13 Feb Eastern Sierra Ice Report // February 11-12, 2023
Lee Vining Canyon
I just finished up two days of guiding in Lee Vining Canyon with an incredible group for an introductory ice climbing program. Here are some of the conditions updates for anyone interested in getting out there in the next few days.
Pool Power Plant Road: The road is clear all the way to the power station. It is mostly covered in snow with some ice patches. Most of the road is cleared wide enough for 1.5 lanes of traffic, but there are several sections that will only take 1 lane.
Parking: The parking area is cleared but please be advised that space is VERY limited. Last week we observed a couple of pickup trucks parked parallel on the south side of the lot taking up at least 6 spaces for cars if they had pulled straight in. Please be mindful when you are parking. Carpooling is very strongly recommended to reduce impact on this parking area. Edison is kind enough to allow us to park here to access the ice climbing and they could just as easily revoke this privilege if it’s not respected.
Approach: We have been using flotation for the approach although the surface snow and track are starting to firm up nicely and many folks have been making it up there without snowshoes. But we have watched many a climber, post hole their way to glory.
Ice: There is more ice in the canyon right now than I’ve seen in my 5 years of climbing there. I’ve heard tales of these things coming in, but never would have believed it until now.
Chouinard Wall: The ice is essentially FAT wall to wall. Tree route is still looking lean but everything else is “in” and climbing very well. There are several bolt anchors still accessible but it would be wise to have an ice screw anchor kit on you when questing into the unknown.
Main Wall: This one follows suit to Chouinard Wall. The ice is very in, and FAT wall to wall. You can climb on pure ice from Spiral Staircase all the way to Caveman if you want. There are some sections that are thinner than others but there is almost no rock showing. Be prepared to build your own anchors as well as a V-Thread to clean. It’s interesting to still find people’s accessory cord threaded through the ice, left as rappel anchors. This is a technique of the past. Please consider how ice climbing has evolved over the years and respect the equipment we are now using for modern ice climbing.
Heel Toe Wall: There is some fun looking ice to be had here if you are up for an adventure. Ice has not formed top to bottom, and some mixed climbing will be mandatory.
Adventure Flows: There is a lot of ice on the north side of the canyon. Much like last season but with the amount of snow we have received things look a little shorter there right now. On sunny days we have been observing spontaneous ice fall from this wall in the afternoon. Take care to make note of forecasts and limit exposure to overhead hazard on warmer and/or sunnier days.
Bard-Harrington Wall: I had the absolute pleasure of climbing a route on this wall this past week. It was probably the highlight of my season and an objective I have only walked past a hundred times wondering what it would look like with ice on it. There is a lot of ice on the BH but not without significant sections of mixed climbing to connect them. Be aware that conditions can change rapidly delaminating ice in mere hours.
Narrows: There is actual ice to climb in the narrows. I think that says enough.
Summary: If you are still here with me, thanks for following along on this adventure. If you’re looking to escape the crowds in Lee Vining, June Lake has been offering up many a few flows of ice that have only been talked about as legend. I had the pleasure of guiding not only one, but two new routes to me a couple of weeks ago. If you are willing to walk a little further and dig a little deeper you may find the gold!