Scarpa shoe review, climbing guides, AMGA, IFMGA

Gear Review: Scarpa Vitamin (Approach Shoe)

Over the past year I have used and abused a pair of Scarpa Vitamin approach shoes while guiding for MAG – Montana Alpine Guides at the crag and in the mountains. The Vitamin, first and foremost climbs like a “big comfy” climbing shoe but still has great support and comfort for the approach and descent. This combo makes it the ideal shoe for moderate climbing objectives.

Where and how Montana Alpine Guides uses the Scarpa Vitamin:
  • Approaches: Most of our approaches are 10-45 minutes over trails, boulders, and talus slopes with a heavy pack. We also have the occasional 5-10 mile approach.
  • Climbs: The climbs we have guided with the Vitamin range from cracks to smearing and edging on face routes from 5.6 – 5.10 in The Gallatin Canyon. We have also used the Vitamin on 2,000’ 5.6-5.8 ridgelines up to 12 miles deep in the heart of the Beartooth Mountains
The MAG Review:
  • Approach: Cushioned heel, arch support, and sticky rubber make the Vitamin comfortable and at home on long ascents or descents with a climbing pack. I have yet to have any blisters with these shoes.
  • Climbing: The Scarpa Vitamin performs just as well as my “big comfies” on technical rock routes. The toe is chiseled down just like a traditional rock shoe with lacing right to the end, a thin under sole at the toe box, and sticky rubber all add up to make one feel quite confident climbing moderate vertical rock whether it be jamming cracks, edging, or smearing. The climbing zone and the way the foot is positioned over the inside edge allows for impressive edging ability. If I find myself pushing the limits of the shoe I will simply lace it down to the max for better climbing performance, which usually does the trick.

Reviewed by Sam Magro
Lead Climbing Guide
Montana Alpine Guides

Hyalite Canyon, Hyalite Peak, Maid of the Mist, Palace Butte, The Mummies

CONDITIONS UPDATE – Hyalite Canyon – Observed 3/13 – 3/16/2015

Several days and evenings with above freezing temps didn’t fair well for Hyalite ice. We are listing select routes we observed which are not all inclusive. With the colder temps coming up we could see a rebound or even the forming of some random smears. As for now here is what to expect:

Unnamed Wall:

  • The Fat One – fractures in the ice down low
  • Elevator Shaft – decent shape,
  • All other routes took a serious hit; even the mixed climbs are suspect with warm temps as the rock becomes “unglued”.

Genesis Area:

  • G1 left side is OK, right side is risky as this is when it tends to fall victim to gravity. Lower and Upper Green Sleeves – decent shape
  • G2 – decent but the top half seems to be quite thin and slushy.
  • Hangover – on its way out.
  • Zack Attack – out.

Scepter and the Mummies areas:

  • This area has taken a hit and most climbs look risky to play on. The bottom half of Mummy II seems to be in decent shape, top half looks haggard. The routes to the right of the Mummy also look quite grim. Upper mummy is hurting for certain.

Corner Climbs/Amphitheatre:

  • Taking a hit from the sun

Dribbles Area:

  • Dribbles – looks thin and grim, don’t expect any secure anchors or v threads
  • Climb Above The Dribbles – Probably still in
  • Silken Falls – looks a bit better
  • Avalanche Gulch – looks all in from afar, can’t speak on ice quality
  • Responsible – baked out by the sun

Winter Dance Area:

  • WD – worked over by the sun
  • Dialectic BD – was in, probably out by now
  • Climbs below WD – took a serious hit from the sun

Cleo’s and Twin Area:

  • Cleo’s/Airborne – on their way out, other routes in the vicinity may come in later (Matriarch, Mark Antony’s, etc.)
  • Twin Falls – this climb stays in longer than any other. A great late season climb is to climb Twin then take it up to the north facing ice on Palace Butte, then follow the alpine mixed route to the summit.


  • North facing aspects up high are bound to be in good shape. Good time of year to venture in to the Beartooths or other alpine objectives. As always judge for your self with regards to snow pack, ice conditions, etc.

