Recent Hyalite ice climbing conditions and winter layering

Clouds and fresh snow over Hyalite Reservoir

I was up to Hyalite for three days straight this previous weekend, and only on Saturday night did the ice climbing conditions come back. It seems like winter has re-taken its hold, after the apres-Halloween thaw that we experienced here up until this last Friday. Temps in the 50°’s (F) and up finally gave way to sub-freezing temps over the last few days. Flowing water has begun to freeze, and snow has accumulated in the mountains.

Saturday along upper Hyalite Creek

Sunday along the creek from the previous photo’s vantage point

Thin Chance, WI4 (and where it gets the name)

I trudged up through the Amphitheater, where the two Chances (Fat and Thin) are just coming in, and the talus is quite treacherous on the way up. I broke trail up through the trees on the climbers trail that largely stays on the ridgeline, and the going was pretty straightforward, although it could use some more snow. Up top, I was able to reach (from left to right) The Scepter, Mummy II, Crypt Orchid, The Matrix, Cave and Gulley, and Feeding the Cat.

‘Feeding the Cat, WI3’

‘The Matrix, M5, WI4’ (left) and ‘Cave & Gully, WI3’ (center) – not yet in shape

‘Crypt Orchid, WI2-3’

There was a party of four on my first objective of Crypt Orchid, so I traversed right and soloed around on Feeding the Cat. The upper portion is somewhat suspect, so I downclimbed without topping out – figuring it was a smart move given the state of the thin ice. It actually had some of the most ice out of all of the upper climbs above the Amphitheater and was well featured and fun.

Chandeliered ice on ‘Feeding the Cat’

As a gear related note, I managed to remember to take a photo of my somewhat typical winter upper layering system. The four-layer ensemble in this instance consisted of kit for the teens (°F) for steep hiking over ~four miles (high aerobic exertion) with intermittent climbing/faffing about (low exertion). I find these, and similar layers suitable for other winter pursuits, with mainly the thickness/fabric of said garments being adjusted for variable temps/conditions/applications. Slightly thinner and more breathable for warmer temps and/or higher exertion, and thicker for colder temps and/or lower exertion.

Four-layer winter layering system

This particular system consisted of a RAB MeCo 120 L/S Tee as a next-to-skin layer, RAB Boreas Pull-On as a midlayer, Westcomb Shift LT Hoody for a stretch WP/B outerlayer, and finally a layered 100g/60g Primaloft Montane Flux as a fully featured synthetic belay parka. For my legs, I had on Cap 2 Bottoms and Backcountry Guide Pants, both from Patagonia. All layers were highly functional and warranted for the outing. And as a final layering note, I have not found the need for external gaiters now that I’ve had integrated gaiters with a couple of pairs of climbing boots. The integrated gaiter is definitely a lighter and more efficient system when compared to the traditional external ‘over the boots and pants’ calf-height gaiter system. Gotta love the progression!

Integrated gaiter on Phantom Ultra, under the Backcountry Guide Pant

The rest of the day consisted of scoping out the conditions of other notable climbs both high and low. Mummy II is looking to be in, but thin, and The Scepter is broken into a couple of yet-to-be touching daggers.

‘The Scepter, WI5’ (left) and ‘Mummy Cooler II, WI3-ish’ (foreground)

The Scepter, WI 5, (forming)

Besides that, the lower Genesis area had a ton of climbers on it playing around on top-rope both on the newly formed, and still running ice, and also on the dry/mixed routes on the right of the crag. I also checked out Lower Greensleeves, which was not at all in. Up above, it looked like Genesis II was getting close to ready while to the left, Hangover was being climbed in thin conditions. Overall, things are looking up for Hyalite’s ice conditions and should hopefully continue to progress.

Genesis I area coming in slowly, but surely

Self-portrait low on ‘Feeding the Cat’


  1. Reply
    Hendrik November 18, 2012

    Love the photos, Nick. We’re still having a grey & brown landscape here, and I can’t wait to get the snow and try the new toys =)

    • Reply
      nicktruax November 18, 2012

      Thanks Hendrick – glad you’re liking the photos. Your blog is looking stellar as always btw. Here’s hoping for some snow and ice in your neck of the woods!

  2. Reply
    Parker November 24, 2012

    It’s a shame that all of that is pretty much back to before that weekend. I climbed Scepter on top rope on the 17th, and I’m pretty sure a lot has melted off since then. Lower greensleeves was “in” ish on the 18th, and almost gone by the end of the day on the same day. Winter needs to stop teasing us. I think we are all ready for the real deal any day now! Great blog btw, very exciting.


  3. Reply
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