Here is an article that I wrote for the Bozone called;
Hyalite Canyon's new era
A number of years ago, a famous Canadian ice climber moved to the Bozeman area and changed everything. Turns out he wasn’t even Canadian, but had grown up right here in Big Timber. Little did that matter because every ice climber in the world knew the name Joe Josephson, and his name was sin-ominous with hard Canadian ice climbing. He is also the author of ‘Waterfall Ice, Climbs in the Canadian Rockies’, one of the best climbing guide books ever written.
Shortly after Joe Jo moved back to Montana he produced another stunning guide book called ‘Winter Dance’. This time for the ice climbing areas of south western Montana and northern Wyoming; namely Hyalite Canyon and Cody, Wy.
The new guide book was awesome and right away more people started climbing in Hyalite Canyon. But the access into the canyon was a big problem for the majority of the winter, because once the winter snows came the road became impassable. Then the unthinkable almost happened. The County and the Forest Service almost closed the road to winter traffic.
Joe Jo and his friends knew this couldn’t happen, and in a four year effort of working with the County and the Forest Service, and starting the South Western Montana Climbers Coalition, along with a 501c3 non-profit called Friends of Hyalite, Joe Jo made history again. In came the New Era of Hyalite Canyon.
For the last four years, because of Joe Josephson, Bill Dockins, and the ice climbing community of Bozeman; the road into Hyalite Canyon is being plowed . Open to everyone, including backcountry and nordic skier, hikers, kite skiers, ice fishermen, sledders, and families looking for that perfect Christmas tree. Hyalite Canyon boasts many things besides being a world class ice climbing destination. It is the most used canyon in the state of Montana, and now Bozeman’s favorite backyard is open to everyone all winter long. And all this is thanks to a bunch of people passionate about climbing frozen waterfalls.
Now that the road is plowed, Bozeman and Hyalite Canyon is on every North American ice climber’s radar. Hyalite Canyon has become a reliable destination, offering the most accessible and longest season of any ice climbing area in the United States. There are 230 established routes in the canyon, and some of the hardest routes in North America. Hyalite is a spectacular place, and the canyon its self has created the ice climbing community that lives here. This is because right next to some of the super hard routes that are making Hyalite famous, are nice easy beginner climbs. And everyone gets along.
As Whit Magro says, “There’s no drama in Hyalite, everyone is super supportive of one another”, and that is one of the reasons Hyalite is so special. Without this type of attitude of support from a greater community, the sport of ice climbing would not be where it is today. And Whit is at the fore front of the New Era of Hyalite ice climbing.
Whit started climbing here back in 1998 and remembers chasing around the likes of Jack Tackle, Doug Chabot, and Alex Lowe. Fourteen years later, Whit has helped establish some of the hardest routes in Hyalite, and he has done this in the same bold style the original pioneers used. It takes a special kind of person to be really good at hard ice climbing, and Whit has that special knack for climbing really hard, scary, and totally dangerous routes with confidence, style, and good old fashioned Montanan humility.
Whit is also an advocate for the new trends in ice climbing, and he sees the growing popularity of Hyalite Canyon as a way to further the evolution of the sport for both beginner climbers and those people out there pushing that standards of what is possible.
Having the road plowed into Hyalite has put Montana on the map as a world class climbing destination, but it is not only the ragged and crazy ice climbers that are benefiting from this road access. It is the town of Bozeman and our economy; it is the skiers, the ice fisherman, the families that want to go for a hike in a pristine winter wonderland. It is everyone who calls Bozeman home that has benefited from the work being done to keep access into Hyalite a reality. So the next time you run into one of your crazy ice climber friends, say thanks, and find out how you can help and become one of the Friends of Hyalite.
Christopher Bangs has been climbing ice for sixteen years and is the owner of Human-Powered Mountaineers here in Bozeman.
|Having the road plowed has opened up some of the best backcountry skiing|
|Climbing through heavy spindrift is like trying to swim and climb|
at the same time
|Early morning sunrise from the parking lot trailhead on another special|