Local ice climbers cope with marginal conditions

By MEGAN HIGGINS/Montana State News

Area ice climbers are dealing with warm weather and low precipitation resulting in variable conditions. The combination of warm weather and low snowpack has created an average ice climbing season.

Loren Rausch, sponsored local climber and ambassador to several climbing companies said, “This year has been an average ice season in respect to my time  spent in Bozeman.” He said he has been climbing in the area for about 10 years.

Rausch pointed out that all the ingredients for a “banner” season were in place, including a cool fall with lots of precipitation, but it just isn’t happening.

Many of the frozen climbs in Hyalite, known worldwide for its ice climbing, still don’t have ice on them, and the ones that do can be varied in their stability due to expansion of the ice when it warms and cools.

Rausch likes to think of ice as a living thing. “When the temperatures change fast (like they have this winter) the ice can be “shocked,” he said.

“This can cause stops in the water flow, extremely brittle ice or ice with the “consistency of a slushy,” all of which create dangerous conditions for the climbers.

Even though conditions have not been stellar, many climbers are enjoying the lack of the “screaming-barfies,” the cold associated with ice climbing is one that sneaks up on even the most experience climber.

“Usually the climber doesn’t notice the numbness until it’s too late. As your hands re-warm the return of blood flow to the fingers hurts terribly, then the cold blood in your arms returns to your core, this makes you nauseated,” states Rausch.

Climbers are also enjoying the “sticky” ice caused by the warmer temperatures. “This means that it’s easier to swing an ice tool into the ice and the ice tool is more secure,” Rausch said.

Rausch said the varied conditions are something that climbers are used to dealing with, and good decision-making is key to enjoying ice climbing this year.

“My personal rule is follow your gut,” he said. “If it feels bad go to the bar. We’re locals here in Bozeman. We can come back and climb this thing any time we want!”

Edited by Haley Anderson.


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