Scaling the Scenery

“Clink, clink, clink, clink.” The metallic sound of ice and crampon colliding rings through the air. With a flick of her wrist, Deann Snyder sinks her axe into the frozen waterfall. Other climbers below call out in encouragement. “You got this. Nice going.” Snyder uses the light of her headlamp to find an icy bump on which to place her spiked toe, and then she speeds up the glimmering wall.

It’s a Wednesday night and a group of people, ranging from ballerinas to engineering students, have gathered up in Hyalite Canyon. All have at least two things in common an interest in climbing and the Vert-I-Go Mountaineering Club.

Over the past five years, the members of Vert-I-Go have created climbing opportunities, both rock and ice, for students at Montana State University. Under the leadership of Joey Wyckoff, a junior in mechanical engineering technology, the club has seen tremendous growth within the past year. “This year it [the club] has really started to thrive. We’ve introduced a ton of new stuff … We try to have an event every single weekend,” Wyckoff said.

Every other Wednesday night, Vert-I-Go coordinates ice climbing in Hyalite Canyon. ProLite Gear provides discounted rentals, so the evenings are a great opportunity for newbies to try their hand, and feet, at ascending frozen waterfalls. For the uninitiated, ice climbing is the extreme sport of ascending inclined ice, and Bozeman provides access to the most concentrated ice climbing in the United States with over 225 routes in Hyalite. Every winter the town holds an internationally-acclaimed ice climbing festival.

In addition to bi-weekly Wednesday night activities, the club also coordinates outings every weekend to climbing spots around Bozeman. Last weekend some folks from Vert-I-Go went bouldering at Whiskey Gulch, a popular bouldering area just outside of Butte. The club also makes an effort to explore new climbing areas around the Gallatin Valley. “[The climbing spots] are not yet in the guide book, so people have the chance to go out and discover new climbing … Sometimes we’ll have ten kids all working on the same boulder problem, and we’re all encouraging — it’s awesome,” Wyckoff said.

Vert-I-Go Mountaineering club welcomes climbers of all ages and abilities. “No skill level required. We don’t want anyone to feel intimidated. We’d be willing to teach everyone,” Wyckoff said. If you want to check out Vert-I-Go, the club meets Thursdays at 6 p.m. at the climbing wall in the Margo Hosaeus Fitness Center. There’s a $20 fee to join to help cover costs of all the outdoor adventures.

This weekend, Feb. 1-2, Vert-I-Go is hosting The fifth annual Prince and Princess of Plastic Bouldering Competition at MSU’s fitness center. Categories include men’s and women’s beginner and men’s and women’s open. Sign up for $30 at the fitness center desk or register at the competition for $35. Registration includes a free t-shirt. Last year about 50 people competed, but this year more competitors are expected.