“One of the Best, and Headiest” – Mummy Cooler III & IV (via Scepter) (WI6-, M6, III) & Other Ice Happenings – Hyalite Canyon, MT (01.22.23)

The hanging WI5-6 dagger of “Mummy Four” stands as the single most impressive ice formation on the east side of Hyalite Canyon besides the ever famous Winter Dance. To reach it, Chris Hackbarth and I climbed the Scepter (WI5) and “Mummy Three” (M6, WI3) in what turned out to be an excellent grade three kind-of day in Hyalite Canyon – an alpine style climb in the land known for short approach ice cragging.

Mummy Cooler III & IV from the approach gully above Scepter

I’ve spent four of the last ten days in Hyalite Canyon with new friend Chris Hackbarth. Chris has double decade winter climbing experience to my meager 12 months, and marks my first true winter climbing mentor. Our first trip was a partnership test run. With Hyalite tides running high and dry we stuck mostly to mixed climbing and dry-tooling on the Unnamed Wall. Some highlights were the ever aesthetic Elevator Shaft (WI4-), Chris’s projecting and send of the unformed Good Looking One (M7, WI5) and a handful of personal bests for me in the mixed realm including Magically Delicious (M4), Mousetrap (M4+) and White Zombie (M5).

Chris after a morning warmup on Elevator Shaft
Chris leading up the thin mixed start of the Good Looking One (M7, WI5)
Gaining the ice on the Good Looking One
Chris cleaning Magically Delicious (M4), an Unnamed Wall classic!
Moving through the steeper low crux on Magically Delish
The author hooking up a beaten out, but nevertheless aesthetic, Thin Chance (WI4) at dusk

Back in Teton Valley we bantered about plans for a second Hyalite strike. After floating a half dozen ideas we set intentions to Mummy Cooler IV (Mummy Four), a demanding WI6 blobby dagger situation that looms hundreds of feet above the Grotto Falls parking lot with a distinctly foreboding demeanor. Reaching the monolith involves an alpine style day with an early start, one pitch of demanding and heady mixed climbing on Mummy Cooler III (Mummy Three) and a pitch of either WI3 on Mummy Cooler II or WI5 on Scepter, not to mention a “thousand n’ change” feet of Hyalite talus and snow gully slogging. After four hours of travel and a gentle Friday afternoon of climbing, we caught rest at the Bozeman Inn and were back in the parking lot by 7:00AM for our journey to the sky.

Scepter, Mummy III & Mummy IV

The day began with Scepter, which Chris graciously passed off to me as my second WI5 lead. Instead of marching up the hooked out right side, I stayed as true to the imposing prow as my wits would allow. Balancing up 30M of steep cauliflowers and subtle ice chimneys, I found myself lost in the dazzling world of supremely beautiful three dimensional ice like I’d never seen before, at least for another few hours. The upper headwall posed the greatest challenge, but as much as I would love to claim my second WI5 ascent I know in my heart of hearts the beast was bulked out, off vertical and soft for the grade – though no less classic. I belayed Chris up with our hefty basecamp backpack to begin the slog to Upper Mummy Cooler.

The Scepter and Mummy Two

Mummy Three and Four are regarded as two of the finest vertical pursuits in Hyalite Canyon, with Joe Josephson himself claiming Mummy IV as “one of the best, and headiest” in the newest House Of Hyalite guidebook. Mummy Three earns three out of three guidebook stars as well, with a reputation for phenomenal mixed, dry or thin ice climbing on some of the best andesite in Hyalite. Together the pair appeared the perfect challenge for our team – myself interested in pushing the personal traditional mixed envelope, and Chris in climbing an elusive difficult ice pitch high on his long time hit-list. We kicked out a belay on climber’s right and tied in by 11:00AM.

Mummy Cooler III & IV from the approach gully above Scepter

Mummy Three began much as expected, low angle but technical dry tooling with excellent small gear and reliable hooks. A few turf ledges provided full rests between difficult sections and kept the mood casual. After 20M a steep headwall was encountered where I knew before ever setting mono-points to andesite I was in for some difficult climbing. The technical crux was a steep 13M dihedral that began fully dry and ended with shallow grove sporting minimal protection and few uninspiring lunchbox sized ice blobs. Stemming on small edges, scratching around for shallow hooks and mental composure became the name of the game, as the climbing wasn’t particularly pumpy, but rather evoked difficulty through insecurity. Old screw holes in the disappointing blobs hinted that ice once formed lower on the route, likely making this stretch easier, both in technicality and protection. By the time I reached the low angle ice hose resistant but ultimately willing to accept 10cm stubbies, I was at least 10M runout above a yellow Black Diamond C3 placed in a shallow groove. In full, my lead probably clocked somewhere around 60 minutes, a wearing marathon of mental fortitude that felt significantly harder and more dangerous than the assigned M5 grade, but provided a memorable rope length of varied climbing styles and the perfect test of my current abilities as a winter climber. In line with popular mountain project opinions and the consensus of two other climbers on Upper Mummy that weekend, a better grade for Mummy Three in dry conditions is likely M6 R – whew.

