Trip Report
Getting After The Blue Ice - Hyalite Canyon - Ice Climbing
Friday January 18, 2013 12:35am
Credit: Plaidman
We had been planning the trip for over a month. We were going to Montana to climb ice. Frozen waterfalls to be exact. I often dream of ice climbing and we don't get enough of it here in the Pacific Northwest. So we travel to get it.

Rick my boss/climbing partner and I worked every day for the month of December to be able to finish a big job we were doing. When the day came we were ready to go.
Credit: Plaidman
Rick had reserved the hotel, paid up front and no refund available. We were committed
We jumped into Rick's truck at 4:30 am and hit the road. 13 hours later we were in Bozeman Montana. Checked into the hotel and slipped into the jacuzzi just 3 steps outside our sliding glass door. We were so excited we packed our gear that night and settled down to slumber.
Credit: Plaidman
Hyalite was easy to find and the road is plowed all the way to the Grotto Falls trail head. This is a service partly paid for by The Mazama's Mountaineering organization, of which I am a proud member of.

Rick and I had a scant amount of beta and no guide book, but that added to the adventure for sure. We marched up to Genesis 1 and Rick walked up and took the first lead. It was a WI3 frozen waterfall and was mostly vertical for the start. He had a bit of trouble with his first couple of ice screws but after that knocked it out.
Credit: Plaidman
I was a little more conservative and did a much easier WI2+. I led it well and placed 6 screws that I clipped the rope into. Rick and I have a different approach to climbing ice. I figure if we are on practice climbs like these we should place lots of screws. He is of the opinion that less is better and a waste of time. My point is that I am practicing anyway and I want to be good at placing protection so when #*it hits the fan I want to be able to get in a screw where and when I need it.

After setting up the ropes on these climbs we top roped them several times and called it a day. Tomorrow we would take it to the next level.
I love ice!!!
I love ice!!!
Credit: Plaidman
The next morning we started a method that we stuck with the rest of the week. We would switch who got the first lead of the day. It is always harder to start cold and lead off the deck. It adds some spice to be sure. As partners we need to be ready to take the next lead and do our part.

My lead was a thick vertical frozen water fall called Switchback Falls. It had not seen much traffic and wasn't picked out or climbed out. My lead went smooth I climbed smoothly and efficiently, placing screws when needed and at good rests mostly. It was a beautiful climb on fantastic ice.

We could see blue ice across the canyon and that ice was calling to me. It reminded me of the place I learned to ice climb, with my mentor Mike Sanders. Lincoln Falls in Colorado is where I cut my teeth on ice. The ice there was so blue and you could see it from across the valley. That blue ice to me screams hero ice. Hero ice is the kind of ice that only takes one swing to get a ice ax set. It is almost effortless. Unlike glacier ice, which can be brittle and hard. Hero ice is fun ice climbing.
Credit: Plaidman
We top roped Switchback a few times and then Rick led Fat Chance. Which is another WI3 ice climb. He did well, but we decided that I would follow this one using the old Grivel ice tools. They are very much different than my partners BD Fusions. The leader always gets the good tools. The second gets to struggle. That's what I did. Wacked my knucles, had the picks pop out of my placements. I just had to change up my whole technique to climb with Grivels. I made it to the top but it was ugly.

Back to the hotel for good grub, dry out the ropes, and sooth our tired bones. Sleeping wasn't a problem.

Next day we were up with the dawn and greeted by awesome weather. We experienced the big sky in BIG SKY country. After getting to the parking lot we were off to the second tier in Hyalite. I looked at Feeding The Cat which looked ugly and not very pretty at the top. It was kinda mungy looking up top. So we took a pass.

On to Mummy 2. It was Ricks lead and he jumped on it with vigor. This is a WI3+ in the conditions it was in. There were a couple of locals that gave us the low down on the climb. Toward the top before the last vertical section he took a rest. I followed and struggled with the Givel ice tools until I got on the Hero ice near the top. We rapped off with our single 70 meter rope on the left side without a problem.

We took off and then I went back and led Genesis 1 straight up to the anchor. Which was a solid WI3 for me. Ice climbing grades are covered at this site: Ice Climbing Grades

We could see the blue ice again across the canyon again. I just had to get over there. So tomorrow the plan was to get to Twin Falls to see what we could do. Tonight it was another session of drying ropes, Jacuzzi, eating and sleeping. This was turning out to be a great trip.

We moseyed down the trail as we were not sure where we were going. We had the general direction and a few tips from other climbers we met. But we had never been here and missed a key junction in the approach. It took us 3 hours to make it to Twin Falls.

As we passed around the corner from Cleopatra's Needle, the wind came up howling at us. It was a bit disconcerting as we were sweaty from the approach. We quickly bundled up.

