Spirit of Adventure

After hours of postholing into a remote area of the Absaroka Range, it is easy to find yourself questioning the reason for this torment. As winter adventurers, we wander through snow-capped forests and over icy creeks. We pursue small and secluded breaks in the cliffs that encourage the formation of many masochists’ dreams. I, like the adventurers before me, am in search of a “climbable” drip of ice or the perfectly aesthetic walled couloir to point my ski tips down. While all of these landscapes have a certain beauty to them, I wonder what kind of person would want to pursue these shining pinnacles, equipped only with rudimentary gear in locations that were hardly more than a whisper floating through dark forests.

“Spirit of Adventure” is a photographic comparison of voyages from the past to the ones of the present. Following in the footsteps of these original pioneers, I discovered stories and images of first ascents of bitter ice climbs and steep ski descents from a time when the possibility for unexploited adventure in this region seemed infinite. This project compares the reasons we test ourselves against the trailblazers of the past and what motivated them to establish ice climbs and descend seemingly unskiable chutes.

Green Gully

Original images by Pat Callis

Green Gully was one of the first ice climbs to be established in the Bozeman area, and it is what put Bozeman on the map for its amazing natural ice. After the climb was established in 1971, Yvon Chouinard published a book on the various techniques of ice climbing that were being developed around the world. The centerfold of that book was an image taken by Lindalee Kanzler of Pat Callis leading the giant ice flow.

Dribbles

Original images by Brian Leo Collection and words by Doug McCarty

“Back then, just to get in and out of Hyalite, you skied for hours up the snow-covered road, fought with stuck cars and shuffled back to town in the dark. The climbs near the mouth of the canyon were usually the practical limit for a day trip. But on one outing in 1972, Brian Leo, Bo Stuart, Chuck Rose and I saw something shimmering through the trees, and we headed uphill by dead reckoning until we broke out of the timber. A broad cascade flowed over a long curtain and down a series of steps. We climbed to the base of the headwall and paused. This icefall seemed steeper, wider, and longer than anything we'd done before.”

Bridger Bowl

Original images from left to right: Paul Dix, Thomas Jungst, Jim Humphries, Thomas Jungst

Bridger Bowl in the 1980s held many hidden gems that helped progress the sport of extreme skiing. This process began in the early days of Bridger Bowl, where skiers were just starting to explore the mighty Ridge. Making first descents daily, it was a training ground for these pioneers to really push their abilities and create new techniques for the steeps in a ski area that provided some safety margins. Found within the limits of the ski area, mandatory straight lines and airs were a common theme on lines such as The Deviated Septum and The Virtues.

The Ribbon

Original images by Thomas Jungst

The Ribbon, first skied in 1989, gained notoriety as a highly technical descent, particularly noteworthy because it requires a five-mile trek with almost 3,500 feet of vertical gain. A narrow 30-foot straight line through a walled couloir no wider than the width of your ski poles waits for you should you actually make the journey. Anyone of these features would have created a worthy descent. The combination made for a truly frightening ski.

The Ribbon Original images by Thomas Jungst The Ribbon, first skied in 1989, gained notoriety as a highly technical descent, particularly noteworthy because it requires a five-mile trek with almost 3,500 feet of vertical gain. A narrow 30-foot straight line through a walled couloir no wider than the width of your ski poles waits for you should you actually make the journey. Anyone of these features would have created a worthy descent. The combination made for a truly frightening ski.

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