport. For the sport to eventually make it to the Olympics, a track record of “World Cup” level competition needs to be held. Currently, the ice climbing world cup is held in Europe and Asia each winter. With an eye on the 2014 Olympics climbers are training and competing to represent our country.

To date there is no venue for world cup ice climbing in the United States. Not having a national training facility creates an opportunity for Bozeman. By designing and building a competition climbing structure Bozeman would be the first community in the United States to host the Ice Climbing World Cup. The event could tie in with the Bozeman Ice Festival in a logical and efficient way.

Imagine a structure at the County Fairgrounds reaching 100 feet into the sky. Designed and built with side-cycled chair lift towers from the old Deer Park and Bridger lifts at Bridger Bowl, the tripod shaped tower would allow climbing and rope work. In the summer climbers could challenge themselves on warm rock. Novices could ascend the stairs and learn to rappel. In winter the structure would be draped with several tons of ice, providing ice climbers a controlled feature to train on. Additionally, the tower would be an ideal place for the County Search and Rescue Team to train for evacuations and high angle rope work. The aerie at the summit would provide an eagle’s view of the fairgrounds and have a flag visible from Interstate-90. The tower would require a small footprint and could be maintained by volunteers and the fairground staff in a similar manner to Haynes Ice Hockey Pavilion.

With the completion of the fifth boulder in Rose Park this summer we will have enhanced our parks with equipment that appeals to all ages and most abilities. Scampering around on a cement rock encourages exercise, an activity that benefits all. The boulders were built with support from the community and the Parks and Recreation Department. To extrapolate the concept of the outdoor boulders to a community funded winter ice-climbing tower is a sensible progression. It would put Bozeman on the map as “ice climbing central” and bring more visitors to the County Fairgrounds.

If you are interested and would like to learn more please visit http://www.montanaice.com or come to an evening event at the Bozeman Ice Festival at the Emerson on the 10th or 11th of December.

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