It was my lead. I took the right hand side of the feature. It was broad and blue. Even up close it was blue. It was cold where we were and the ice was hard just underneath the thin layer of hero ice. The hero ice was not so hero. Most of the ice we had climbed so far was solid but the top layer was the consistency of butter with a solid core.

This ice was different. It wasn't easy to get the tools to stick. I got up a bit as I started climbing and placed a screw. Went a bit higher and placed another. While doing this my hand went completely numb. I couldn't feel anything at all. I normally don't get cold so this was a bit of spice I was not expecting.

I screamed at my hand "Come back, come back" willing the warmth back into the unfeeling lump of flesh. I was not at a good stance so I buried my ice tool into the ice deep and clipped off to it. Standing there I patiently massaged my hand until I could feel the blood rush back to it. After that it wasn't a problem.

I led up till I got to a level two foot stance. The pitch of ice was 200 feet in length and I could have led the whole thing, but I wanted to let us both get some. So I set an anchor. Two ice screws equalized and tied off to both my ice axes, which were in bomber ice and set solid.

I brought Rick up we exchanged gear, cleaned the ice screws for the next lead. Ice screws have a hollow core and ice can build up in the core. So before placing them again the ice needs to be cleaned out. Sometimes the best way is to put them next to your skin inside your jacket and then use the end of the rope to push out the ice. Sounds kinda brutal but we are ice climbing. It's part of the game.

Rick gave me the down puffy jacket and he placed a screw right off the anchor and put a screamer on it. Up he went and I was with him all the way wishing he would climb faster. My core temp was plummeting. I started dancing in one place and jumping up and down. Good thing I was at a good stance. I was cold and I don't get cold.

Rick moved fast gained the top and set up an anchor quickly. We have lots of practice on multi-pitch rock climbs but this was good practice on ice. I wanted to take the extra time to get the gear exchange practice and let us both lead today.

We brought two ropes so I climbed dragging the second rope up behind me. When I got to the top one rope was already all the way down all I had to do was get it through the anchor tie a figure 8 follow through and toss down the other rope. It made rapping the route easy.

We got to the bottom and high tailed it out of there. We found the right trail on the way out. All in all it was about a 5 mile round trip hike we guess. We were tired so Jacuzzi, eat, dry ropes, and sleep. Bed felt good.

Up again. Early. Last day we had to make the most of it. So after finding Genesis 1 was taken over by a fleet of climbers. We decided to not climb up to Genesis 2, as was our original intent. We skirted around right and up to the second tier of the canyon. Arriving at Genesis 2 a party of two was descending.

It was Rick's turn to lead. He roped up, grabbed the gear and charged up making the first section look easy. I could tell it was strenuous, but he rocked it! He was climbing well and I felt good. Genesis 2 is a solid WI3 but Rick took the most direct route and climbed every vertical step he could find.

Getting to the top he built the anchor. I was never so happy to hear "BELAY IS ON"!
I moved quickly up the steps Rick made look so easy. I kept my heels down as I had been getting more comfortable in my new crampons. They were a gift from Rick. I will put some wear and tear on those for sure.

As I got to the last pillar of ice near the top the water was running behind the ice ever so slightly. It was cool to see the water moving so slowly underneath the vertical ice. It moved so slowly even in spite of gravity. It seemed that the ice was hot melted plastic moving in a thickly sickly viscous state. I stopped to examine it closely and was drawn into the internal world 4 inches below the window clear ice.

I got moving and gained the top. We set up the rappel and threw down the rope. My 70 meter rope I knew would get up to the bottom of the pitch. Rick only used half of it on his lead. There were some climbers below that yelled up that they thought both ends weren't down. The rope got hung up. I yelled down to them "You don't know how fat I am. I'll get all the rope stretch out of that rope"! We had plenty of rope and made new friends at the base of the climb.

Then we pulled the rope and rushed over to do Hang Over. It was my lead. We were above a good size chute that dropped off, so we placed a screw right at the base of the waterfall.

It was kinda a waterfall after all. Good ice with water spitting down on me. I got my rain/wind breaker and zipped it up to my chin. Made up my mind to move fast up the first section. My nerves calmed down when it came to start the climbing. Sometimes for me if the conditions are difficult and hard that only gets my blood up. I bear down and get it done.

Off I went. I set one screw quickly low and moved on fast before I got car washed by the flowing water. By the time I got to the first step I was mostly out of the water. I set another screw and kept moving. My gloves got in the way so I ditched them and climbed gloveless for the rest of climb.
Mummy 2-- The Scepter on far left
Mummy 2-- The Scepter on far left
Credit: Plaidman
I was climbing great and enjoying every stick of my ice axes in the hero ice. HERO ICE. My favorite. I was a one stick wonder. At the next vertical section I struggled with getting one screw set. With arms burning I stayed calm and breathed deep and got the screw set before going over the bulge.