NOTE: This is the time of year when the steeper routes begin to fall down so heads up. Best to stick to the shade and on lower angle ice, ice screws quickly become worthless this time of year under a warm sun. On the positive the road is in great shape and Practice Rock is dry for early rock season.

Montana Alpine Guides will start guiding on Gannett Peak (WY) starting summer of 2015!

GANNETT PEAK (13,809′ or 4,209 m) is the highest point in Wyoming and known to be one of the hardest fifty state high points to summit. The difficulties in climbing this peak start with the long approach and the heavy packs. The shortest of those approaches is to come in from the small town of Crowheart on the Wind River Reservation from which you can gain access to the Shoshone National Forest.

Gannett Peak is also the highest point in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem as well as the highest peak/point in the Rocky Mountains outside of Colorado as is the case it is often sought after for its summit, but what about the path getting there?

Gannett is situated deep in the heart of the beautiful and rugged Wind River Range, a mountain range in and of itself centered in one of least populated states in the US. Thomas Turiano describes it well:

“Perhaps the greatest of all the mountain ranges in Greater Yellowstone, there is a magical quality about the Wind Rivers that charms and energizes all who explore them. Other ranges such as the Beartooths, Tetons, Madisons, and Absaroka invoke a similar mystical affection, but none have had such far-reaching effects as the Winder Rivers”.

It is through this glorious wilderness that one must pass to get to the summit of Gannett Peak. One approach to get to Gannett Peak begins in the tiny town of Crowheart, Wyoming (pop. 141) on the Wind River Reservation (Shoshone and Arapaho tribes). There is a small general store that has the basic grocery amenities as well as native crafts, fishing tackle, ceramics, and gasoline. Here you can arrange permission and transport across the reservation. Alternately you may elect to come in from Dubois, which would add some 20 miles to your trip or come in from Pinedale adding another several miles and a longer summit day.

Photo 1: A view of the north side of Gannett Peak on the approach from the Cold Springs. 
Photo 2: Hiking near Dinwoody Creek with Gannett Peak in the distance. 

Once arranged in Crowheart climbers will load up for a truck ride across the reservation on rugged dirt roads gaining around 1,000’ to arrive at Cold Springs trailhead around 9500’. From here the approach to Gannett begins on faint to non-existent trails that meander in and out of forests and alpine meadows. Route finding in this section can be quite difficult as the trail disappears entirely only to reappear several hundred yards away. Eventually if you are a savvy route finder you will make it to “Scenic Pass” (~11,000’). From here you will get commanding views of the Winds River Mountains and soon your first glimpse of Gannett Peak. A long contour will take you past the Ink Well Lakes then back in to the forest and eventually dropping elevation to join the Dinwoody Trail. From Dinwoody you get commanding views of Gannett Peak’s north face and the post-card-worthy vibrant green meadows and aqua blue meandering waterways below. Once in the meadows, you can easily follow the trail for several miles fording streams to make your way toward Gannett Peak. The meadows soon close out and its back in to the forest connecting insipient trails with stream crossings. A steep gain in altitude and you are leaving the forests and tree line below in exchange for the alpine arena of exposed granite walls, jutting alpine ridges, glacially polished streambeds, and alpine flowers on the border of the terminal moraine of Gannett Peak’s Dinwoody Glacier.

Photo 1: Wild flowers in full boom on the approach to “Scenic Pass”  
Photo 2: View of Gannett Peak and Echo Lake 
Photo 3: Strolling along near Dinwoody Creek and adjoining stream with Gannett Peak in distant storm.

An alpine start the next day may award you with a view of the east face of Gannett Peak bathed in vibrant oranges and pinks from the morning’s first light. From here the ascent route up the infamous “Goose Neck” and the snowfields above is visible. The slopes soon steepen and traveling as a rope team is advised. The route continues up steep snow slopes to gain the southeast/south ridge, then scrambles on exposed rock to eventually regain the exposed snowy south ridge with magnificent drops on both sides. From here it is a steady climb to Gannett Peak’s lofty summit. This route involves technical snow climbing, a bergschrund crossing, rock scrambling over exposed terrain and steep snow travel as a rope team. Most people utilize ropes, pickets, rock protection, and belays whenever necessary. With technical knowledge, gear, good fitness, determination, and weather you should be able to arrive at the summit Gannett Peak offers incredible views of the Wind River Range, The Tetons, and Granite Peak among other mountains. As always keep an eye out for the all-too-rapidly forming afternoon thunderstorms.

