Learning from a Legend

Ice Climbing 101

By Jason Schlarb, SmartWool Sponsored Athlete

I first fell in love with the mountains while at college in Bozeman, Montana. Whitewater kayaking, backpacking, skiing and of course, running on mountain trails all really first took hold of my attentions and heart while in Bozeman. Living in Bozeman also made me a huge fan of the larger than life climber and Bozeman resident, Conrad Anker. Needless to say, joining in on the SmartWool trip to Bozeman where Conrad would personally show us around Hyalite Canyon, ice climb and stay with us in a mountain cabin was a no brainer and a special dream trip come true.

The concept was pretty simple: Conrad Anker, arguably one of the worlds foremost Alpinists, wanted to take a group of SmartWool Fan Field Tester Athletes out to a remote cabin and spend a couple days totally off the grid discussing product and ice climbing. The catch was that none of the athletes attending the trip, including big mountain skiers Griffin Post and Kalen Thorien, had ever climbed ice before.


We all arrived into the Bozeman area and made our way up to Hyalite Canyon, our home for the next couple days. Conrad had arranged lodging in one of the few private land holdings in the area, a rustic cabin built in the 30’s and still part of the Swingle Family. Dave Swingle played host to the eight of us and he couldn’t have been more gracious. On the hike up to the cabin from the parking area, we noticed an SUV parked in a precarious position off the edge of the road. As it turned out, this was Dave’s vehicle, which became stuck in the snow when he tried to “punch it” all the way in. We would spend the better part of an hour the following morning rigging up a line to pull him free. Team building at its finest!

In the Hyalite Canyon cabin, everyone was immediately psyched to be in such a beautiful off the grid mountain location, and an instant common bond was formed. Friends were quickly made and stories swapped. Robert from the SmartWool Product Development team shared ideas and products while the mountain athletes were all stoked to see the amazing new gear.

The next morning we all got out of our comfort zones as Conrad gave us non-climbers a tour of the world-class ice climbing in our new SmartWool gear. We got used to being around the ice and learning the ropes, literally. Conrad led all the routes and set top rope lines to keep us safe on the ice. We all had a blast, and with Conrad’s help and instruction everyone got in a good climb. Later in the day, we got to witness Conrad in his element–it was pretty amazing to watch him free solo some incredible climbs.

Getting the hang of things.

Getting the hang of things.

On day two, with a bit more confidence and experience under our belts, we headed to some more challenging ice. Over a few beers in the cabin afterwards it was rewarding to work firsthand with SmartWool Product Development. We were able to ask questions, give input on what works for us, the mountain athletes, along with answer questions the development team had for us about product.

It was invaluable to Kalen, Griffin and I to explore another mountain sport with our fellow SmartWool athlete guide and legend Conrad Anker. Conrad, Griffin, Kalen and I are excited to be part of a brand that both values our mountain pursuits and passions and continues to produce, with our help, the best outdoor apparel in the world.

Skier Kalen Thorien, smiling all the way.

Skier Kalen Thorien, smiling all the way.

Talking product, swapping stories and sharing ideas.

Talking product, swapping stories and sharing ideas.

Conrad showing Kalen the ropes

Conrad showing Kalen the ropes.

Conrad Anker, in his element

Conrad Anker, in his element.