Location: Pine Creek Trail, Paradise Valley
Route: 60 meters, WI3+
Made famous by Yvon Chouinard's 1978 book titled "Climbing Ice," Green Gully is a North American classic. The book featured a two page spread of Bozeman ice climbing legend, Pat Callis making the first ascent in 1971. Located south of Livingston, the Pine Creek area of the Absoroka Range offers a variety of ice routes with far less traffic than nearby Hyalite Canyon.
Leaving the Pine Creek Campground, we began hiking the Pine Creek trail past the first bridge and over a small hill. Just past the bridge we caught our first glimpse of the flow. From here we cut right off trail towards the creek. Although more difficult, breaking trail through freshly fallen snow is one of the many beauties of ice climbing. With the creek between us and the flow, Pat and I began scheming our hop skip and jump options to get across. Rocks are slippery and the ice is thin. Pat tried an ambitious set of stepping stones to find himself in over his head and soon retreating. I found a log jam with some thick ice to cross successfully allowing us to continue on.
The approach from car to the climb was about 45 minutes. The weather was beautiful with bluebird skies and a 30 degree temperature. With the limited amount of snow we have received this year the approach from the creek upwards was very easy and free of avalanche concern. On a side note, I wish I had brought bear spray. Once arriving at the base of the climb, we unfortunately had to wait as another party had beat us by about 30 minutes. Pat and I have had bad luck recently with having to wait at California Ice in the Beartooth's also and ultimately having to turn around early because of it. Here we waited about 45 minutes watching and dry tooling around on the rock beside the climbing.
The Green Gully can be lead in one long pitch but we decided to break it up into two pitches for convince and realistically because we both wanted to get a lead in. Pat began the first lead placing screws for protection and climbing the harder vertical section of the first pitch. As Pat breaches the first bulge, I belay from behind a rock to dodge falling ice. After placing nine screws and climbing 30 meters, Pat exclaimed "off belay" and proceeded to build an anchor. I then unclipped my belay device, shaded a layer and grabbed my ice tools.
I begin climbing moving quickly until the vertical section begins. From the ground, this looked fairly easy, yet once climbing became very difficult. Pulling each screw out as I move upward, I swing my tools into the ice and kick in my crampons. Once meeting Pat at the anchor, I clip in and take a breather. From here I will lead the next pitch and finish the climb. Lead climb is much more risky. A fall will shock load your last piece of protection and in this case, my last ice screw. There is an unwritten rule in ice climbing: don't fall. I feel much more confident lead climbing than following for some reason. I am in the zone and focused on nothing but whats in front of me. The first three screws went in well and I was on my way. Once beginning the crux of the route I couldn't get the screw to catch. The ice was fairly rotten and I could hear water flowing behind it. I put the screw back on my harness and kept climbing. Sometimes when climbing and struggling to find a place for protection, it is more efficient to just keep moving until you find an obvious place for gear rather than hanging there wasting energy.
I overcame the crux to find myself in a small chimney of rock and thin ice offering no protection and a 15 meter run out past my last screw. And I didn't feel very confident about my last screw. Using my ice tools to find good holds I scraped rocks and faceted snow. One swing ended in a spark from the pick and contact with rock. struggling up the chimney I found my way to a two bolt anchor. Here I clipped in and belayed Pat to join me. Bring two ropes for the rappel.