Eastern Sierra Ice Report | Lee Vining: Feb 18-21

In Eastern Sierra Ice Report, From the Range of Light & Fast by Michael O'ConnorLeave a Comment

Harlee getting ready to crush!

Well not too much has changed out in Lee Vining since last weekend… except for the amount of CRUSHING! I just had 4 days of ice guiding out in the canyon with 3 different parties. It was some of the most fun I’ve had guiding. Everyone showed up ready to kick ass and it was a complete blast! The conditions may have had a little to do with that, so let’s dive into it.

Febuary 18th-19th:

I had 4 stoked guests get out for their first time ice climbing and we had a great time at the Chouinards Wall both days. Our first day the approach still had a really nice track all the way up the canyon and was easy walking sans snowshoes.

Leading up the first pitch of the day on the “Center Left Flow” we set up two climbs. One on bolts, and another on a screw anchor because the ice had covered up the set of bolts to the right of “Comrad’s Corner”. We spent the day working on the basics of how to swing an ice tool and how to kick your crampons into the ice. By the end of the day the crew was finally getting the hang of things and we were getting some good laps in. 

Alejandro curling ins style on the Chouinards Wall
Lukasz swinging the Camp X-Dream

Our second day out in the canyon we spent on the right side climbing on “Tree Route” and “Chouinards Right” with access to two bolt anchors. Now the crew was really getting the hang of things dialing in their swings. As well as taking advantage of the “staggered tool” technique. It was impressive to see everyone pick it up so quickly and totally crush!

Taylor picking his way up a delicate little pillar

Of note: The condition of the ice at Chouinards is still really good where it’s in, even though it’s getting quite picked out in certain sections. Leaders should still take care to excavate any shelled sections of ice from the January storm to get good protection in, but there are plenty of areas above and below these sections to find good protection.

February 20th:

I was out on the Main Wall on Saturday with two stoked guests and we took it all the way to the top via the “Center Flow” in two pitches. The ice on the Main Wall is good where it’s good. But there are certainly many sections that are very heads up and will take stubbies or no protection at all. The ice also feels much steeper than WI4 in certain sections, but maybe leading with two ropes and a pack made it feel harder. In any event, the Main Wall is still hanging in there and quite adventurous! 

Andrew laying siege on the Main Wall!
Nate making the Main Wall look casual

Of note: The bolts above the “Caveman” route are still exposed, as well as an anchor about halfway up the pitch on the climbers right. There were several different bolt anchor options at the top. As well as one in the middle of the wall about 40 meters up on the “center flow”.

Photo: Jackson Yip
Nate and Andrew after their successful ascent of the Main Wall

February 21st:

Back out for Sunday Funday on the Chouinards Wall with one guest for his first time ice climbing. We had a great day out there with perfect weather. Blue skies, zero wind and chilly temps!  We also shared the wall with about 16 other climbers and didn’t have any issues finding space. Everyone out there was very pleasant to climb around and we all did a great job navigating the space as well as with ice fall management.

To everyone that was out on Chouinards this past Sunday: Thanks for crushing and sharing the space!

Tyler crushing for his first day of ice climbing
Some strangers we shared Chouinards Wall. Please comment if you know them!

Of note: The bolted anchor to the right of “Comrads Corner” is now exposed via an ice cave!

The ice cave that holds a bolt anchor inside!


It’s been a great season so far out in the Easter Sierra for ice climbing and I’ve really been enjoying my time out there. I hope the season lasts for a bit longer but I’m afraid our time is limited. The sun is starting to touch the tops of the flows at the end of the day and I’d say right now we probably have 3 more weeks of good conditions before things will start to melt more quickly than any ice climber would like.

Make sure you are keeping up with the ESAC Avalanche Bulletins regularly as well as tracking the seasons temperatures. Well thanks for reading and we’ll check back in with everyone next week! 

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If you’re interested in getting an ice climbing trip booked please visit our Ice Climbing Page! You can also contact our office via phone or email: (760) 648-1122 or info@sierramtnguides.com

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