Sierra Mountain Guides Guides to the Sierra Mountains! Sat, 23 Mar 2019 02:03:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Eastern Sierra Ice Report – March 17, 2019 Sun, 17 Mar 2019 19:05:21 +0000 Hey there Ice Climbers!!!

This week has felt like spring has arrived in full force to the Sierra. Sunny skies, warm temps, dry roads, and filled in approaches has made Eastern Sierra ice climbing ideal this week. I was out guiding last Tuesday and Wednesday on Chouinard falls and the Main wall in Lee Vining Canyon and Lindsey Hamm was out this weekend teaching an Ice 101.

There is not much change in conditions in the past week besides really comfortable climbing temps. The surface snow on the climbs continue to melt out. Bolts on the main wall are still free of snow though there are a few sets of bolted anchors that remain buried on Chouinard falls.

the road in still has snow and can get rowdy in the afternoon where frozen ruts become slushy. Having some ground clearance and AWD/ 4WD can be optimal for the Poole Power Plant road.

There was a local climber that had an Oil pan casualty due to lower clearance last week.

We do have some new snow forecasted for the middle of this week so conditions will continue to change but overall this will be a nice late spring season for ice climbing.

Enjoy the photos from Lindsy from Saturday.


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Eastern Sierra Ice Report – March 11th, 2019 Mon, 11 Mar 2019 15:54:22 +0000 Hey there Ice climbers – March looks like it will be a fantastic month for the ice this year in Lee Vining Canyon and if we can keep freezing temps at night we may even have a long April season.

We had 2 guided groups in Lee Vining last weekend. Lindsey Had a 1:1 and I had a 2:1 PVT.

Beautiful temps and conditions for climbing ice this weekend

The Pool Power Plant road was well plowed and there were over 18 cars parked on Saturday. It is worth noting that its helpful to have a metal shovel to dig into the snowplow berm to enlarge a parking space if needed.

Frozen ruts made having a little bit of ground clearance ideal.

The approach is well filled in and as easy as it gets. Some ice in the Narrows is climbable, Bard Harrington has not formed up and main wall and chouinards are filled up nicely.

Several bolted anchors are buried with ice which caught some parties by surprise that were planning on climbing to fixed anchors.

It looks like a high pressure ridge will move into the area for the next little bit – Im expecting some really great conditions on the ice for the next little bit.

I stumbled across an interesting article about the ice climbing and climate change – its worth a read!

What Climate Change Means for Ice Climbing (R&I)

Enjoy some photos from this past Saturday!

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Eastern Sierra Ice Report – March 6th, 2019 Wed, 06 Mar 2019 23:46:36 +0000 Hey Ice Climbers – some quick reports from Monday and Tuesday from some of our SMG guides. Lindsey Hamm was out there on Monday and Geoff Unger and Tim Dobbins were out on Tuesday.

From Lindsey…. (3/4)
Today was a great day out at Lee Vining. The road was fine to the plant- we drove in with a Subaru.
Our group plus two other groups had either skis or snowshoes- (we had snowshoes) going into the canyon. There will be a nice track for you all going out there. I did observe old point release sloughs from rocks but nothing reactive today. A bit of wind but it died down at the end of the day. The ice was super good! Sticky with good gear. I am sorry I do not have pictures. My phone died.


From Geoff (3/5)
The ice is in great condition right now. Easy to climb and protect. The snow may have to be cleaned off a little to get to it after this storm, but otherwise conditions couldn’t be any better.

I mean, if Bard Herrington Wall was in that would be better, but it’s not a reality these days.

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Eastern Sierra Ice Report – February 24, 2019 Mon, 25 Feb 2019 20:15:09 +0000 Hey there Ice climbers – Its been a few weeks since I have gotten to climb in Lee Vining Canyon and Last weekend the storms cleared and the road got plowed. It was great to finally be able to get back into the canyon.

On Saturday 2/25 I guided a group of 2 guests into Lee Vining. Our avalanche hazard had trended to lowering danger throughout last week. That said with the “Outlier” high snowfall amounts that we have received in February much of the terrain in an above the canyon would be considered “avalanche terrain” or “runout zones”

We carried Avalanche gear (Beacon, Shovel, Probe) and my guests had prior avalanche education.

Ice has began to form in the Narrows and a party was able to get a top-rope on “Zippos Frozen Booger”. Climbs like “Womp Rat”and C3PO are forming up and in mixed conditions.

Ice is not forming yet on the Bard- Harrington but Main wall is thick with Fisher King and Spiral staircase forming up and Chouinard falls being thick.

we found running water on the surface of the ice creating wet conditions in a few spots.

Several of the bolts are covered so be prepared to create your own anchors.

The approach is as filled in as it gets and makes for easy travel. We used snow shoes on the way in on Saturday but did not need them on the hike out.

