Early Ice

Hyalite's Twin Falls.

For Bozeman ice climbers, the season begins as soon as the first fall frost whitens windshields and kills off the last of the mosquitos. Summer’s final dusty days are eclipsed by shimmering memories of beautiful, frozen waterfalls and the satisfying thunk of freshly-honed picks sinking easily into solid, plastic ice. Unfortunately, it takes a lot more than frost to set the ice-climbing season into motion—it takes extended cold and plenty of moisture. Most of Hyalite’s world-class flows don’t come into shape until December—a torturous timeline for climbers who writhe in anticipation when September snow dusts the high peaks. But there is one place that consistently offers quality ice as early as October: the shady, high grotto of Twin Falls (WI 3).

In addition to being the first Hyalite climb to come in each autumn, the broad, dual curtains of Twin Falls also cumulatively make up the largest formation in the canyon. And at nearly 60 meters high, they are long pitches—ideally suited for dusting the cobwebs off summer-softened technique.

Located at 8,200 feet, just around a corner from perhaps the most lusted-after climb in Hyalite—the WI 5 testpiece Cleopatra’s Needle—Twin is nestled into a cold, sunless alcove, and offers room for several parties on its consistent pitch. Not too steep, with a few featured steps for variety, Twin provides a unique experience, with a wonderful position 1,200 feet above the canyon floor. Run laps to get strong, or simply take in the view from the top, where other classics like the Dribbles will likely be filling in slowly across the drainage.

For ice climbers, Twin is something of an annual autumn pilgrimage, but once the rest of the canyon fills in, it can be overlooked in favor of climbs with a shorter approach or more dramatic formation. For this reason, it can also be an excellent mid-winter climb for parties seeking refuge from the Genesis-area crowds. Whether it’s in October or January, Twin Falls is always worth a visit. 

Length: 55m
Rating: WI 3
Descent: double-rope rappel from trees 

From the Grotto Falls trailhead, hike up the main Hyalite trail. Where the trail crosses the wheelchair path for the second time, follow the wheelchair path to the right. About 100 meters before reaching a small clearing with a picnic table, the trail passes near the creek. Look for a blazed tree and flagging tape. Cross the creek and follow an obvious trail, passing the classic WI 5 Cleopatra’s Needle on the way. Twin Falls is in the large gully left of Cleo’s.