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Tag Archives: Montana

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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This past week containment crews working with BP on the Deepwater Horizon oil explosion were able to cap the runaway leak. For the millions of our fellow citizens that call the Gulf home this is a welcome relief. With time, diligence and advanced technology the effects of the spill will be mitigated.

The effects of the oil spill are far reaching. Oxygen starved oceans, soiled beaches, lost oil and disrupted communities are the obvious negative effects. Yet from every disaster there is potential for a silver lining. The engineers that design offshore drilling rigs will be able to address the weaknesses that caused the blow out. It takes failure to learn about mistakes and how to prevent similar catastrophes. As our need for oil is far too great to forego offshore reserves, oil companies will be able to work safer and with greater awareness for the environment.

A second silver lining can touch the lives of citizens across the nation. Offshore oil reserves belong to the citizens of the United States. Oil companies lease regions with the greatest potential and in turn for this privilege pay a royalty to the federal government. Last year, the federal government collected over $5 billion in off shore leasing revenues. In 1965 Congress passed the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to receive $900 million annually from the Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas leases. The funds from the LWCF have been shared with all 50 states and have connected with American citizens.

The parks, river ways and open space that we enjoy in landlocked Montana are in part funded by the LWCF. Here in southwest Montana, LWCF has protected Yellowstone River headwaters near Cooke City, critical elk passage up the Taylor Fork drainage, a popular climbing area in Bozeman Pass, and Madison Valley fishing access and ranch lands, to name a few. The program has also provided grants to hundreds of state and local parks across Montana including our own Peet’s Hill and the new Rose Park for Frisbee golf enthusiasts.

The challenge is that the full funding for the LWCF has fallen short every year but one since 1965, with most of the $900 million diverted to other purposes. Of the $5 billion in revenue from 2009 only 180 million was set-aside for the LWCF. This is 3% of the total of the total tax revenue from off shore oil and gas leases. To set this in economic context, the profits of BP in the quarter leading up to the Deepwater Horizon disaster were $4.7 billion. In 2008 Exxon Mobil posted record annual profits of $45.22 billion. And these figures are after paying royalties to the federal government of offshore leases. Given the catastrophe in the Gulf, the annual loss of open space to development, the importance of wetlands to water quality and the benefit of recreation to our population it is only fair to ask for full funding of the revenue be set aside for our nation’s natural heritage.

The LWCF is set to expire in 2015, 50 years after it’s signing. As a way to keep this part of our heritage, Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Max Baucus (D-MT) introduced the Land and Water Conservation Authorization and Funding Act, S.2747, on November 6, 2009, and Senator Jon Tester joined to co-sponsor the bill. This legislation is simple and straightforward: it would permanently reauthorize the fund and make $900 million available annually to LWCF as dedicated funding. As the Congress considers ‘oil spill’ legislation in the coming weeks, full funding of LWCF should be a part of the solution.

Americans strongly support this initiative. In a May 2010 national public opinion survey 77 % support funding at the $900 million annual level. The revenue is from the oil we consume (and we all consume oil) and is shared by all. As a way of ensuring the land, water and recreation heritage we depend upon as part of our children’s lives, full funding of the LWCF is the right thing to do.

April 25, 2008 | Utah

Summer vacation has its roots in agriculture, when the majority of our nation lived an agrarian life. The family pulled together to work on the land. It was a time for teachers to integrate into their communities. The provenance of spring break is a little more mysterious. In Montana spring break is the transition from winter to hopefully spring.

With winter still in its grip, our family tradition is to pile into the mini van for a trip to the red rock country of southern Utah. scott-below-n-six-shooter-small2Our goal this year was the eastern side of Canyonlands National Park and Indian Creek Canyon. The drive south crosses the divide at the Idaho – Montana border, that being the high point of our journey. There we marveled at the 10-foot tall snowdrifts. Snow camping was not our plan. Sand, steep cracks for climbing, a crackling campfire and the company of several other families was our goal.

The Wingate sandstone that defines Indian Creek must have been the inspiration for the Road Runner cartoon series. Looking out over the slender sandstone spires, cliffs ringing the valley like a massive red curtain and the meandering wash with the occasional grove of cottonwood trees one can imagine Wiley E. Coyote chasing the elusive road runner. I just hoped there would be no falling anvils!

lighteningboltcrack2-small2The Park Service campground provided our home for the week. Ringed by sandstone formations and slot canyons, our children explored the terrain on their own time. We parents cooked camp meals over sputtering stoves, confident that the children were being safe. They knew what a cliff was and were not going to fall off. Or at least we grownups comforted each other with that thought. By allowing the kids to rat around, we gave them a chance to discover the world for themselves, without a set of rules. Knowing that it is a potentially dangerous environment, we also signaled to the kids that we trusted them to make good decisions. Empowering children with these responsibilities makes them confident. Which, from my view, is a good attribute for children to have.

– Conrad