“Montana is one of the last places in the country where you can climb a dramatic, seemingly classic rock face of ice line and have it still feel like a complete adventure.” Justin Boening, 12-year climbing veteran.
Ice climbing, while not for the faint of heart, is a rising sport and popular winter activity. In Western Montana’s Glacier Country, there are numerous ice lines and faces to provide climbers with a slice of this growing adventure sport.
Destination: Climb the Bitterroot
There are numerous ice climbing destinations in Western Montana, with many located a short drive from Missoula.
A popular among locals and one of the most road accessible ice areas is Bear Creek. With numerous ice flows, it offers many levels of difficulty and provides nice, mixed levels for climbing.
Also located in the Bitterroot Valley about 45 minutes south of Missoula, Blodgett Canyon provides solid flows in the winter. During a cold snap, many climbers hit the north side of the canyon.
For a more secluded climb, make the hike to Bass Creek. The flows are located a few miles from the trailhead so you have to hike in to climb, which helps weed out the crowds.
Insider tip: After ice climbing, soak your muscles nearby at Lolo and Lost Trail hot springs. http://lolohotsprings.com, http://www.losttrailhotsprings.com
Destination: Climb the Missions
Traveling north from Missoula is the Mission Valley.
Known as a popular ice climbing destination is Mission Falls—located outside of St. Ignatius. While it does have a longer approach, climbers are rewarded with a massive ice wall.
Insider tip: Mission Falls is a fantastic place for beginning ice climbers.
If you’re looking for a shorter climb, head to Finley Creek, located outside of Arlee. This area offers a short approach and has around a dozen climbs.
Insider tip: Both Mission Falls and Finley Creek are located on the Flathead Indian Reservation. Be sure to obtain a tribal permit before climbing.
Destination: Climb Glacier National Park
For world-class climbing, travel north to Glacier National Park. The park’s ice is definitely suited for more experienced climbers, with routes offering exposed, steep and logistically complicated climbs.
Insider tip: In winter, Glacier National Park is a site to see. While it’s open year-round, winter offers a quiet and serene experience. Take advantage of the crowd-free season and rent snowshoes or skis from the Glacier Outdoor Center and travel the snow-covered Going-to-the-Sun Road. http://www.glacierraftco.com
Western Montana Resources
The Trailhead, http://www.trailheadmontana.net/index.html