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  • Writer's pictureJoel Anderson

December update...

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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