Battle of the mountaineers, and art on ice 

The Independent is no more in the business of playing counselor to the internecine squabbles of local clubs than we are in the business of resolving disputes between junior high school girls. Which, to be brutally honest, is how members of two disputing factions of Missoula’s oldest mountaineering club are behaving towards each other.

Last week we received a letter signed by the six representative officers of the Rocky Mountaineers, a popular mountaineering club founded in 1960. The letter politely requested that we come up with a different name by which to refer to the New Rocky Mountaineers, an offshoot started last year by an individual the officers described as “disgruntled,” in our weekly events calendar. “Barring messy legal fees, entanglements, plus a negative image by the community towards both clubs,” the request stated in part, “we feel the issue could more easily resolved by having [the Independent] refuse to list activities under the ‘new’ or any other heading conflicting with the true Rocky Mountaineers.”

The trouble stems from an internal rift between club members that widened over a number of issues: repairs needed on the club’s mountain cabin, the difficulty level of the trips, outing rules, general sorts of activities and similar matters of policy which, though hardly impossible to resolve individually, cumulatively resulted in one member’s ouster—the same member who then went on to form the upstart club.

Since we’ve been asked to get involved, here is our (free) counsel for both clubs: Pack a big picnic lunch of love and understanding and get out in the woods together where you belong.

•••

Sure, it’s cool, but is it art? For four years now, Missoula grad student/grocery cashier/artist Roger Wing has taken that question on with chainsaw in hand, at the World Ice Art Championships, staged each year in the icy expanses outside Fairbanks, Alaska. And this week, he’s going to do it again.

From March 1-12, Wing will join carvers from around the world for a surprisingly grueling competition in the arcane art of ice-carving. The tourney is chopped up into two events: a 60-hour Single-Block competition and a mind-melting five–and-a-half-day Multi-Block round. For the first outing, Wing plans to chisel out a 10-foot image of a seated woman—a tribute, he says, to the efforts and sacrifices made by the women in his family. For the second bout, he’ll join the four-person team of Zygmunt Kida, whom Wing describes as a “Polish desconstructionalist,” to sculpt a complicated-sounding piece—a tableau incorporating a human figure and “a skyward-pointing axe blade 15 feet high.” Chilling indeed.

When he’s not working on ice, Wing prefers the somewhat more forgiving—and lasting—medium of wood; his Wood Works exhibition, in fact, recently came down after a month-long stint in the University Center. But Wing still has big dreams for what he calls “the big ice,” having set has his eyes on the Olympic ice-carving trials, to be held in Fairbanks for the 2002 games. Before then, though, he has to chip his way to the top of the Championships. They begin Wednesday. Wish him well.

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