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  • Writer's pictureJoel Anderson

It's been getting below freezing for about a week now but the ice has a ways to go to recover from our warm spell. The ice conditions up Avalanche Lake in Glacier National Park were, as expected, thin with open water. But it's trying real hard!

I was able to climb up the approach ice no problem but there wasn't really anything good enough for solid screw placements. From there I got a better view of Memorandum. The steep curtain looked thin and steeper than usual. Remember, there are some good sized snow fields above this route and 12+ inches of snow with high winds in the forecast this weekend.

There's a huge hole in Monument with flowing water. Would be tough to stay dry right now.

The Pig is going to be the best bet for good ice if you're up for the calf burning approach.

**It's called Avalanche Lake for a reason. With the large amount of snow and wind in the forecast I'll be skiing the resort this weekend.

Check the Avy Forecast here!

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  • Writer's pictureJoel Anderson

Montana has been getting record breaking warm temps over the last week and a half. This time last year I was in Hyalite climbing in sunny 50 degree weather. We even climbed a route with our shirts off just for the novelty of having tools in our hands, crampons on and being shirtless in December. The difference was that it had actually been cold just days before and there was great early season ice everywhere. This year it was barely cold enough to lay down some high elevation ice and now the freezing levels have been hovering between 6,000 and 10,000 feet. The Flattop Snotel in Glacier Park is at 6,300' and hasn't been below freezing in a few days.

As depressing as the current situation is, there is a little glimmer of hope in the near future. There is no lack of water in the mountains right now so when these single digit temps hit the mountains a lot of ice is going to form. The down side of these weather changes is that there will be multiple large dumps of snow. Good for skiing!! Bad for ice climbing. There's a reason it's named Avalanche Lake. There are NO long ice routes in Glacier Park that are NOT in avalanche terrain. The snow that did stick around through this warming is up high in the large bowls above the ice climbs. The melting and rain will form an ice crust and now it will get loaded with a couple feet of fresh snow. A good recipe for avalanches. I will be keeping close tabs on the developing conditions and I encourage all to do the same. The Flathead Avalanche Center has the best resources to keep informed so you can make the safest decision possible if you do decide to go out in the mountains.

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  • Writer's pictureJoel Anderson

It's been a slow start to ice climbing season everywhere. Wyoming is dry and slow to start, Hyalite has a few routes that just started to become climbable in the last couple weeks, and NW Montana only has a couple of our higher elevation routes in right now.

Weather had been quite warm until a week ago when the mountains finally got some single digit temps. We were lucky to hit a good, safe, conditions window on Nov 21st when we climbed Six Pack of Beer and Nothing To Do in Snyder Basin. It was a fantastic way to start off the ice season!

The early season ice is going to be a game of patience. This week the mountains could receive up to a foot of snow followed by warm temps and a freezing level rising to over 10,000' by Sunday the 28th. It's impossible to stay completely out of avalanche terrain when climbing in Glacier Park. With that recipe of snow and warm weather I will be staying home waiting patiently for the temps to drop again.

These photos were taken on Nov 18th on my way up to avalanche lake. The hard freeze we had on the 16th is the only reason there is any ice on the lower part of these climbs. I don't think any of these routes are safe to climb today since temperatures have been creeping above freezing every day. It was really cool to see all of the ice routes frozen with no snow around them. That is the only time I have ever seen the mountains like that.

My take away from the current ice conditions and forecast is to be patient. Wait for the safe windows of opportunity. The mountains will always be there.

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