South Fork Ice Climbing by - Sam Magro of Montana Alpine Guides.
At first glance most climbers are equally inspired, intimidated, and motivated by the options before them, upon entering the South Fork of the Shoshone. The majority of the climbs are rarely completely visible as they corkscrew through bands of volcanic conglomerate, shales, and sandstones. The walk that appeared to be twenty minutes takes sixty to ninety minutes. It’s a massive landscape in the rain shadow of the southern Absaroka Mountains and borders the “most roadless” area in the lower 48-states. This entire region is a major corridor for elk, grizzly, wolves, big-horn sheep, mule deer, etc. which links right into Yellowstone National Park and several wilderness areas. In addition to its wild status the South Fork is home to some of the best multi-pitch ice climbing in the US.
The climbing in Cody has inspired many to push themselves both in The South Fork Canyon and abroad. It requires lengthy approaches, long routes in complex alpine terrain, objective hazards, mandatory v-thread skills, and a need for full self-sufficiency. This full-flavor character provides climbers with high rewards on its countless long routes. As a new climber you can’t help but be inspired by these climbs and by the first ascents made by Todd Cozzens, Stan Price, JIm Montgomery, Ric Miller, Alex Lowe, Aaron Mulkey and others. Many routes were established with “knuckle-bashing” tools, leashes, and hard-to-place screws. That says nothing of all the walking, searching, trying, failing, returning, trying again, and ultimately succeeding on a route that could now be deemed “climbable”. Many of these routes remain test pieces today.
We’ve all learned from others and from experience. Now as more experienced climbers we can pass on the knowledge. It’s safe to say that all of us Montana Alpine Guides cut our teeth for ice climbing equally in Hyalite Canyon, Cody’s South Fork, and the nether-regions in between. Each area has very different characters but all are part of the bigger ice-seeping-whole that is The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
This year marks the first year that Montana Alpine Guides will be a part of the annual Cody Ice Climbing Festival with our sole focus toward the technical “on-ice” components of the event. We are super excited to be extending our guided and instructional ice climbing operations to include Cody’s South Fork throughout the winter months. The options are endless, check our website for just a few of the classic multi-pitch lines in the canyon. You can always rope up with us before or after this years CIF but either way we will see you in Cody come February.
MONTANA ALPINE GUIDES
Montana Alpine Guides offers rock climbing, ice climbing, mountaineering, backcountry skiing, avalanche education, and backpacking trips in Montana, Wyoming, and all over the globe. Based in Bozeman, MT we have operated under our existing permits since 1985.