The warmth of the sun has departed. Snow silences any stirring in the shadows of the forest. A faint glow above the treeline reveals dusk’s fading light.
It is only my climbing partner and me here tonight. Memories of the last time we occupied this trailhead float in on a calm wind; it was just after dawn on September 30, 2017. Climbers and runners from Bozeman and beyond fervently awaited the Tour de Hyalite—a 16-mile trail run to Hyalite Peak followed by scored climbing at Practice Rock. Friendly faces were scattered around the lot, drinking loads of coffee, warming up muscles, and admiring the environment of incredible people and scenery.
Inge Perkins and Hayden Kennedy stood beside me kindly before the race began. I was new to the community and unfamiliar with all their spectacular accomplishments, I only saw two spirited and kindhearted Bozemanites, excited to be spending time outside together.
As we began, all the runners—female and male, novice and experienced, old and young—weaved around one another to the steady beat of autumn’s transformative song. There were no worries: just movement, adapting to our external and internal altitudes. Even though we were spread around the trail, we were all united, knit together by our love for the outdoors and our appreciation of our backyard, abundant in beautiful and untamed places. A cold rain fell with our descent of the peak, foretelling the shifting of the seasons and our need to climb indoors at Spire.
A bright, cresting moon shining through the darkness now illuminates the depth of winter. It makes my last visit out here seem so long ago. So much changed from September to October. Just one week after the tour, they were gone. Taken too quickly by an early season avalanche on Imp Peak, not far away in the Madison Range. Now it’s January. This land is bitter cold. Frozen over.
Rain. Ice. Snow. Torrents restored strength to our soil and reminded us of the brutal rule of impermanence that nature follows. The arrival and the departure of warmth: cycles we all travel whether or not our bodies or minds consent. Abundance flooded summer. Heartache and grief cascaded down with the leaves in autumn. Winter carried silence.
Staring at the base of a frozen waterfall, I feel tense and numb like this icy glaze. The clamor of gear penetrates my awareness as I strike ice for the first time. Inspired by those who have come before me, my crampons dig into the frozen water as I slowly move upward. Chunks of crystal tumble to the ground. Near the top, forearms pumping, I rest one hand at a time and look up—stars, twinkle like the 60-foot diamond in front of my eyes.
I discovered my profound love of Bozeman here in Hyalite, my love of running, and my deep respect for ice climbing. Hyalite’s beauty stands alone, but it’s the memories with others that makes me appreciate it so fully. I return to the ground and thank the heavens for the all the amazing memories here with the people who make them beautiful.
In a moment of silent gratitude, I hear a subtle sound of flowing water underneath the stillness of the ice. I feel Inge and Hayden here, still teaching us even in their physical absence: That which looks completely ice-bound is still active. Although the body of the waterfall has frozen, its soul moves freely. It always has and it always will.
This land has a different feeling now; it has a bitter bite, but its beauty is still radiant. I feel the warmth of September here still, inside our community, where they will forever stir.