Cody Ice Climbing
Situated just East of Yellowstone National Park, Cody is the gateway to the Absaroka Range of Wyoming. It is a popular tourist destination in the summer, but few know of the world class ice climbing surrounding Cody on the South Fork of the Shoshone and Chief Joseph Scenic Byway. The season here is from November to March. For experienced ice climbers who don't mind a long approach, you can expect rewarding multi-pitches of any grade, freestanding pillars, and epic views.
Access to Cody is easy, with direct flights available to many cities across the West. For those wishing to combine their winter trip with adventures around the Red Lodge area (1 hour from Cody), consider flying in or out of Billings, less than 2 hours away.
On the Eastern, dry side on the mountains, roads are windswept and see less snowfall, meaning that they are generally well kept and snow free. Regardless, visitors should be prepared for snow and ice on any trip through this region. 4wd/awd is recommended.
The ice climbing is about 1 hour from Cody and 1-2 hours from Red Lodge, on extremely scenic drives. Climbers visiting for multiple days can book a room in the valley, saving drive time each day.
South Fork Ice
The South Fork of the Shoshone is unique. More akin to ice climbing venues of the Canadian Rockies, it host hundreds of routes, most of which are multi-pitch, with some reaching 10 pitches in length.
Because of the valley's orientation and the multitude of climbs on either side of the river, there is classic climbing on all aspects. This means that conditions remain reliable throughout the season.
The best climbs in the South Fork depend on conditions and desired experience. Some of the classic multi-pitches include Broken Hearts WI4-6, Mean Green WI4, High on Boulder/Moonrise WI4-5, Spyin' 'n Flyin' WI4, and more. Many climbers come for the epic pillars or striking flows and find themselves satisfied with a lap on routes like Moratorium WI4+, Bozo's Revenge WI3, Sendero Illuminoso WI4, Ice Fest WI5, or Cabin Fever WI4.
Approaches in Cody are big and length of days should not be underestimated. If considering a trip here, make the most of it and plan for a rest day or combine a day of multi-pitch climbing with a shorter day.
This is our favorite ice venue in the lower 48. See for yourself why it's so good!
Cody is a tourist hotspot during summer, being the gateway to Yellowstone for all coming from the East. During winter, the town slows down and has a local feel to it. Due to it's location on the Eastern side of the mountains, it's drier and can be windy during mid-winter, but the sun often shines, cutting the cold.
Cody hosts a number of lodging options, from old Western style inns to more modern hotels. Main street is walking distance from most hotels and has a number of dining and café options, along with a gear shop and some tourist attractions, such as the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.
For those wanting an immersive climbing experience, one can stay at a ranch just 10 minutes from the climbing. Beware, as there are no restaurants or amenities in the valley!
Unlike the distilled nature of Cooke City, Cody boasts many winter time amenities and ease of access. This makes it a reasonable destination for ice climbers who want to climb adventurous routes, enjoy a cozy airbnb, and eat out. In the end, the ice is what keeps bringing climbers back!
Chief Joseph Ice
The Beartooth mountains have a rich history of ice climbing and, along with that, a strong ethic of not documenting climbs. The ice climbing off Chief Joseph Scenic Byway is no exception, and because of that has remained an overlooked but incredible ice climbing venue just an hour from Cody and a little over an hour from Red Lodge.
ff It is a dramatic and sudden change in landscape, with relief of over 5,000' between the nearby plains and the edge of the plateaus. The drainages here offer challenging access, but rewarding slopes and objectives.
Because of it's Northerly aspect, this part of the range is subject to very unique storms that deposit a lot of snow, and only here. When it dumps in Red Lodge, almost nowhere else in Southern Montana knows about it...
The best mid-winter tours in Red Lodge start at the trailheads less than 15 minutes from town. Here we often find empty slopes, fresh snow, and perfect intro-sized climbs/descents.
During early summer and late spring, this is our favorite place to start our ski mountaineering trips. Courses can take place on extremely accessible the Beartooth Pass and objectives like Whitetail Peak are common.