TR for part one:
TR for part two:
I had a great time at the Ouray Ice Festival with Frank Baker, Loren Baker, and Ed Hartouni. After the ice fest we manage to whack, scratch, and hook our way up the Ames Ice Hose, the Ribbon outside of Ouray, and Telluride's Bridal Veil Falls - Ed and Frank on the 1st and 2nd routes, and Frank on the 3rd. While they had to head home, I had designs on more ice climbing...
Cody and Hyalite were unknowns to me, but I had heard good things and had recently acquired a copy of Joe Josephson's "Winter Dance" on ice in Southern Montana and Northern Wyoming (2004) which shows countless possibilities. I had no particular list of climbs to do, but figured that I would select climbs with the partners from Colorado and Wyoming who were planning to rendezvous with me. My partner for the Canadian part of my mini-safari and I were in full agreement that we wanted a window of promising enough climbing weather to make his flying and my driving to Calgary worthwhile or we would postpone. Later, after dropping said partner back at the airport in Calgary, Alberta, I would head south to visit a high school classmate, her husband, and her horses in Helena, Montana. Continuing farther south to Bozeman, Montana, I would re-connect with a partner from a couple of decades ago and climb in Hyalite.
Got to Cody a bit late. Had reserved a motel room for myself, since I had learned just a couple of evenings earlier that neither of the two partners with whom I had thought I would climb and stay turned out to be available - one got sick and the other let her newly-wed status take precedence over climbing. Figured I would either find climbing partners at the motel or the trailheads, or not find partners. The hotel manager greeted me in the morning with a local travel magazine with a nice list of Cody ice climbs (from Aaron Mulkey's ColdFear.com). The list was handily divided into climbs on the north facing cliffs on the south side of the South Fork of the Shoshone River and (you guessed it) climbs on the south facing cliffs on the north side of the river. I've included a scan of the list at the end of the Cody section of this TR. She also told me, the only other ice climber in the motel had moved on the day before.
I had done some online searching the night before to see if any grizzly bear activity had been reported recently in the vicinity of the Cody ice climbs. It had been some weeks - a mother grizzly and her cubs had been seen out and about in December in Yellowstone. The Cody ice climbs are a bit southeast of Yellowstone National Park. So each time I saw one of these signs, I would remind myself that grizzly bears hibernate (always, right?!) and reassure myself that the mild winter (had a couple of days in the low 40's) and dry conditions certainly would not have interrupted their hibernation patterns. Nope. The bears would all be happily snoozing.
Met Matt and Nathan from Oregon in the parking lot. Briefly tried to interest them in inviting on their climb with them - nope. They did, however, give me some approach beta for Duck Soup (WI 3 100m) since they had climbed it the day before. Seemed like it could be a nice introduction to the area for me. I tagged along behind them until the main trail at the edge of the river where I went left. After hiking a while, I followed some climbers' tracks uphill until I saw this ice. The approach had been far mellower than that described for Duck Soup and, while the ice didn't look like what I remembered from the pics in the Josephson book, it did look good. Turns out, it was Mean Green.
The ice was plastic and very tool and crampon friendly.
Climbed about 3 pitches. Went up the left side of this headwall - where the ice steepened to nearly vertical, I self belayed the uppermost 40' (the crux for what I climbed of the route). The pitch ended in a snowy creek bed with tracks leading upstream, but no visible ice. Tied off my end of the rope to an ice tool I planted in the snow and then started hiking. After a while (maybe 20 minutes?), I saw some ice upstream in the distance. Not Duck Soup.
I got down fairly quickly with some hiking, downclimbing, and four 30m rappels using the 2 fixed rap stations, placing one v-thread, and once threading my rope directly through a hole I bored in the ice. No muss, no fuss.
Wore my crampons back down the sometimes icy trail and to cross the frozen and slippery river. I got back to my vehicle just as it was getting dark enough to need a headlamp. Met Ivan and Steve and chatted about our respective routes.
While I was checking out conditions on Deer Creek ice (on the south facing side of the valley) kind of late the next morning, Ivan and Steve pulled up and invited me to join them on Too Cold to Fire (WI4 70m) up Deer Creek. Yes!
Two parties showed up to do the climb as we finished the 2nd rap off of it.
Ivan looked at the pictures I had taken the day before and confirmed that I had been climbing Mean Green - their objective for the next day. When I asked, they declined to invite me to join them since they expected a very long day on it as a party of 2 (turns out they started before 7 in the morning and got back to their truck around dark). Ivan suggested that I climb the Moratorium (WI4 100m) which they had climbed the day before over in the Lower Bench Area. It only forms every 3 to 5 years. They said that it was fat and wanted to hear what I thought of it.
