Just outside Bozeman lies the area’s recreational crown jewel: Hyalite Canyon.
With its endless waterfalls and winding mountain trails, Hyalite is a hotbed of activity in the spring and summer, and it attracts plenty of folks in the fall, too. But when cold days and even colder nights start to freeze the dripping water, the big action begins.
Hyalite is one of the best ice-climbing areas in the world, creating legendary experiences for local and visiting climbers alike. Thanks to Friends of Hyalite and the U.S. Forest Service, the road stays open all winter, providing relatively easy access to many of the climbs.
So this winter, go kick some ice and enjoy the frozen wonders Hyalite has in store.
Who: There are routes for all levels of ice climbers in Hyalite. (Rock climbers, beware: this is a totally different ballgame and your infallible crimp strength will not help you here.) If you’re new to the sport or to climbing in general, find an experienced partner. Better yet, consider taking a clinic at the annual Bozeman Ice Climbing Festival or a guided course. Montana Alpine Guides (MAG) offers both group clinics and privately guided experiences to familiarize newcomers with the equipment and the ice, and to teach beginning to advanced skills in a safe environment.
What: Forty-five minutes south of downtown Bozeman sits over 100 ice-and mixed-climbing routes. Check out Joe Josephson’s book, House of Hyalite, for detailed information on routes and locations.
When: Generally speaking, the ice in Hyalite starts to build up in October. It’s usually thick enough for safe climbing by Thanksgiving, and even as early as Halloween some years. Be sure to check the MAG website for current ice conditions, especially early and late in the season. Ice climbing season usually ends when Hyalite Canyon Road closes on April 1.
Where: The Hyalite area encompasses thousands of acres of public land, but most of the ice climbing is done above the reservoir. The most concentrated area is along upper Hyalite Creek, between the namesake reservoir and alpine lake. Water drips down steep glacially-carved cliffs, forming routes that dot the hillsides above the creek. This drainage is divided into six main areas: Genesis, the Unnamed Wall, Mummy, Winter Dance, Dribbles, and Twin Falls.
Why: Because we live a stone’s throw from world-class ice climbing. Because we have the opportunity to fully immerse ourselves in this pursuit. Because numerous climbing legends have cut their teeth here—think Alex Lowe, Jack Tackle, and Will Gadd, among others. And because you’re not a legit Bozeman badass until you participate in literally every outdoor activity that you can.