Eastern Sierra Ice Report – January 3, 2018

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

Happy New Years Ice Climbers!!!

In this edition of our weekly Ice Report – Fun Ice to be found in June Lake, Parker Canyon, Lee Vining Canyon, Thor Falls. There is STILL no snowfall and warm temps have persisted. In addition we discuss an Ice Climbing Accident that happened in LVC …Lets Get Started!

I guided ice climbing 5 of the 7 days between Christmas and New Years! – 2 days at North Gully of Horsetail and 3 days in Lee Vining The ice is fun where it has formed and the mild temps have been pleasant.  There is no snow on most of the approaches making them not too bad 🙂

Lee Vining Canyon

I climbed on Chouinard Falls on 12/27, 12/31, and 1/1.

The Road is Snow Free with easy driving to the Poole Power Plant.  Edison Power is still doing work on the penstock so please be aware of how your parking and presence impacts their operations.  Realize that you are crossing their private property for a few hundred feet to access the Inyo NF land.

The approach is fully snow free and can be done with approach shoes if desired.

Norris M. and Tanya G. Approaching on the last steep section below the main wall with another party about to cross the creek at the log in the background (1/1/2018 V. Perumal)

First Talus Field (1/1/2018 V. Perumal)

The talus field is snow free making overall quick and easy travel if you are used to of trail movement in the mountains. All 3 times I stayed fully on the South side of Lee Vining Creek.  There is a easy to follow trail once you leave the first talus field that stays high above the river.  Follow footsteps and Carins/ Ducks. A fall from the exposed sections of the trail would be of high consequece and the easy travel will change significantly with just a light dusting of snow or more icy conditions.

There is still a boulder problem move to enter the narrows.

Viren Perumal at the Boulder Problem on the approach below the Narrows – (12/31/2017 J. Arnold)

Once exiting the narrows there is a creek crossing that I have been using a log to increase security that is located across from the Bard-Harrington Wall.

Norris M. and Tanya G. on the final approach below Main Wall – Note the 2 other climbers about to cross the branch of the creek at the log crossing below Bard – Harrington Wall. (1/1/2018 V.Perumal)

There is no ice in the Narrows, and the dry tooling “Star Wars” routes have plenty of running water at the base making them difficult to access.

Approaching the Narrows with canyon wide ice and water (1/1/2018 T. Godinez)

Autumn M. Enjoying the solitude of Lee Vining Canyon – we were the only group on a Holiday weekend enjoying the canyon (12/31/2017 J. Arnold)

The Bard – Harrington Wall is mostly dry and has not formed up this season.

Bard – Harrington Wall is looking pretty dry (12/31/2017 V.Perumal)

There is one new and fun looking line that faces east on the north side of the canyon just above the narrows – the south facing climbs are melting out and we observed spontaneous icefall on all 3 days.

South Facing Ice below Tioga Cliff (12/31/2017 V.Perumal)


There is some nice ice at the higher part of the canyon below the “green bridge” of Highway 120

Looks fun – Good alternative if there are parties on Chouinard Falls (1/1/2018 V.Perumal)

Main wall looks like there are fun and thin lines that could take screws but with the warm daytime temps we have been observing spontaneous icefall and I have been avoiding this wall still this season.  This will be fun thin ice climbing once we have colder temps that are forecasted for later this week!

Main Wall (1/1/2018 T. Godinez)

Chouinard Falls is fat and fun in the center though the left side is still thin and mixed and we have been avoiding Conrads corner to not knock out all the ice.

SMG Guide Viren Perumal Instructs Tanya G. on swing mechanics (1/1/2018 Norris M.)

The base area is still difficult to manage due to the lack of snow – any slip on ice at the base would be very consequential and icefall has been greater due to lack of snow to catch some of the ice – I have been bringing rock gear to ground anchor belayers to keep them out of the icefall zone – we have been doing a short single pitch to access the base of the ice on the left side.


The Tree route is taking screws and I spent about 30 minutes chopping ice out of the bolted anchor just left of the tree route chains and they will take maintenance by lots of parties to keep them from being buried this season due to lots of running water over the bolts.

Right side of Chouinard Fall is thin but climbable with rock pro.


Accident at Chouinard Falls – Leader fall on Ice.