The road had a “soft closure” at the Ranger Station but was well plowed to the Poole Power plant with several sun exposed spots that had melted to the pavement by the drive out.

Active weather looks like it will continue into early March. Keep checking back for updated conditions.

Im currently in Idaho on a Pro 2 Avalanche course and would appreciate any photos folks have over the next 2 weeks from ice climbing and conditions to update these reports


Road was plowed well into the Poole Power Plant on Saturday (2/23)

Ice in the Narrows

Zippos forming up nicely in the Narrows

Main wall and Chouinards are really thick

minimal winds and sunny skies made for mild temps for climbing ice on Saturday

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Eastern Sierra Ice Report “Febu-Buried” 18th, 2019 Mon, 18 Feb 2019 19:42:44 +0000 Hey there Ice Climbers. We are just on the tail end of another storm system that has hit our area. The Sierra got hit with heavy but warm precipitation in the form of rain to 10,000′. This brought ample moisture and helped to lock down the bottom part of our snowpack as well as ensure plenty of moisture up high for this springs “freeze – thaw” ice season.

Avalanche Danger remained high throughout the storm in addition to several road closures and parking issues. We were unable to access the ice venues for much of the storm cycle, however yesterday we ventured up to the ice of Horsetail Falls taking a slightly lower approach path than usual to avoid the runout zones of some of the avalanche paths that threaten the approach.

We were happy to have snowshoes to keep us on top of the newer fresh snow that had fallen on top of the rain layer, and we carried avalanche gear (Beacon, Shovel, and Probe) and spent the first day of our course learning how to use them and how to identify and avoid avalanche terrain during these avalanche cycles.

We were able to find ice on horsetail that was exposed. there was no running water in the middle as usual and this is potentially due to the low temperatures.

Much of the base of the falls was covered by snow that has sluffed off and accumulated. We also saw signs of avalanche debris that had slid from the steep slopes to the lookers left of the Ice Fall.

The climbing was a mix of snow, good thick ice, and layers of rain crust and snow making for some “interesting” alpine conditions.

I was able to dig out the bolts on the right hand side of the ice where we were climbing.

The day started with light snow but turned into a beautiful sunny day.

There was a large group at Roadside ice and hopefully they were able to knock some of the snow off the ice there.

Tatum Falls seemed well covered by snow and threatened by avalanches and sun exposure.  The Pap Smear (pictured below) seems to be forming up nicely and it will be interesting to see what some sun and cold temps do to this formation that is still waiting a complete FA

As we get closer to March June Lake Ice tends to get cooked by the sun so beware of rapidly warming temperatures.

A break in the storms as well as a cold snap will give us some great temps for ice for the next few days and then another smaller cold storm Wednesday night into Thursday should give us a nice refresh of soft snow.

Check back for more conditions and please feel free to share any photos you may have of your trips to the ice.

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Eastern Sierra Ice Report – February 7th, 2019 ***Post Storm Update*** Fri, 08 Feb 2019 01:49:09 +0000 Hey there Ice Climbers.  WE have had a fantastic and wintery start to our February and as winter enthusiast many people were celebrating that the groundhog did not see his shadow during our last storm.

Honestly many of us who experienced the 4 day storm that totaled between 7 and 10 feet of snow accumulation were pretty ready to see the few rays of sun when the storm finally broke on Tuesday.

#Feburied photos adorned social media and powder hounds were stoked – (though the storm left a lot of terrain closed)

Avalanche hazard remained High throughout the storm and our snowpack is only now starting to settle down after a few days of sun.  Wind transport is making some hard slab hazard still an issue at higher elevations and as always check out the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Forecast Advisory issued 7 days a week:


The storm kept us from venturing into steep terrain over the last week and several roads in the area were closed or inaccessible during the latter part of the storm.


2 days of sun has opened up many main roads but the access to Ice climbing still has limited road access.

As of 2/7 afternoon. Highway 395 still had packed snow on road surfaces with R2 Chain Requirements. The Highway 120 West (Tioga Pass Road) was mostly dry and plowed though at 4 miles in where you enter the Poole Power Plant Rd. For the Lee Vining Canyon Parking it was plowed down to 1 lane.

Poole Power Plant road in the vicinity of the V Bowl Parking Area


Unfortunately the road is plowed only to the end of the pavement near the vicinity of the Inyo NF Aspen campground.  You can see my two waypoints for where the road is plowed up to and where the parking usually is at the Poole Power Plant.  This adds 1.5 miles each way to your approach for ice climbing and though its on a road so skis or snowshoes would be optimal for good floatation.

It should be noted that there is very limited parking right now at the end of the plowed section of this road and please try and carpool of you are planning to hike in.

The road is plowed to a point of 37 degrees 56’26″N and 119 Degrees 11’33” W between Aspen and big bend campground

Limited parking spots have been plowed out at the point where you can no longer drive.

