At the beginning of the winter, Matt was trying to drum up interest in an ice climbing trip to Vermont for the February weekend he had off from school. I countered with a possible Joshua Tree trip, and due to funds and access, a more local venue was chosen. The venue in this case was Hyalite Canyon just south of Bozeman Montana. Matt managed to get an even six of us to go and the plan was to leave Friday, and come back Tuesday with three full days of climbing in between. Unfortunately, the day before we left I awoke with a sore throat. I hoped it would go away, but by the time we were in the car heading to Bozeman I had a respiratory infection. The ailment would put a damper on my weekend, but I strove to have fun.
We got a late start on our travel day and the vehicle I was in did not arrive in Bozeman until some time around midnight. After securing a hotel room with three beds, we got about to getting to sleep in an effort to maximize our time the next day.
Once again hobbled by a late start, we probably arrived in the parking lot around 10am. We choose the area with the shortest approach and great assortment of climbs, the Genesis area. It had snowed the previous day and I gave my new snowshoes a try. They were not needed on the packed trail, and unfortunately ineffective in the thigh deep powder off the trail. (I'm sure they work great on "Cascade Concrete".) They would be relegated along with all the snowshoes to the hotel for the remainder of the trip.
We arrived in less than 20 minutes at the Genesis area. Josh and Adam went about setting up top ropes on the G1 wall where everyone took turns climbing routes in the WI4 & 5 range. I attempted a couple of routes but was too weak to climb such steep routes due to my condition and would have to lower off before even gaining the halfway point. I took some pictures and mostly belayed and tried to stay warm in the light snow. After everyone had their shot at three different routes we tore down the top ropes and headed north along the wall to reach other routes that we could lead. While I led Tree Clump, Matt and Josh climbed up Lower Greensleeves and onto Hang Over. Adam followed me on Tree Clump where we originally climbed the easier left side and then top roped the steeper right side before rappelling back down. Upon arriving at the base of Lower Greensleeves, we alerted Zach and Alex who had just topped out that the time was 3:45pm. They set up a rappel and were soon joined by Josh and Matt coming back from their climb of Hang Over.
That evening we went to the Montana Ale Works for dinner and had bison burgers. While I recommend the food and local beer selection, it is not a great choice for a Saturday night as we had to wait nearly an hour before being seated.
Sunday morning we had an earlier start with clear skies and much colder temps than the previous day. We didn't make a decision until the parking lot that we would go to the Mummy Cooler area to check out climbs there. The hike up was fairly long (an hour?) before we got to the routes Mummy Cooler II and the Scepter. Unfortunately there was a considerable avalanche danger and we opted not to climb Cooler II which looked like an awesome route. We went around the corner to a route that was not in the sun and was quite cold at the base. It may have been called Mummy Orchid. Josh led Adam up in one pitch, while Zach led the first bit and I led the second bit with a funky frozen moss top out. Matt led Alex up in one pitch as well. We rapped the route and everyone but me top roped a pillar near the second part of the route. While Matt and Alex finished the top roping, the rest of us headed south to other climbs.
Josh had spied "The Matrix" earlier and saw it in much fatter conditions than the guide picture. It is normally rated an M4, WI4, 5.9 or something like that. The fatter conditions rendered it more like a WI3+ or 4 and Josh wanted at it. Zach and I went a little further and climbed Cave and Gully a decent WI3 route in the sun. Unfortunately because of the sun the outer ice was a bit rotten and ice on the second step was seriously delaminating and a little sketchy. Zach led, and I followed after taking a short fall right near the start before realizing the surface ice was not to be trusted. We hung out on top until Matt and Alex arrived before we rapped off in the direction of Feeding the Cat. We arrived to a joyed Josh and Adam after their successful completion of The Matrix, or the variation they climbed. And we all made the long hike back out to the car from that location.
On day three we headed to the Amphitheater wall to climb the corner climbs. I think the original intent was to do a little top roping there and then head to Mummy Cooler I to do some easier leading. (Alex was interested in getting a lead in.) After Josh and Matt set up top ropes, Zach and Josh quickly finished Fat Chance and then started on Slim Chance. Both are supposed to be WI3, but Slim Chance had become overhanging possibly due to the super fat condition it was in.
I belayed Alex on a mock lead before tackling Fat Chance myself. Unfortunately, I had Alex leave the screws in and I was going to remove them on the way down. This proved to be a hazard, as the rope caught on one of the screws while I was heading on a different track around a bulge from the line Alex took. Suddenly I was in a situation where I was leading. I attempted to flip the rope, but there was too much tension, even after Adam gave me slack. I told him I was going to try to climb above to a better stance and then attempt to flip the rope. I really did not want to traverse back over the steeper bulge to the screw. After a few strenuous moves up the rope felt like an anvil pulling me down and my legs were getting tired. A few moves and I would be on a decent ledge like stance, but the rope tension was too much. Now I was set to take quite a fall. I finally gave in to a down climb. I made some moves down and then across the bulge before finally flipping the rope off the screw. At that point I was so pumped I just decided to come off the wall and get lowered. What an ordeal.
I rested a bit on the ground while eating lunch and gave Slim Chance a try with Zach's Quarks. The route was steep, and I was overgripping the unleashed tools with the fat gloves I was wearing. I got up a bit on the climb but was already too pumped to continue. Later after more rest I gave an attempt on the line that Josh set up a third top rope for. This line started on Thin Chance (or in Alex's case half on Thin Chance, half on the rock.) I made a few moves and felt good until I stepped up and couldn't locate a position for my left foot. I backed off and that concluded a somewhat depressing third day in Hyalite for me. Later Zach would tackle the line that moved from near the top of Slim Chance over to an icicle on the left. With all of us watching, he successfully completed the climb without taking or falling. He even threw in a figure four move for the cameras! After that, Josh climbed Slim Chance one more time to tear the anchors and the group decided that it was a good time to leave. (It was around 2pm.)
Overall it was a good trip. Since I was not the organizer, I took the position of being a participant. This was frustrating at times when we were not organized, or my voice wasn't heard when picking an eatery. I enjoyed myself on the trip, but could have enjoyed it more if I was not ill. The climbing was great and I would like to go back and lead more as well as get on harder routes on top rope. I think for the money we spent to get/stay there, I didn't get a whole lot of climbing done. Once again, this was mostly due to illness as I could not complete steeper routes that we set top ropes on. It was also due to inefficiency in our group and perhaps other issues. The climbing that I did do was fun and I would go back again even this winter if possible. The rest of the party was talking about making it an annual pilgrimage, but I'm not so sure at this point. I also felt like I would enjoy ice climbing more with a newer set of tools.