Looking down the major runout on Mummy Three from rappel, above the crux.
The lower half of Mummy Three, with the crux dihedral in the upper center of the frame
Cellular evidence of a jet black sloth creeping up Mummy Three

As Chris tied in for Mummy Four, which now dazzlingly stood a mere sneeze above our bolted belay, I reveled in the other-worldly scenery of this iconic pitch, perched a metaphorical mile above anywhere I’d stood in Hyalite. The base of the crowning jewel, unlike Mummy Three’s bombproof andesite, was classic Hyalite conglomerate choss, uninspiring for pure dry-tooling but a necessary evil to climb one of the best ice pitches in North America. Chris placed a long screw in an ice shell below the hanging dagger, and an extremely suspect #0.5 Camalot at chest height before leaving the ground. A few bodylengths of bare hand rock climbing on questionable cobbles led to a fist jam of superb quality and the first and only piece of real lead protection, a #0.75 horizontal Camalot wedged between two small coffee mug knobs. After a quick shakeout Chris switched into a different zone, a mind state of full commitment despite the obvious likelihood of his protection ripping in the event of a large whipper. From the fist jam he swung tools determinedly into an overhanging turf pod, flagged his left crampon onto the hanging dagger and broke into a bold conquest up inverted rock that had my belay slack about as tight as they come. After a few tenuous sequences he mantled into the first of two no-hands rests, sunk a screw and shook out with a smile. Chris offered the grade of M6+ for the rock below.

Chris in the no hands turf pod rest above cobble town

The ice above the turf pod was steep as all Jesus, but was well traveled and provided many sinker hooks for efficient progress. Chris lead boldly and successfully at an alarming rate, and despite being pumped out of my noggin I managed a no-falls follow – that is, after I fell four times trying to pull off the ground. I learned four distinct things through my short time spent on Mummy Four:

  • Never trust a single cobble! I tried to layback off the same flake Chris used to reach the fist jam rest, but pulled it off like a sheet of rotten drywall. Had that happened on lead I would have been sent tumbling to Mummy Three and a broken ankle. Chris likely kept better force distribution across multiple holds.
  • Maintaining proper technique is difficult when Uber-pumped. Sitting on the rope is preferable to flailing up a chunk of ice and risking reawakening the elbow tendonitis dragon of 2022. Next time, before I lock off at 175 degrees, I vow to check my ego and take a seat.
  • WI6 requires distinctly different technique than WI5. Three dimensional daggers and curtains are a delicate art of their own.
  • Somehow, I may be closer to WI6 than I previously thought, with fitness being the major limiting factor. Granted I benefited greatly from an abundance of no-swing hooks, but was pleasantly surprised by my ability to climb the ice without weighting the rope.

About three quarters of the way up the steep ice I paused briefly to glance over my shoulder at the brilliant expanse of southwestern Montana below, and the ephemeral 30M blue dagger of frozen water I was currently clinging to with my own bodily power. In my near decade of gallivanting around the high mountains of the northern rockies I’ve hardly been anywhere more magnetizing. I can recall the image vividly, and the mere thought has me salivating for my own red-point burn, some years, or perhaps many, down the line. I wish I could’ve snapped a picture of Chris on the upper swath, but somehow it seemed more pertinent to provide a diligent belay, and leave vanity up to imagination.

(Gallery Above: The author following Mummy Four)


To descend we made two 50-55M double rope rappels from bolted anchors to the base of Mummy Three. By the time we gathered our gear the sun was beginning to set, and we took no haste in re-tracing our steps and rappelling back into non-technical land. We made one short rappel from a small pine to the standard bolted anchor atop Scepter to avoid down-climbing exposed terrain, then made another double-rope zing to terra-firma. We returned to the car by dusk without the need for headlamps.


In all, climbing Upper Mummy Cooler provided a considerable but exciting challenge for my early ice career. Had I better estimated the opponent I would have brought more water and calories which would have eased exhaustion ten-fold. I offered a mountaineering commitment grade in the title of this article because well, this adventure had a true alpine feel. One day, hopefully not long in the future, I look forward to returning and climbing the elusive “Mummy to the summit (of Hyalite Peak)”, adding on one pitch of WI2 (Mummy One) to the beginning, and one pitch of 5.8 rock (Mummy Five) to the end, of this article’s itinerary – perhaps when I’m ready to shoulder the full burden of Mummy IV, which would remain the crux.

Some final notes from the present world – Chris and I appear to have some chemistry. Climbing with new partners is always a toss up, but this flip seems to have landed in my favor. As winter surges on I look forward to more adventures with my buddy and first ice mentor, in Hyalite and beyond.

Upper Mummy Rack Recommendations By Pitch

in my humble opinion

  • Scepter (or Mummy Two): Screws
  • Mummy Three: Unless a rare year when formed to the ground, I would bring a single rack of cams to 2″ with an emphasis on micro-cams, a single set of wires with RP’s, spectres, a few pitons and your shortest screws. The newer mixed leader may appreciate a double set of cams from #0.4 to #2, and maybe even a #3.
  • Mummy Four: #0.5 and #0.75 BD Camalot, and ice screws. A large #4 cam can be placed but is told to be unnecessary.

Ropes: Two 60M ropes work. 50M ropes MIGHT work, but it’s tough to tell!

Outtakes Vol. 1 – The author sampling some scratchy andesite dry-tooling on Mousetrap (M4+)
Outtakes Vol. 2 – Range Bars are both magically delicious, and will help you climb Magically Delicious

Ten Thousand Too Far is generously supported by Icelantic Skis from Golden Colorado, Barrels & Bins Natural Market in Driggs Idaho, Range Meal Bars from Bozeman Montana and Black Diamond Equipment. Give these guys some business – who doesn’t need great skis, gear and wholesome food?

Errors? Typos? Leave a comment below or send an email to bwanthal@gmail.com

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Ski mountaineering, rock climbing, ice climbing and all other forms of mountain recreation are inherently dangerous. Should you decide to attempt anything you read about in this article, you are doing so at your own risk! This article is written to the best possible level of accuracy and detail, but I am only human – information could be presented wrong. Furthermore, conditions in the mountains are subject to change at any time. Ten Thousand Too Far and Brandon Wanthal are not liable for any actions or repercussions acted upon or suffered from the result of this article’s reading.

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