June Lake got even more snow in this past storm with an epic 130″ of snow in 4 days. Heavy lake affect snow is still clinging to trees and roads are just getting opened.

The Road is plowed up to the normal gate area and the SEC Power Plant where people approach the Ice for Roadside and Horsetail however there is not really a great solution for parking with the way the road is plowed because there is still only one blade with plowed which is less than 2 car widths.

There are no plowed public parking options for the ice in June Lake as of 2/7 though some people are still trying to park though it is not ideal if you are trying to get out and are blocking someone or somebody is blocking you.



Please remember not all parking spaces are optimal as this individual learned who was parked on 120 prior to the storm near Lee Vining Canyon… (choose your parking space wisely and check the weather before you go ice climbing)

Car that was parked at the turnoff for the poole power plant road off the 120…. Hope they were not planning to drive it soon!


The ice at road side was very covered by snow and would take a lot of excavating to get down to ice screw placements or good sticks

Roadside Ice 2/7


Horsetail and Tatum falls as well as north gulley seem well buried by snow as well though there are some interesting drips that are forming up high on some of the steeper walls.

Tatum Falls

rooftops of the SCE power plant with Horsetail Falls in the background

Horsetail Falls with a lot of snow on it

Horsetail falls with natural avalanche debris right above the approach

We will continue to update as conditions change but we have a brief break in this storm to dig out and more snow is on the way for next weekend and next week so stay posted.


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Eastern Sierra Backcountry Snow Report – February 2nd, 2019 Sun, 03 Feb 2019 05:34:06 +0000  

Happy Groundhog’s Day backcountry skiers and snowboarders!! A happy one it is indeed. Best holiday of the year, every year I do declare.

Finally, something to write about! It’s been a good season so far, hovering around the average mark. Generally excellent conditions have prevailed, though December was a bit disappointing relative to the forecasts and January had a period of spooky persistent slab problems that the good folks at the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center have been tracking. A brief June-uary thaw helped with the latter problem, but made the goods unusually elusive (though still out there).

Enter, the storm of the season. Since this storm started, Mammoth Mountain has seen close to 3 feet of snow at 9000′ and the peak has yet to come. The 5-day forecast could bring up to 10″ of liquid water to the High Sierra, southern reaches included, with markedly cooling temperatures. If all goes well, this could equate to up to 10-15 feet of snow up high and even some welcome accumulation of snow down into the sagebrush. Expect to see widespread enormous avalanching. You can go ahead and start arranging time off for Sierra skiing deep into spring.


There is not much else to say about conditions until this storm settles out the and the wind and sun have their turn. We can all rest assured that the Sierra will be oh-so-Nevada this season, and there is sure to be a lot of excellent skiing and riding to come in the coming weeks and months. Love it when a plan comes together!




Here are a few recent highlights:

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Eastern Sierra Ice Report – January 28, 2019 Mon, 28 Jan 2019 23:00:54 +0000 Hey there Ice Climbers. We had a great 2 day Ice 101 program this past weekend.  Warm temps kept us away from the Ice at June Lake but Lee Vining Canyon was perfect.  The road in was 2WD friendly and the hike in was an easy boot pack on supportable snow without the need for snowshoes.  The 1st creek crossing takes some careful balance but the 2nd crossing is covered with a snow bridge.  Overall easy conditions on the approach. Care should be given when approaching to avoid walking under icefall and careful route-finding can avoid several hazards as you approach the ice.

Warm temps on both days this weekend gave us plastic hero ice that tended to be a little wet in the afternoon.  Several folks were climbing on lines on the main wall as well as Chouinard Falls.

Lost and Found note – please contact me if you left a water bottle and some draws.  It was left on Saturday and still there on Sunday so I hiked them out.

Enjoy the photos and we hope to see you out ice climbing this season.






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Eastern Sierra Ice Report – January 24, 2019 Thu, 24 Jan 2019 20:06:25 +0000 Hey Ice Climbers


We have missed the past 2 weeks of reporting for a few reasons.  I had a surgery to clear my sinuses out which put me out of conditions for a few weeks, and a week of storms and avalanche cycles put the conditions for climbing Ice out of shape keeping most climbers thankfully out of the avalanche terrain where an avalanche incident could occur.

MLK weekend was is over which often times tends to be a busy weekend for ice – though many of our local venues had high avalanche danger with wind and storm slabs present at all aspects and elevations. In addition the potential for a potential persistent weak layer that could be triggered by a step down avalanche was worrisome and similar conditions to when we had a wall to wall avalanche event two seasons ago in Lee Vining Canyon.

This week is helping the Avalanche hazard calm down with storm and wind slab danger trending lower and deeper snowpacks ideally reducing the the persistent weak layer hazard.

Lee Vining Ice

One of our SMG guides Geoff Unger is out guiding ice today on the main wall and I will be out this weekend on an ice 101 with a small group.

