Eastern Sierra Ice Report – January 24, 2019

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

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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