CHP H-40 coming in for the extrication of the injured Ice climber (1/1/2018 T.Godinez)

…I was guiding on 1/1/2018 and witnessed a lead climber taking a 40-50 foot fall impacting multiple ledges.  He had placed 3 screws and his upper screw along with his belayer caught his fall. I was able to use the SMG Delorme In Reach Satelite communication device to initiate contact with Mono County Sheriffs Dispatch. I was able to inform them about location and information about the accident and terrain that would make a litter carry impractical.  I was able to communicate directly with Cal OES (Office of Emergency Services) to relay information through Satellite Texting Capabilities.  Ice climbers entering the canyon should be aware that even though we can see a state highway across from us – these areas are difficult to access and serious and relatively remote. The accident occurred at approximately 10:30 and the fall victim was extricated at around 3PM Given the length of winter days and the lengthy response time not having Satelite communication would have meant a night rescue mission or a night out for the patient. Please consider appropriate back country communication for your trips into the mountains. We are all thankful for the Volunteers of the SAR team and the crew of CHP H-40…. I am usually not as excited as I was that day to see the flashing lights of the Highway Patrol 🙂


Here is an Excerpt from Mono County Sherrifs office.  I am not going into detail about this accident to protect the patients privacy so please do not use this website to comment.


Ice climber placed in Bauman Bag that was brought by Mono County SAR team members that were Inserted by H-40 preparing the victim for a hoist in challenging terrain. – (1/1/2018 T. Godinez)


The patient is recovering from his injuries well at Renown Medical Center in Reno.

Thor Falls (North Fork of Lone Pine Creek) – Outflow of Thor Lake

Our friend Elmar S. Climb Ice in the Mt. Whitney Zone. Here is a post he made

…solid day checking out the falls on Mt. Thor in complete solitude (the only one up that way, except for a couple of guys who came down from iceberg). soloed the bottom third on the left side and down climbed the same way. this is probably the best ice on the eastside right now (definitely better than roadside or horsetail), but the 3+ hour approach and 2500′ elevation gain at altitude should keep the crowds at bay. the ice was thick and varied from plastic to slushy. heard some water underneath, but didn’t see any. even at 11,000+ feet it was pretty warm…

Thor Falls (Elmar S.)

Thor falls and Mt. Whitney – Beautiful “Low Tide” winter shot of the ice near Upper Boy Scout Lake (Elmar S.)


June Lake Roadside Ice (1/1/2018)

My Friend Dan S. was climbing with his partner Lynn L. on New Years Day.

…..(From Dan)

Warm conditions begin around 10am. Ice was great. Turns to plastic as the sun hit the routes. There are thin spots on the routes. Lead climbers place screws carefully. Most of the route took stubbies. All the routes can have top ropes dropped.

Right side is mostly mixed climbing. The bottom of the routes on the right are dry tooling only. As you get higher the ice improves. I brought nuts and cams. Up to size #2. I placed rock pro till I got about 20-30 off the deck. Then the ice got thick enough to place screws.

Roadside Ice Showing the mid way bolt anchors on the left line (1/1/2018 L. Lieu)

June Lake Horsetail Falls

I am still avoiding Horse tail because of the growing melted out area of ice and the hazards at the base.  The sun hits the ice in the morning causing potentially catastrophic icefall and sun rotted ice… but other ice climbers are heading over there still. Use good judgement when selecting ice climbs. The Approach is snow free to the base of both with short ice sections.  The creek crossing to access horsetail is hazardous.

Austin looking hot on the approach to North Gully (12/30/2017 V.Perumal)

June Lake North Gully Ice

on 12/30 we did our first day of our SMG Ice 101 on the North Gully Ice on the far right side of Horsetail Falls – I have been there a few times this season – it does not see the sun and the ice is in nice shape.  It is a fun 3 pitch moderate route with a short headwall of WI 3 and some nice thinner ice near the top.

SMG Guide Viren Perumal emphasizing cramping and foot position during a “tool ladder drill” at North Gully (1/30/2017 J. Arnold

We had 2 40M top ropes on the first pitch of North Gully which ended up working really well for moderate ice instruction. (12/20/2017 J. Arnold)

June Lake Tatum Falls 

The 1st pitch of Tatum is melted out with all the sun and warm temps – there is lots of running water


Parker Canyon

Parker Canyon is holding good ice and I ran into a party who was going to make the approach in but have not heard a report

Here is a Photo taken from the View Point off 395


Please Email and Ice photos or trip reports if you are willing to share for future Ice Conditions Reports – I am up in Tahoe this week for work and hoping to sample some ice here on a day off


Lastly as a happy New Years Celebration I got to witness a full moon rising on the horizon above Mono Lake on a pretty heavy duty day guiding in Lee Vining….Here is a photo I snapped which does not do it justice.


Thanks for reading –



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