This report of conditions is for alpine ice climbs in the Sierra. We will report on conditions as we see them, or as we get reports from our friends. Be aware though that these conditions change rapidly with changing weather conditions. Be aware and knowledgeable of factors leading to stable snow and ice. Understand that diminishing ice in Sierra alpine couloirs in recent years has shortened the alpine ice climbing season. Often by mid to late summer, couloirs are past their prime and shedding loose rock as it becomes unblanketed by the ice and permafrost that normally holds it onto steep mountainsides. Understand the nature of moats, crevasses, and bergschrunds, how to assess their stability, and how to manage the risks they present. Be perceptive enough to back off in poor conditions and understand how your position and duration in terrain affect your risk. Be safe and enjoy the climbing!
May 12th 2012
Conditions: Oct 8, 2011 The hike up to North Peak was coated in a few inches of thick, sloppy snow making it a long post-hole out and back. The actual couloir is filled in with snow, no ice is visible. Most of the couloir is neve with a couple inches of wetter, more recent snow on top. These conditions make it easy to climb, but hard to protect.
Sept 26, 2011
We have classic early autumn conditions here in the High Sierra right now! Colors are changing, snow is falling occasionally up high, couloirs are getting glassy, lower altitude rock is getting cooler and more climbable, what more can we ask for?
Specific reports indicate a few inches of snow up high in the Palisades. Not enough to cover the ice in the lettered-notch couloirs, but enough to make the rock climbing summits "full-on". A trekking trip around the Evolution Loop encountered fresh, blowing snow, but not enough to affect walking conditions. Whitney has a bunch of snow on the Mountaineers route, East Face and East Buttress. Not quite enough to require extensive crampon and ice axe use, but enough to affect scrambling security and efficiency.
Conditions: September 2-4, 2011-
Weather and conditions were outstanding. Three springs are flowing strong on the trail before the climb to Iceberg Lake. There was no snow at all on the route.
Conditions: August 25, 2011-
We were able to get to gayley camp via the Gayley gully. Great snow conditions exist still for this approach from third lake. Gayley camp has a good water source that froze in the morning but we were still able to access the water, and crampons were nice to have on the approach to glacier notch. We left crampons at the notch for our climb of the swiss arete and found great snow conditions on the "L-shaped" snowfield on the decent. Casual plunge stepping with an ice axe was combined with nice belayed glissading :) The suncups were not too bad getting back to glacier notch on this snowfield.
Conditions: Aug 26, 2011
Great steps and suncups for the 50 meters up to the base of Venusian and Moon Goddess - we found this terrain fine to travel without crampons - even with a colder night. We camped at the bivy sites at the base of temple crag and found ample water flowing from snowmelt in the afternoon and evenings, but none in the morning (be sure and fill up the night before your climb). The decent from the summit is now free from snow all the way to the rappel, and once at the bottom of the rappel great snow conditions still exist for plunge stepping or boot skiing your way to the base of the route. We did not use crampons but found an axe a nice touch.
Mt. Gilbert/ North Couloir
Conditions: August 20, 2009- This one had melted out by Fall of 2008. Fully white now due to late snow and cooler temps. Gilbert should be a good snow climb in September and possibly an ice climb by the fall of 2010.
Mt. Thompson/ North Couloirs
Conditions: August 20, 2009- White clean and continuous. No report on the Moynier Couloir.
Conditions: August 15, 2009- White to the summit plateau (viewed from afar).
Mt. Mendel/ Mendel Couloirs
Conditions: August 20, 2009 No report. Will fully depend on the Fall new precipitaion