Book: Big Sky Ice

Written by local Bozeman author and noted climber Ron Brunckhorst, Big Sky Ice: Montana Ice Climbs reads like a transcribed version of around-the-campfire stories, tips, and legends from local ice climbers.

Eschewing climbing magazines and the pop culture that surrounds the sport, Brunckhorst urges readers to seek the thrill of climbing without buying into the hype. "In my opinion, if you’re living in the climbing magazines, you’re just following the crowd around, and a somewhat unhappy one at that! Chase your dreams, not others, and you’ll be on your way to a more rewarding life without numbers!"

The second edition of the book, published in 1998, includes a section on ice climbing history in Montana written by David Vaughn. This "Who’s Who" section mentions climbers from across the state who have been assaulting the icy peaks in the area since the 1960s. The adventures of Pat Callis, Alex Lowe, Ron Brunckhorst, Kris Erickson and others are chronicled in this section.

Brunckhorst sets out to document the worthwhile climbs of the area but also cautions readers to do the research for a climb. The difficulties and potential danger spots for each climb are given, along with favored routes. The author warns that conditions of the ice can change hourly, which can vary the seriousness of a climb by a large degree. Using a combination of the Lowe and Canadian class scale, Brunckhorst also gives commitment grade and technical class of each climb.

Climbs are grouped by area, and each description includes the names of the climbers who made the first ascent, directions for the approach, the climb and the descent. With more than 250 climbing faces named and described from Glacier to West Yellowstone, it seems as if there’s no rock in Montana that Brunckhorst hasn’t climbed.

The book is interspersed with personal stories, climbing pictures, topographic maps, and bits of advice you’d expect to get from a long-time climber. Big Sky Ice is a comprehensive ice guide and tip book for the serious climber. The book is a mixture of climbing legends, stories of mishaps, warnings of danger, and tried-and-tested advice. Big Sky Ice doesn’t read like a literary masterpiece, but it exceeds expectations for information presented and for the personal glimpse into Montana’s ice climbing community.