Photo 1 : Dinwoody Glacier and Gannett Peak at sunrise
Photo 2: The initial steep section on Gannett Peak’s east slopes
Photo 3: Descent and view in to the southern Wind Rivers
Photo 4: Hiking out after a successful summit on Gannett Peak

To find out more go to:


ice screw review, climbing guides, petzl, aluminum, montana alpine guides, hyalite canyon

Petzl Laser Speed Light Ice Screw Review by MAG

The new Petzl Laser Speed Light Ice Screws will cut around 1/3 of the weight off a standard set of all steel ice screws. Petzl achieved this by using an aluminum tube and hanger with a steel tip insert on the tube for durability where it’s needed.

Petzl Laser Speed LightPetzl Laser SpeedBD Express
13 cm91 g128g134g
17cm100g143g145g (16 cm)
21cm110g161g168g (22 cm)

Ice Screw Weight Comparison Chart

If you were to arrange three screws from each length from the table above (13, 17, & 21cm) for a total of nine screws the Petzl Laser Speed Light Ice Screws would weigh in at 438g (15.5 oz) lighter than the BD Express and 393g (13.9oz) lighter than the Petzl Speed. This alone was enough to make us want an entire set. Saving on weight has its obvious advantages from water ice climbing to high altitude peaks where weight can really make a difference. As with anything new to the market there is always some hesitation and question as to how it will perform. This is especially true when it comes to shedding weight, as durability and or functionality are often sacrificed. These screws do not follow that unfortunate trend and perform just as well as any other ice screw, if not better.

In the past eight weeks MAG guides have tested Petzl Laser Speed Ice Screws on a variety of ice climbs in Hyalite Canyon, MT. Temperatures in our testing ranged from bitter cold “bullet proof ice” to soft dripping ice (above freezing temps). Ice climbs ranged from WI6 pencils to 500’ multi-pitch outings. There is no noticeable sacrifice on placement between the new Speed Light Ice Screws and other screws on our rack. The shape of the hanger, teeth, and threads allows for quick ice screw placements, which in turn limits the amount of time you have to hang by one arm.

The smaller aluminum hanger has the same low profile and ergonomic design on both Petzl screws, which facilitates placement in irregular or sculpted ice. Once the first few threads are in, pop out the integrated folding crank for rapid screw in and screw out. As with other screws the lever end has a nice cone shaped, color-coded trigger for ease of length identification and speed of placement.

The only disadvantage found is that they cost around $20 more than regular ice screws. The weight savings make the cost much easier to digest. After the eight weeks of incessant testing we are fully sold as these screws cut the weight with no sacrifice to performance. Partner these ice screws with Petzl’s Lim’Ice – a sharpener for ice screws, and you have a set up that will remain light and sharp making this a very worthy investment.

Mixed climbing, ice climbing, Hyalite Canyon, the cave,

MAG and Hyalite Canyon ice climbing featured on National Geographic’s “Best of Montana in Winter: Outdoor Recreation”.

National Geographic featured Hyalite Canyon along with Montana Alpine Guides in top 5 things to do in a MT winter:

Hyalite Canyon south of Bozeman is the United States’ premier natural ice-climbing playground. From late October to the end of March, elite climbers from around the world head to Hyalite to scale the canyon’s countless frozen waterfalls. Although Hyalite is an ice-climbing mecca for experts, it’s not out of reach for anyone wanting to learn the basics. Climbing terrain in the canyon ranges from steep, crystal curtains cascading from cliffs to gentle low-angle ice suitable for beginners. “With a bit of coaching, anyone who knows how to kick [for kicking crampons into the ice] and swing a hammer [to use an ice tool] can have a fun day ice climbing,” says Sam Magro, owner and lead guide of Montana Alpine Guides. Magro offers courses designed to introduce both children and adults to what he terms the “mellower, sunny side” of the sport. “Ice climbing is similar to skiing in that there are extreme routes for experts, as well as bunny slopes for beginners,” he says. “It’s wild to climb water frozen in time. Learning with a guide is a great way to get out into Hyalite and get a feel for what ice climbing is all about.”

