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    Oh the weather outside is… delightful?

    Oh the weather outside is… delightful?

    It’s been an interestingly slow start to the winter season here on the Eastside. Mammoth Mountain Ski Area has been open since November but the snow totals for the season so far would suggest that would be impossible. Thank god for snowmaking? It’s been warm and sunny down in Bishop and prime time sending conditions in the Buttermilks and Tablelands. The ORG is also quite nice right now too and it even seems like the south facing walls in Pine Creek would be perfect. 

    Approach to Parker Canyon ice flows

    Anyway let’s get down to the nitty gritty and why you came here in the first place. There IS ice forming here in the Eastern Sierra! Towards the end of November and the start of December we had a nice drop in temperatures with weather stations in Mammoth recording below freezing temps for 10 consecutive days from Nov 24th to Dec 3rd at 9k feet. Which is perfect conditions for ice to start forming. 

    Ice flows in Parker Canyon. Photo Credit- Ryan Huetter

    On December 5th I was able to explore Parker Canyon with some friends and fellow guides to find some very enjoyable ice to climb along with a very pleasant approach. If you have driven up the 395 from June Lake to Lee Vining, you likely have seen Parker Canyon to the west of the highway. If you look closely, you can actually spy the ice from the highway! Pretty neat! 

    Approach into Lee Vining Canyon

    It wasn’t long after, we started talking about going to check out some conditions in Lee Vining Canyon, and on December 12th we made our way out there. Our intention was to get some eyes on the ice, check out some of the mixed routes in the Narrows, and get an idea of what the approach was looking like. This time of year can be one of the trickiest, in terms of conditions, and it’s always nice to get eyes on terrain instead of just guessing. Long story short, there is ice forming on all of the typical routes and walls for the most part. We climbed one pitch on Chouinard Wall then made our way back down to the Narrows for some mixed climbing action. The approach is pretty much what you would expect for this time of year. Boulder hopping with a touch of snow (make that a few touches) and a side of bushwhacking.

    SMG Guide Michael Pedreros aka Mija, climbing on the Chouinard Wall
    SMG Guide Kevin McGarity and fellow AAI Guide Ian McEleny in the Narrows
    Mija climbing in the Narrows

    On December 14th I ventured up to June Lake to see if the rumors were true… and yes they were! There is ice forming in June Lake too! You can see most of it from the road and there are actually some really interesting flows that look like they are forming up pretty well. Horsetail Falls has ice, but also has what looks to be like a metric S@#% ton of water flowing under it. Sketch! Tatum Falls has more ice than I’ve ever seen on it but also probably has quite a bit of water moving under it. Hard to say with just spying it from the road. The lower reaches of Carson Peak has what looks to me like the most interesting ice flows on it and could be quite fun! 

    Summary- YES, there is ice forming and you could go climb on it. But it’s really, for lack of a better word, not really “in” yet. Approaches are extremely challenging and the quality of the ice is sub par at best. The warm temps over the last few days have had pretty drastic effects on the ice and I’d be surprised if Horsetail Falls has ANY ice left on it after this weekend, as the temps are forecasted to rise up to upper 40’s this weekend. With that said, the extended forecast is showing some precip that starts Monday evening to Thursday with some nice chilly temps. Hopefully this storm produces! Fingers crossed! Thanks for tuning in. See you next time. 

    Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!