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Clinic topropes at G1, Hyalite Canyon, Montana. The 2007 Bozeman Ice Festival, November 29 through December 2, featured a new kind of competition in which pairs of climbers attempt as many pitches as possible in a day. Although $1,000 of prize money was awarded, all competitors chose to donate their winnings toward the ongoing Hyalite access fight. More details about the competition will be available in an upcoming Weekly Feature. [Photo] Erik Lambert

The 2007 Bozeman Ice Festival was held November 29 through December 2 in access-threatened Hyalite Canyon. The festival gathered climbers from around the world to enjoy four days of festivities including competitions, demos, clinics, slideshows, raffles, giveaways and free kegs–and all of the festival’s profits will be put directly toward educational programs and advocacy efforts designed to maintain winter access to Hyalite. More on the event and the convoluted tale of access battles are available in the November 7 and December 5 Weekly Features.

The inaugural Hyalite Ice Breaker, the festival’s most anticipated event, is the first ice climbing competition of its kind. A selection of Hyalite Canyon routes were scored according to length, difficulty and approach time. This list was made public before the event to allow teams to strategize. Teams of two then sprinted around the canyon, armed with their tools and digital cameras to document each climb. At the end of the day, all of the routes and teams were scored, bouldering style–that is, each route that was climbed by multiple teams had its points divided by the number of teams that climbed it.

The comp spread over two days of contest; the Pro-Invite class was held on Thursday, the Open class on Saturday. The Pro comp paired distinguished Bozeman climbers with other athletes invited from around the world, creating new partnerships mixed at random. Nine teams of two competed, six male and six female. Guy Lacelle (BC) and Ross Lynn (MT) won the men’s division; Jen Olson (BC) and Sarah Hueniken (AB) took the women’s. Full results have been posted in the December 5 Weekly Feature.

One-thousand dollars in prize money was given out to the winning athletes; however, every prize recipient donated the money back to the ongoing Hyalite access fight.

The Open class was accessible to any team in which one member could lead ice, resulting in fourteen teams of two. “It’s designed to be accessible to climbers of all levels. Whether you’re a grade-three ice climber or a ‘rip it up’ mixed legend, you can compete on relatively even ground,” said Joe Josephson, the festival’s primary organizer.

Overall, the eighteen pros climbed eighty-two pitches combined; the twenty-eight open participants climbed a combined seventy.

Josephson said that the competitions approximated how a normal day of climbing would go in the canyon for any ice climber, be they storied professionals or bumbling amateurs. “It’s in the spirit of two partners going climbing for a long day in the mountains,” he said. “It’s not about isolated moves of difficulty on artificial terrain–it’s about real climbers going out on real climbs… I don’t like to call it a competition; I like to call it an athletic event where you go out to see what’s possible and have fun.”

Hundreds of people descended upon downtown Bozeman’s Baxter Hotel for the weekend’s social functions. While many were climbers who had arrived to compete in the Ice Breaker competition, hone their skills at the clinics or simply socialize with long-unseen members of their community, some were locals simply intrigued by an increasingly publicized sport. One festival attendee said, “I ski. I don’t understand you guys at all, but these photos [gesturing at the Guy Lacelle slideshow] are amazing. Maybe I’ll get out there one of these years.” The unnamed participant was later seen checking out demo gear from one of the sponsor’s tables. Alpinist awaits a full report.

Ice-climbing clinics included the return of last year’s popular “Women’s-Only Day” featuring a slideshow by Kitty Calhoun and instruction ranging from “Never Climbed in My Life” to “I’m an Ice Master, Teach Me to Send M-Hard.”

Calhoun’s “Last Ascents” slideshow–a disturbing look at alpine routes that will probably never have another ascent due to their disruption by global warming–opened the post-ice events on Thursday. The next two nights were equally entertaining with Guy Lacelle’s slide show on his 100 favorite ice climbs and the Montana premiere of Higher Ground, a film about the vertical lifestyle by Chris Alstrin and Alex Lavign. (See Alpinist TV for exclusive shorts from Higher Ground.)