With some time left in the late afternoon, I back tracked, took a well-maintained gravel side road across a bridge and then up a not-too-rugged, 4-wheel drive dirt road to the trail head. Explored the approach to the Moratorium for about 45 minutes with the sun dropping towards the horizon, but wasn't even close to the climbs. Numerous game trails on the hillside. Among the many, many deer tracks, I saw some canine paw prints, and (holy crap) one that looked like a bear paw print. Not clear because of other animal tracks. Couldn't be a bear paw print - grizzly bears are supposed to be hibernating. Must have been a melt-distorted paw print left by a large wolf or something similarly benign... Time to head back to my wheels.
Back at the motel, I did more reading, learned that they weigh "as little as 350 lb," and came across the Latin for grizzly bear: URSUS ARCTOS HORRIBILIS. Such a cool name.
On my last day climbing in Cody (Sunday-January15), I drove back up to the trailhead for the Moratorium late in the morning, started the approach, and then returned to my vehicle as I thought more about long, remote, and lonely approach to the Moratorium and the animal paw print I thought I had seen. High on Boulder, which is a longer route (WI4 160m) and has a shorter, well-traveled approach, became more appealing than the Moratorium and rose to the top of my tick list.
Here's the list to which I referred earlier - so many routes to go back and climb (in addition to the Moratorium) on future trips to Cody:
Reminder note to self: get pepper spray.
Back to the motel to pack, get a good night's rest, and figure out what to do with the rest of my icy little road trip.
My partner for Canada and I had been watching the weather forecasts for the Waterton, Bow Valley, and Icefields Parkway areas for days. The various forecasts were consistently not positive. We decided that the nasty cold weather forecast for our planned 4-day window of climbing (with a travel day on either end) was too unpleasant (storming and low single digit daytime temps) and could preclude our climbing much of anything. By mutual agreement we postponed. The right decision, but it put a modest monkey wrench in my Bozeman/Hyalite rendezvous and plans - my partner for Hyalite was unavailable due to the trade show in Salt Lake City.
The forecasts for Bozeman and other parts north of Cody were also unpleasant. Even winter-like. Decision time: do I head home in nasty weather or proceed to Bozeman through nasty weather and with no partners lined up? I called the climbing shop in Bozeman (Northern Lights) to ask about ice conditions in Hyalite. Spoke with Brad (the shop's ice enthusiast) - he was unavailable to climb with me until my 3rd day there, but was incredibly positive about the conditions, the plethora of moderate routes for me, and the high probability that I could find a partner. The die was cast - I was going to Bozeman.
I was jazzed to get a return phone call from my Bozeman friends just as I was getting to the 1st exit. I thought they were out of town. Still unavailable to climb, but fantastically hospitable. With the stormy weather forecasted to continue, they greeted me with open arms. Hooray! After talking ice, trips, and fast BMWs (theirs), I departed with a key to the house, directions to Hyalite Canyon, and a local street map. Went for a drive and a preview.
The road up Hyalite Canyon has apparently been improved and made safer over the years, and was freshly plowed on each of the 4 times I drove up it.
Josephson: "The Thrill is Gone is thought by many to be the best route in Hyalite. Certainly, it ranks as one of the most fun, best one-pitch routes anywhere."
Chris had climbed this several times already, so I got the lead. Talk about fun!
Rumor has it that the route so readily accepts rock gear, that a climber put in more than 20 pieces. I put in lots, but not that many.
Met Chris and a couple of his friends from the Seattle area the next day for more fun.
Also top roped the Matrix (WI4 M5 30m - when first climbed by Steve House) which Chris's friend had led with pleasant WI3 conditions and hiked Crypto Orchid (WI2-3 50m) before calling it a successful day.
My 3rd and final day in Hyalite started with us 3rd classing Lower Green Sleeves (WI3 30m), before we did some quick laps another party's top rope (thanks!) on the fun, right side of Genesis I (~WI4-).
Did some interesting down-climbing on our approach to Genesis II (WI3+ 50m) and then the Hang Over (WI3 50m).
Another fine day on the ice with an energized partner. Headed out before dark so I could begin my drive to Helena to visit my high school friend.
Home a couple of days later.
While not all of my planned partners were able to participate and the weather did not cooperate for a side-trip to Canada, I had really fun partners and good to great conditions on a couple of the biggish classic routes in the San Juans and a handful of routes in Cody and Hyalite. All totaled (parts one and two), 4100 miles from beginning to end and three weeks of fun.