Full article:

Thank you!

We had a great 2013-14 ice year thanks to all the solid guides and enthusiastic participants! We hope to see you all again next season or on the rock this summer!

Thanks to: Peter Ramos, Nate Opp, Noah Ronkowski, Justin Griffin, Conrad Anker, Adam Knoff, Duncan Williamson, Larry Lenard, Austin Hart, Tyler Sultenfuss, Anne Gilbert Chase, Aki Joy, Friends of Hyalite, Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center, Friends of the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center, Veterans Expeditions, Sierra Club Outdoors, Joe Josephson, Kevin McTeague, Michele Hardy, Carson Phillips, Brian Nealon, Anita Cech, Dan Henshaw, Dennis Valentino, Eric Lund, Lisa Brady, Jason Schuman, Ivan Breen, Carrie Dino, Janine Young, Steve Mears, Josh Brandon, Bruce Black, Dave Fierner, Dennis Conner, Mike Pickerel, Dan Shoemaker, Dan Wiwczar, Demond Mullins, John Krueger, Samantha Tinsley, Eddie Owens, Dave Lee Sandy Epstein, Chase Epstein, Blake Epstein, Kate Queen, Benjamin Hemelfarb, Jonathan Wachtel, Andy Powless, Megan Ferreira, Lorie Hong, Yluliya Rostovtseva, Stacy Bare, Nick Watson, Mike Pickerel, Ben McCandless, Perry Rust, Barbara Escher, CJ Ghesquiere, Kyle Ghesquiere, Wade Curtis, Ana Lujas, Dave Kotch, Whit Magro, Pro Lite Gear, Northern Lights Trading Company, the USFS, and of course the magnificent canyon we get to call our office!

Montana Alpine Guides 2014 VetEx Hyalite Trip

Nice work to everyone who made it up for Montana Alpine Guides (MAG) 2014 VetEx Hyalite Ice Trip. Another solid crew of folks who were all eager to learn and eager to climb 4 days in a row! A huge thanks out to the fellow MAG guides, Nate Opp, Peter Ramos, Anne Gilbert, Aki Joy as well as Conrad Anker and The North Face, and Petzl for the demo tools. Of course none of this could not have happened with out the endless drive and energy from Stacy Bare and NicK Watson of VetEx and Sierra Club Outdoors. To all the Vets/climbers who made the effort to drive the winter roads to make it to one of our nations finest ice climbing venues, thanks to Josh Brandon, Bruce Black, Dave Fierner, Dennis Conner, Mike Pickerel, Dan Shoemaker, Dan Wiwczar, Demond Mullins, John Krueger, Samantha Tinsley, Eddie Owens, Dave Lee.

Read more about the expedition in “Outdoors” section of Bozeman Daily Chronicle


Veterans Take on Hyalite Canyon and Life After War

Next week Montana Alpine Guides will be hosting the second annual Ice Climbing Progression Course in Hyalite Canyon for Veteran Expeditions, Sierra Club Outdoors from Monday through Thursday. We are happy to have the solid crew  including Nate Opp, Conrad Anker, Stacy Bare, Nick Watson, Peter Ramos, and others to help with the event! Here is a link from last years trip:


Hyalite Canyon, mixed climbing, ice climbing, climbing guides, montana alpine guides

Welcome to MAG’s new website

Well, here it is – our new website. It’s far from being finished, but it has  all the information you need right now. It has all the info on our current Ice Climbing courses and clinics, with course descriptions and dates, and it tells you how to get in touch with us.

In a very near future, we will be adding Rock, Alpine, Expedition, Ski and Film sections, and you also will be able to make your reservations online.

That’s all for now. Have fun browsing!