Conrad Anker first picked up an ice axe in 1982. He’s been climbing on ice ever since. “When I’m at home in Montana,” Anker says, “I absolutely live for ice climbing.” With the world-class Hyalite Canyon just a few minutes outside his hometown of Bozeman, Anker spends a lot of time every winter doing just that. He’s established dozens of routes in the canyon and uses the frozen waterfalls and overhanging rock walls of Hyalite as his exercise gym, gear lab, and training ground before heading to the Himalayas every spring.
Describing Anker as an expert ice climber would be a wild understatement. He’s one of the best, most technically sound and expedition-proven high-altitude ice and rock climbers in the world. Which is why I was thrilled, and a bit nervous, about joining him for a day of ice climbing on his home turf. The only catch was, I’d never been ice climbing before.
“Well, there’s a first time for everything,” Conrad replied in an email. “It might as well be on Tuesday!” Gulp. Followed by, “It will be fun, or complete misery, depending upon how you define fun…my guess is this will be worth two roller coaster rides. ;)” Double gulp. I’m not going to lie, that winky-face terrified me.
Here’s how the day went.