Palace Butte Icefall

Page Type
Montana, United States, North America
Route Type:
Ice Climbing
Time Required:
A long day
WI3-5 IV
Number of Pitches:

Route Quality: 1 Votes

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Palace Butte Icefall
Created On: Nov 14, 2010
Last Edited On: Nov 14, 2010


The Palace Butte Icefall is one of the highest ice climbs in Hyalite Canyon. It is quite easy to spot on the road from the reservoir to the trailhead, yet it is rarely climbed due to its long, arduous approach.


To get to the Palace Butte Icefall, you must first climb Twin Falls or Cleopatra's Needle - details on that approach here. From the top of Twin Falls, hike/ski/snowshoe thru the forest to the south-west. Palace Butte Icefall is on the right side of the lower rock wall - it is usually easy to spot. Below the icefall is a large bowl which can be prone to avalanche later in the year. The start of the climb is steep, and you'll need to stomp out a shelf to belay from. There is a rock 10' to the right of the start, which is a good place to belay from, both because you can put a piton in to anchor the belayer on the steep snow slope and the spindrift will fall to the left below the ice. This rock may well be buried later in the year, though.

Route Description

Palace Butte Icefall: 160' WI3-5
Begin the climb on the left or right side, which connect after about 20' then separate again in another 20', forming what looks like an 'X' of ice. Once on top of the 'X', follow lower angle snow and ice (WI3 and 65+ degree snow) straight up to the blocky overhangs. The guidebooks list a piton that was found here below the overhangs, about 100' from the base. This area below the overhangs is typically covered in snow and ice, though, and this piton was likely removed years ago. Instead, follow the snow ramp up and to the right for another 60' until the terrain turns to rock. There is a solid 3-piton anchor here. Belay and rappel from this anchor. With a single rope you'll need to make a V-thread part way down this climb.

This route is rarely done, and conditions are drastically different throughout the year. Some parties climb it early in the season to avoid incredibly deep snow on the approach, but the climb will be thin and can be up to WI5 M2 in difficulty. Once the year progresses enough for the ice to bulk out and be WI3, the snow in the bowl below the climb can be shoulder-deep or deeper. Either way, this climb is very alpine in nature and makes for a long, interesting day.

If you are skilled and brave, you can follow in the footsteps of Alex Lowe and climb up the blocky overhangs. The ice here is never really 'in', but in its best condition will be WI6 and poorly protected. The rock here is a series of rocks protruding out from the wall, making not one large overhang but very difficult varied rock with many small overhanging sections. This part is around 60' tall and ends at the large snow ledge which extends the width of Palace Butte.

Essential Gear

You'll use more ice screws on Twin Falls than Palace Butte Icefall, so bring what you're comfortable with on Twin Falls.

Also, knifeblade and lost arrow pitons are very useful in protecting the upper half of the route which is primarily snow and the ice isn't thick or solid enough for ice screws. There is rock on the right side here with small piton cracks.

The cord used to connect the 3 pitons at the rappel may be weathered as well, it would be wise to bring enough cord to replace it if needed.

Palace Butte Icefall

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