After climbing the Dana Couloir in late summer conditions, John H. was keen to try out water ice climbing.  After a couple of false starts due to warm temperatures in December, we finally were able to make schedules and the weather meet to climb in Lee Vining Canyon.  We met at John’s hotel in the village of Lee Vining at 7:00am on the 18th.

At the Power Station the trail looked to be in good shape, but almost immediately after the second creek crossing our progress was halted – blown snow had filled in the trail and wiped out any sign of it.  Tricked by conditions below, I hadn’t brought snowshoes – doh!!  So I ran back down and ran back up to where John waited for me.  The snowshoes helped, but it was still a repeat of last week.  Thankfully, all the new snow and wind compaction allowed us to set a more direct and friendlier track then last week.  Still, we didn’t start climbing until almost 11:30am.

getting ready / Lee Vining Canyon / photo John H.

Just as we reached the base of Chouinard Falls, Eric catches up, with John and Nick behind him.  John and Nick had attempted to climb Mt Emerson with me last fall, but we were stumped by the first storm of winter.  They had come back to make a winter ascent of Mt Whitney, but the same storm that had filled in the trail in Lee Vining Canyon had loaded the the slopes and cliffs in Whitney Portal as well. They had to turn around at the Eberbacher Ledges, and chose to spend the two days left ice climbing.

eric, nick, and john getting ready to climb “classic tree” / WI3 / a redirected variation of the tree route / photo john h.

John’s read all the books, understands all the theories, and has climbed AI3, so this trip was to focus on movement, not concepts.  So I quickly ran up Piolet, WI3, so that John could warm up, use the same rope to TR Aqua Seal, WI3+, and try out my personal leashed tools – an old generation of BD Cobras with Android leashes – compared against the new leashless pair of BD Vipers that I was leading with.  After just a few laps it was already 4:30, so we wrapped up the day.

The next day we were surprised to see that the wind had completely blown and filled yesterday’s trail again, forcing us to spend time kicking it in all over again.  We were able to get started a little sooner then yesterday, and I set up the anchor at the top of Colonel Clink, WI 3+, which allowed us to do laps on Conrad’s Corner, WI 4-, and Waterlogged, WI 3.  John was also able to jump on Eric’s TR of “Classic Tree,” WI 3, which is what I call the bottom half of Classic Curve using a redirected anchor from the Tree Route.

To cap off the weekend I tied a second rope to the first to climb “Scrappy’s Corner,” WI4- M6.  This is a link up of the lower-half (and crux) of Scrappy’s Child, WI3 M6, and the top half (and crux) Conrad’s Corner, WI4-.  John did a great job climbing his first mixed route without being told the grade.  He got to see the con to leashless tools when my feet popped off the WI4- crux, leaving me six feet below my tools.  Ooops – I had to be lowered down, grab a second set of tools, and run up to fetch the leashless jobs and finish cleaning the anchor.

looking up scrappy’s child / M6 / red line: bottom half (crux) / yellow line:  top half / red circle: lost tools – oops! / scrappy’s corner” is a 40m+ line gaining the anchor at the top of conrad’s corner / photo john h.

We finished off with soda and a bite at the Mono Market, talking about all the things we could climb this spring and summer.  A great trip.