Posted: Sat, 12/20/2008 - 11:22

As the solstice is here and the ice season is now in full swing I can't help but think about a guy I climbed with for the last time about ten years ago.  He was just coming off knee surgery and was like a caged tiger.  He couldn't wait to get back on the ice.  He literally almost ran down the trail.  We carried on a conversation but I was nearly ten yards behind him the whole time until we got to the base of the climb.  His passion for climbing just oozed from him.  So now, many years later, I'm shopping ice climbing guides again thinking of routes to do this winter and one climb always stands out.  No, not Winter Dance, although Kris and Whit deserve the highest praise for freeing the route.  In my opinion they put the exclamation mark on the sentence that reads Hyalite Canyon is now a world class ice climbing venue.  Nor do many of the other high quality routes in Hyalite really catch my eye.  The route that always intrigues me is a bit of an obscure one far from Hyalite.  Cedar Mountain Falls is in the Madison Range and I've never heard anyone claim it's a classic.  In actuality, I don't even know that much about it.  But what always amazes me is that Alex Lowe skied 16-20 miles roundtrip by himself to do its' first ascent.  I never asked Alex about it either but I'm guessing he probably didn't know what kind of climb it'd be - maybe he didn't even know if there'd be ice up the drainage for that matter.  But the point is he was out looking and searching.  Sure Alex did numerous routes up Hyalite and other places where access was relatively easy even back in the old days when one would have to ski in from the dam.  But the fact remains that he was also willing to go a little further you might say.  So now when I see the crowds of folks up Hyalite many who are itching to do a first ascent I can't help but think what would Alex have done?  I imagine there still might be some amazing lines to do up Hyalite that nobody has spied yet.  But I also wonder if there's not some incredible routes to be done in more remote places.  Of course there's no guarantee what you'll find or how hard the routes might be when you go looking.  Like Alex you might find something like Cedar Mountain Falls which may or may not be a classic.  But isn't at least half the fun just searching not knowing what you'll find?  

A L would've gone for it.

  • Wed, 12/24/2008 - 00:56

Yeah, I think you're right montanaclimber: alex would've gone for it, looking for a random ice climb that who knew was actually there. I've never been to Cedar Creek Falls; actually, I don't know anybody who has. but I can image how it got found.

During the holiday season, like right now, I imagine Alex would've gotten a little jumpy. About 3 or 4 in the morning, woken up, and decided to go for a Dawn Patrol, planning to get back before the kids were up. Thrown the ice pack on his back and driven up to go for a ski up one or another aventure ski valley. There was a reason Alex moved back to MT, from UT.

Two out of three times, maybe, he would've run into a moose in the valley bottom, and checked out some chossy volcanic cliffs for summer later. But maybe once in a while, spotted an ice clmb and gone up to bag it! Ah, that's the spirit of adventure. Checkin' out some shit that one hasn't seen at that tme of year, seeing what's there.

There's no reason it's exclusive to Alex Lowe, or waking up at 3 a.m. It's just a matter of checking out what one saw last month while hunting; or a couple years ago while running. Seeing what is there now.

The cool thing is, around here, it's alwaqys different from what you expect- maybe more, maybe less, but always a good adventure.


Nice to keep the spirit of

  • Wed, 01/07/2009 - 14:54

Nice to keep the spirit of Alex alive. Where is the image from?


  • Sat, 04/25/2009 - 11:13

I realize the point of my post regarding Alex was not really whether or not he climbed Cedar Mountain Falls or Cedar Creek Falls but for the sake of accuracy I wanted to set the record straight.  It's my understanding that he did the first ascent solo of Cedar Mountain Falls while Jim Kanzler and partner did the first ascent of Cedar Creek Falls.  I'm not sure if Cedar Mountain Falls even shows up in most guide books either.  But, like I said, the exact piece of ice he climbed isn't really the main point of the story.  I should say, too, that I have nothing but respect for Jim and think he really captures the spirit of Alex in his post related to my story.  Furthermore, I really appreciate everything Jim does for the climbing community here in Montana.