City Lifestyle

Want to start a publication?

Learn More

Featured Article

Ice Climbing

At Night?

This month’s cover photo features a climber high on a wall of ice, in the dark. 

While the belay rope implies that this venture was a deliberate, thought-out decision, the question of “Why at night?” can’t be ignored.

Theories developed, such as -

“Does night favorably affect the stability of the ice?

“Was climbing at that time about the ambient temperature, or does sunlight affect visibility?” 

“Could it just have been about getting an amazing photo?”

Our interest was piqued, and an interview with the climbers was required. 

When Nick Ramsay and Tyler Beres were presented with that pressing question, “Why Climb at Night?”, the answer was simply - 

“It gets dark at 4:00 that time of year and we all have to work during the day.”

After the logic of that statement soaks in and the moment of mild embarrassment passes, the other questions still seem valid.

Nick and Tyler proceeded to enthusiastically, and passionately, offer an overview of what Ice Climbing is all about.

While any climbing could be considered dangerous and certainly has risk, there are many different levels of risk that can be somewhat mitigated given knowledge, the right gear and experience.

Ice Climbing is arguably more secure than Rock Climbing. This is due to the equipment involved and a climber’s ability to create their own route. 

Rather than depending on hand strength and friction, the ice axe or ice tool is driven into the ice, creating a hold with a literal handle. The crampons are kicked into the ice creating each foothold.

However, the gear itself can also pose a risk. The ice tools and crampons could damage the climbing rope’s integrity during a climb, degrading the security provided. 

If there is a fall, the crampons can stick, while the rest of the body falls. Ice screws, tools, and cold weather gear can become cumbersome.

Discussions of risk lead Nick and Tyler to the less tangible element of climbing - “The Mind”. 

It became apparent, their passion for climbing was focused around the whole experience. 

Both Nick and Tyler talked of “self discovery” and the value of the mental battle. Dealing with fear, elements, and the extensive gear, all while under pressure are cherished, key elements of ice climbing.

It was a bit unexpected to hear them explain how “The coolest part is the loneliness, as a good thing. The quietness is more serene at night.”

Tyler joked that climbing at night (without the lights for the photograph) has the added benefit of “You can’t see how high you are.”

They spoke of living in the moment. The individual climber is responsible for each of their decisions. The mountain doesn’t care that you are there, and won’t notice if something happens to you. 

Ice climbers refer to the event of climbing as being “On the Mountain”.  They use that term because it generally requires mountaineering to get to and from a climbing area. Conditions can change quickly and seriously and the risk of mountaineering can be greater than the climbing itself. 

Tyler Beres “Loves the Sufferfest” of the entire experience. 

Each time is new and different in the changing environment and conditions and the ice develops layers. These layers can become fragile and “Dinner Plates” can break off when struck by tools.

Heavily used areas can get “Hooked Out” or “Kicked In” making the routes too easy and less satisfying for the sufferfest.

Nick and Tyler enthusiastically promote the sport. 

They are part of the “Thursday Night Ice Climb”, an open group of climbers that are more than happy to help new climbers enter the sport. 

“The new guy” may be asked to pack in firewood.

They have even set up a Facebook Page, “Thursday Night Climbers of Bozeman”

Many outdoors enthusiasts in Bozeman already have the cold weather gear for other pursuits, and the climbing gear can be rented.

Ice Climbers say, “If you can swing a hammer and kick a ball, you can ice climb.”

The photos are of the Genesis 1 (G1) area of Hyalite Canyon. 

Ice Climbing Season at Hyalite can start as early as October and run as late as April, offering a wide array of conditions.

Nick Ramsay assures us, they did not climb at night for the photos, but as the owner of Mooseheart Photo, he quickly recognized the opportunity, and we are glad he did.