By Emily Stifler, explorebigsky.com managing editor

For the past several years, Hyalite Canyon has been the most reliable, concentrated
and accessible ice climbing destination in the country. That’s because it
has more than 200 routes in a 3,000-acre square area, and the 14-mile access
road has been plowed all winter since the season of 07/08.

Never been ice climbing and want to check it out? Need to hone your skills?
Registration for the 15th annual Arc’teryx Bozeman Ice Festival (Dec. 8-11)
is open.

For the 15th anniversary, festival organizers are planning a special ‘retrospective’
theme to celebrate the 40-year history of modern waterfall ice climbing
in North America.

Climbing luminaries such as Henry Barber, John Bragg, Kitty Calhoun, Barry
Blanchard and Will Gadd will give clinics and evening slide shows, and ice
climbing legend Jeff Lowe will be a special guest.

Lowe, a Utah native, was known for making over 1,000
first ascents from the ‘60s through the ‘80s in North
America, the Alps and the Himalaya. Lowe was the original
pioneer of truly technical ice climbing in the ‘70s, and
he pioneered mixed climbing in the 90s.

“Lowe was the most influential ice climber of all time,”
said festival organizer and accomplished climber Joe
Josephson.

“To have all these pioneers in one room will be the climbing
event of a generation,” Josephson added.

Back by popular demand is the Thursday women’s clinic,
as well as gear demos and other skills development
classes. Because the daily limit for participants is 60, the
clinics fill up fast, says Mike Cooperstein of Montana
Alpine Guides.

The festival draws climbers from across the Northwest,
and this year they’re doing a major push to market to
metro areas like Seattle, Portland and Salt Lake City.

“There is no place in America besides Hyalite where you
can show up any time between Thanksgiving and the end of
March, and be guaranteed to go ice climbing,” Josephson said.

The ice climbing festival will also help raise awareness and
funds for Friends of Hyalite, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that supports
the Gallatin National Forest’s efforts to manage recreation
in Hyalite. The group’s primary focus is the road plowing in
the winter. The plowing operation has been funded by the
National Forest and Gallatin County the past couple years,
but future funding is not guaranteed, and the group says it’s
likely private money will be needed to keep the road open in
winter. hyalite.org
bozemanicefest.com