The length of the pitch was 115 feet and I set 8 screws. Rick was agast and said it was the best lead I had done all weekend. Afterwards I didn't feel the same. It was like a switch got flipped and the space between my ears was brighter and lighter. Writing this now I am still aglow.

So for the whole trip we climbed 8 different waterfalls. Top roped most of them several times. I set 34 screws on my leads and Rick set 27. It really was the trip of a life time.

So for the whole trip during the 5 days we climbed 8 different waterfalls. Top roped most of them several times. I set 34 screws on my leads and Rick set 27. It really was the trip of a life time.

It doesn't get much better when you climb with your best friend and get that much ice done, that many days in a row, with perfect weather.

Why is patience a virtue?
Because not many people have it.


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About the Author
Plaidman is a trad climber from South Slope of Mt. Tabor, Portland, Oregon, USA.

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Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
  Jan 18, 2013 - 01:14am PT
I'm disappointed - no plaid Goretex.

Trad climber
The fake McCoy from nevernever land.
  Jan 18, 2013 - 01:39am PT
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
  Jan 18, 2013 - 04:40am PT
It never ceases that when it freezes
They gotta get up the ice no matter the price.

I have nothing but the admiration of a fisherman--ice or otherwice-- for ones who wait out the conditions, Plaidman. And then go storm the place!

Way to rock the boat, bros, even though the water's froze!


Social climber
Lida Junction
  Jan 18, 2013 - 11:00am PT

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Jan 18, 2013 - 11:06am PT
You did indeed "get after it."
Nice TR!

Mountain climber
The Ocean
  Jan 18, 2013 - 11:09am PT
Sweet Share! Makes me wanna go on a road trip! Mmm Jacuzzi after ice climbing..You got it all!

Trad climber
West Slope of Powell Butte, Portland, Oregon, USA
Author's Reply  Jan 18, 2013 - 05:34pm PT
Thanks all for the comments. All that trip did for me was make me want more. We are going to the eastern Gorge here in Oregon to see if there is some there. North facing cliffs may have some.

If not we have some rock climbing options in the sun on the way home. Alpine start. We got a long way to drive. Keeping the fingers crossed for something worth getting on. If what we saw on the way back from Montana is in it will be a FA. Maybe. Nothing is documented out that way.

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Jan 18, 2013 - 05:40pm PT
wrek tha icicle tech! WOOT!
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
On the road.
  Jan 18, 2013 - 06:39pm PT
Dang, Plaid, that certainly is getting after it! And yeah, wtf is up with no plaid gortex?

Trad climber
West Slope of Powell Butte, Portland, Oregon, USA
Author's Reply  Jan 18, 2013 - 07:01pm PT
Send me some and I will wear it. I did figure out how to tie in wearing a kilt. I just can't find anyone but my wife to belay me.

I was once asked what I was wearing under my kilt by a lady. I told her that a gentleman wouldn't say, but since I ain't no gentleman, I ain't wearing nothing!

East Bay, CA
  Jan 18, 2013 - 08:42pm PT
yeah dude, HYALITE stoke!
Nice job.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Jan 18, 2013 - 09:19pm PT
Strong work, next time can you lead in a plaid kilt please????
The Lisa

Trad climber
Da Bronx, NY
  Jan 18, 2013 - 10:03pm PT
Your enthusiasm beams through your writing, congrats on so many successful routes!
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Jan 22, 2013 - 10:53pm PT
BUMP for the cool TR about a spot I really like myself! Can't wait to get back there next year. Maybe will see you guys there too?! This year we missed each other only by a few days.

Trad climber
West Slope of Powell Butte, Portland, Oregon, USA
Author's Reply  Jan 22, 2013 - 11:12pm PT
Would have been great to climb with ya two. Anastasia is the wildest woman on the planet. Love her stoke. I think she out stokes me 9 out of 10 times.

Vitaliy M.thanks for the thumbs up on the TR. It was fun to write. Almost as much fun writing it as it brought back the memory fresh in my mind.

Hyalite has to be the most awesome place on the planet. I am going back there for sure. We could stay there for months and only scratch the surface. Conrad Anker says there are over 200 routes there.

I am looking at a trip up north though, to hit the Anchorage to Valdez run. Fly into Anchorage rent a car. Climb all the way, stopping at every waterfall of note along the way. Climb our asses off in Valdez, then climb our way back, hitting the ones that we missed on the way down. Then pour ourselves in the seats of the airplane and have medical staff on call to put us into medically induced coma to recover over the next 2 months.

It's only a dream now. But oh boy what a dream!

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