Hey Ice Climbers,
Hope you get to enjoy the ice before it is gone. We usually don’t say that until mid-March, but this year all bets are off. We all know that ice does not fare well in a warming globe, and that goes for California too, not just polar ice caps. 2014 was the warmest year in recorded California history, by a long shot. December 2014 was incredibly warm and it wasn’t until the end of the month that we got a week of cold that formed some decent ice climbing in both Lee Vining Canyon and June Lake areas. Since the beginning of 2015, temperatures have elevated and Lee Vining and June Lake have seen very few hours of subfreezing temperatures in the past week and a half. A lot of ice is sweaty, hollow, detached and dying, like a Suess-ish Swamee Swan gasping for its last breath. Where ice is climbable, it climbs incredibly well. There are many wet streaks where ice would normally be in January. We witnessed the center of Horsetail Falls fall into the creek on Jan 10th and it has only deteriorated since. We heard a rumor that a local June Lake climber took a ride when the Roadside Ice delaminated from the cliff a couple weeks ago. Chouinard Falls is down to 3 climbable lines. Main Wall looks like a death trap on a warm day and the lower section is melted out again. The snow is disappearing so quickly that it might be time to start talking about Lundy and Parker Canyon ice again.
Our advice is to watch evening temperatures, use good timing, and be patient. We will no doubt see the ice re-form and strengthen before the end of winter, but realize that the coming weather this week is going to be even hotter. Check out this Day 6 forecast showing the retreat of the polar airmass almost into Canada’s Northwest Territories.
Might be a good time to take an ice trip to Québec or New England, because it is going to get unseasonably warm everywhere in the North American West, and looks to last at least through the end of January.
Enjoy what you will in the coming weeks, but do be careful out there and have some respect for unstable ice.