Eastern Sierra Ice Report – December 29, 2016

In Conditions Reports, Eastern Sierra Ice Report, From the Range of Light & Fast by Viren PerumalLeave a Comment

Hey there Ice Climbers.  Welcome to another week of conditions updates.  Since our last report we have had a small snow event that put almost 3 ft of New snow up in the high mountains that gave us a “White Christmas”  here in Mammoth.  The snow came in with colder temps than the last storm and deposited lighter more faceted snow on top of the old snowpack.  what this meant for ice climbers is that the approaches got a little more interesting and climbers should be budgeting a little more time and caution for the approaches and decent for the ice cliffs.  The other weather event that happened after the Christmas weekend was a high pressure system with a warming trend.  High temps during the past few days were in the high 40s at the 9000′ elevation where much of the accessible ice is concentrated.  This led to wet ice and melting away and thinning of some of the interesting thinner lines that had popped up in the narrows and the sunny walls left of Tatum Falls in June Lake have thinned significantly this week.  The good news is all that melting and wetness in conjunction with long cold nights means that the thicker flows are continuing to fatten. Horsetail Falls is in great shape and we climbed 3 different lines there yesterday, and Main Wall and Chouinards are nice and thick and taking good screws on all routes. There is still lots of interesting ice out there which is usually not in around the range.

Lee Vining Canyon

(Sorry no full video this week for Lee Vining…but cool video from last week on the link below)

Snowy Day in Lee vining – 12/23 by Brandon and Corina

The approached changed a little and as you can see from the video above there was some snow early this past week.  This still made the first talus field a little trecherous however the sections above the narrows are filling in and the wind has bonded the snowpack well for an over all filled in approach.

Lee Vining Canyon approach – 12/29 – Photo SMG Guide Forrest Schwab


















The climbs in “The Narrows” like Zippos Frozen Bugger, Womp Rat just to the right and the flow to the right of that have all thinned with the warm day time temps the past 2 days.

Shrinking thin ice in the Narrows left – 12/29 Photo SMG guide Viren Perumal


















The climbs on the north side of Canyon just past the narrows have lots of options with fun looking steps and loads of options with minimal sun this time of year.  On our approach we ran into our friends and the local Ice crushing couple starting their day on a less travelled adventure climb on this north side.

Ian and Jess getting ready to put some postage on and SEND 12/29 North side Lee Vining Canyon- Photo SMG Guide Forrest Schwab
















Chouinards wet but in great shape 12/29 – Photo V. Perumal

Main Wall also looking great with many fun options to climb – 12/29 – Photo V. Perumal













Roadside Ice

This flow is fat with several different lines in great shape. There are some new bolted anchors that have pooped up this season and this week I noticed rope around trees with Mussy Hooks….Good? Bad? Convenient? Things that could threaten access? Regardless – Every day this past week there have been several cars at this ice crag and I still stand by my comment that this area is the most convenient and accessible ice climbing in North America and has the bonus of having “The Eagles Nest Saloon” at the Double Eagle only a few hundred yards up the road with one of the best happy hours on the east side 🙂

I climbed there on 12/26 and found fun, wet, picked out, and thick ice on several sections, but due to the low snow at this elevation the down climb/ toprope access still involves technical climbing.  The June Lake loop road is still open allowing for parking right next to the ice – but please remember to fully park off the road and minimize your impact at this area with threatened access – remember roadside ice is on Southern Californa Edison property and climbing access is very sensitive.

Tatum Falls

This Flow is still fat – however the warm temps are making this flow sun baked

North Gully

This flow is formed in nicely and the low snow is making it a pleasant ascent right now.  Ice report contributers Brandon and Corina give this report….(from 12/22). “It was mostly solid, some patches of hero ice followed by some patches or more brittle stuff. We we’re on route mid-late day. Back with plenty of daylight. Hope this helps out the community! ”

-Brandon & Corrina Benjamin

North Gully 12/22 -Photos By Brandon and Corina Benjamin


New Fixed line on the rock step to access Horsetail Falls courtesy of SMG Guide Geoff Unger (12/25) – Photo Geoff Unger

Horsetail Falls

SMG Guide Forrest Schwab and I spent yesterday (12/28) at Horsetail Falls.  We found the approach to be nice with the new snow on the tracks and the creek crossing to be thought provoking as the ice is not very thick under the moving water. The rock step was trickier than usual with the sugary snow covering slabby footholds.  We chose to belay our students up the rock steps and were aided by the new static line placed this season by SMG guide Geoff Unger as the old fixed line had several core shots.  The ice has formed up nicely but there is still quite a bit of running water under thin coverage.  There were several points that we punched holes through the unconsolidated snow to leave holes with running water below, and the ice on the far left was thin in spots with running water and not the best well bonded ice.  Climbing on horsetail was “variable” with much of the lower angle terrain covered with snow or “eggs-shelled” ice over snow.  That said there were several sections of thick ice and it made for great terrain for teaching ice climbing.







Footwork clinic at Horsetail Falls with a “Tool Ladder” on an SMG Ice 101 (12/28) – Photo Viren Perumal

Panorama of Horsetail Falls 12/28 – Photo by Forrest Schwab


Tahoe Area Ice

We have a Coldstream Canyon update from 12/24 from Chris Thibeault …”Some good leadable lines out there and will only get better this week!”



















Lovers Leap

…just to keep you excited – here is a photo from this week of some friends of mine on Eeyore’s Fantasy…at Lovers Leap!!! – I’m not going to lie…I’m pretty sure these gentlemen probably hauled their testicles to the base of this route in wheel barrows!!!!  can you say THIN!!!!!

Trevor Hobbs tapping gently at some of the most epic looking ice in California this week on an early season attempt of Eeyore’s Fantasy (12/27) – Photo Zach Fletcher

Please Keep sending us your photos and conditions updates from your adventures – let us know how we can help build a stronger ice climbing community through these ice conditions reports – and be safe and respectful out there on the ice!!! – Viren Perumal

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