Hyalite and Yellowstone, new ice climbs. Hyalite Canyon is our gym here in southwest Montana, with world-class ice that’s been scraped over since the 1970s. These days, to pioneer new lines, one must get scrappy on chossy rock in order to reach tantalizing drips that are few, far between, and come in and out of condition like ghosts. At the end of last season we skinned six miles and climbed 200' of chossy rock to gain a 50' drip. With a broken drill it took two days. What were we doing? Were we this desperate for new routes?
Then a friend invited me deep into Yellowstone National Park. Five-hundred feet of magnificent mixed climbing later, my faith in the new route potential of southwest Montana has been reborn. Kyler Pallister, Tyler Nygard, and I climbed the Reverie, a sequence of two massive drips that poured out of a wall of mudflow rock and petrified wood. The rock is like consolidated ash in places, but it was good enough to safely climb to reach the ice. Steep rock/mixed climbing led to an overhanging curtain and a series of dagger-like drips. Pitch two’s fat pillar took us to a snow shelf. The third pitch climbed vertical rock to reach the final dagger. At the top, we realized that we’d just climbed one of the best routes any of us had done in Montana (500', 5.10+ A1 WI 6). We went back a week later to free the sections that we’d aided while bolting on lead. Alas, the lower half of the route had fallen down (it was mid-April). It seemed like a good time to put away ice gear and get back on dry rock.
There may still be a handful of seldom-formed new lines in Hyalite, but Montana’s real potential lies in the Yellowstone ecosystem to our south, where there is an abundance of conglomerate ice-seeping cliff bands below the seemingly endless alpine faces of the Beartooths with their melt-freeze cycles. To date Hyalite’s convenience has outweighed the slog to unknown canyons and peaks, but now it seems that if we look outside the box, we will discover more reveries.