Currently flotation would be a good idea though by the weekend a solid boot pack should be supportable making for a straightforward approach.  (though wind drifts into the boot pack above the narrows can be deep)


Here are some photos from Lee Vining from yesterday which were taken by Geoff Unger (AMGA/IFMGA Mountain Guide)

Chouinard Falls holding fat ice on the left side and mixed snow and ice conditions on the right side. Chouinards in good shape.  Some lines clean and protectable. Others with lower angle ramps and stances will require thoughtful leads.
With mild to warm temps LVC will be the place to be for best ice this weekend.

After storms and with the presence of wind slabs, the descent/ hike around to the top around the climbers right side of this ice flow can hold avalanche start zones and often leading and rapping from fixed anchors is safer than exposing yourself to the avalanche terrain to hike around.

The gulley is well filled in with good supportable snow making the approach much more mellow than last season

Main Wall and Caveman, in condition. Spiral Staircase, forming.

Unfortunately this season the Narrows are bone dry, and as seen in this photo the Bard Harrington is bone dry.

LVC is in good shape with a track put in today that doesn’t require snowshoes. By this weekend it should be a highway!


June Lake Ice


June lake ice suffers from being a little lower angled than Lee Vining and thus can get significantly buried after a storm.  Roadside Ice gets plenty of morning sun this time of year and is lower elevation and can have less snow on it than Horsetail.

It was suggested that Horsetail Falls may be ripe for a First Ski Descent after this past storm.  Time will tell if we get some good melt freeze conditions that will get us back on Horsetail or if it will remained buried for the remainder of the season.

Roadside Ice being one of our few ice venues outside of avalanche terrain apparently got hammered this weekend with people.  It is worth remembering that Roadside ice is on Private Property that is owned by Southern California Edison and they have posted no trespassing signs at the ice.  That said Local climbers have been climbing at roadside and being aware and minimizing our impact.  This past MLK weekend several small parties as well as a few large organized groups ranging from out of the area guide services to large climbing clubs had massive groups at the roadside ice.

Please be aware of group size impacts on local climbing resources especially on areas with currently threatened access issues.  If you find yourself climbing in a large group consider creative options to reduce your impact on a limited resource.

Here are a few photos from last weekend from a few of my friends facebook posts.  I am thankful that there were no major injuries with this “gym like” rope spacing while climbing ice.


If you have made it down this far – thanks for checking out our Ice report and please take the time to email us photos of your Eastern Sierra Ice climbing trips to help with this conditions report.


We are looking forward to mild temps and ice growth during the next several days.


Viren Perumal

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Eastern Sierra Ice Report – January 4 Fri, 04 Jan 2019 22:04:13 +0000 Happy New Years Ice Climbers. We just had an amazing week for ice with super cold temps and clear skies. The Ice has been growing and the approach is in great condition in Lee Vining Canyon.

Several Parties have been swinging tools and enjoying the ice this season (since the backcountry skiing has been low tide in many areas and the lines have been long for the resort winter recreation)

I was out yesterday in Lee Vining Canyon and enjoyed a quick hike up to the ice with a solid boot pack and no post holing. This could all change by tommorow as a storm watch is in effect and flotation and avalanche considerations could be a factor for this weekend.

As always check the avalanche advisory prior to heading out to climb ice.

As for the ice – there have been some changes this past week. Chouinard Falls is seeing a lot of water running on the surface of the ice and this has even thinned out some of the ice lines that had previously been fat. Lines on the left side are thinner and the climb below the 2nd to left bolts had running water that made it out of condition for climbing.

The right side is forming up nicely and there are some alternative zones for ice below the “Tioga Cliff” (Early and cold days) and below the “green bridge”

The good news is that a few lines are formed up nicely on the main wall. With T.Hobbs rope gunning – We did a long 80M pitch up main line yesterday and had an awesome adventure up Heel – Toe (what a wild finish)

Check in for more updates and please continue to send photos and conditions to us.


flows on the north side of the canyon below the tioga cliff

The approach is well filled in with a supportable boot pack – no post holing and quick access to the ice this week

The ice was thinner on the left side than last week with a lot of running water on the surface of the ice between the 2 ropes in this photo

Overall several fun lines at Chouinard Falls

Chouinard Rigt is still forming up but is in shape for a fun “mixed” adventure

T. Hobbs cruising his way up the 1st pitch of Heel- Toe which had well bonded ice and was taking screws

The center line on Main Wall and caveman have great ice – The line right of center and spiral are still too thin to climb and are out of shape.

T. Hobbs charging up the super fun Center line on Main Wall in a Monster 80 M pitch which took screws the whole way up. Caveman to the right was also looking great with the bottom 30m being thin but going into some steep fat ice.

T. Hobbs on P. 1 of Heel Toe (PC L. Allen)

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