Alight it’s that time of the year again. Ice climbing season is coming! But, is it here yet? If you haven’t joined our climbing chatter email list, you can find it under “local groups” on our homepage or just to make it that much easier for you, you can email Charlie Hickenbottom to get on the list at firstname.lastname@example.org. Just shoot Charlie an email saying your name and that you would like to be added to the weekly climbing chatter email list. There are over 100 of us from Wenatchee to the Tri-Cities to Seattle on this email list graciously hosted by a WenatcheeOutdoors.org enthusiast Charlie Hickenbottom. Thank you Charlie for keeping us organized!
On the climbing chatter not only do we email each other about rock climbing but ice climbing, as well as occasionally when we are looking for backcountry skiing partners and mountain bike buddies. Want more people to get outside with, this is a good place to start.
Below is the latest chatter from this week about how the ice climbing is shaping up in the Wenatchee Valley to give you the inside scoop. Please excuse the slang and grammar mistakes, these are real world emails, not publication writings.
Sam Cannon- So I drove up Tumwater to see what I could see, which turned out to be a helluvalot of ice! What I think is Drury Falls appeared doable from the road, and there looked to be quite a bit of blobby type ice bottom to top. Looked like a few other thin lines were in. I’m verrrrry rusty on ice and so is my equipment, but if anyone is looking for a belay I’d be game to go check out Drury. Hell, I might just hike in solo to take a look….Speaking of hiking in, how do you get to it? Where do you cross the river? Also, would Triple Couloirs on Dragontail be in? I’d imagine it would be. I see that avy danger is still too high for my taste but as soon as things settle I’m anxious to tag that route with a good partner!
Curt Haire- I’d be pretty nervous about Drury – we haven’t even had temps down intothe ‘teens yet. even at sub-zero temps, it gets enough sun to stay soft…the first time I climbed it we had ice-screws dropping out from rope-drag! Various takes on river crossing: Rolf Larson (aka “Rat”) likes to wade the river just below Swiftwater — theres an island there that splits the current into two wadable sections. I prefer to cross with my inflatable tandem kayak in a calm pool a couple hundred yards upstream of the fall creek confluence. – but I once got dunked there when a freeze built ice along the banks and I couldn’t reach the bank on the highway side; the ice blocking me would not hold me — so I had to wade — scary. all that said — I won’t have time do anything that big until January. I’d love to get out on something smaller/closer-to-the road. I haven’t seen much, yet, but I’d take a chance on Millenium wall up snow creek. If no ice, theres a dry-tooling venue on the downstream side of Rainbow Gully thats a helluva workout…
Stewart Matthiesen- Take some pics if you head up there Sam! I think the Haireball is right though, it takes a little bit for that much volume to freeze well, and it gets sloppy fast with sunny days. If it stays cold though who knows, can be nice to get it before there is more snow and high avy danger on the approach. The approach takes longer than you think and might have some crappy thin snow over scree before it fills in. Also don’t underestimate the river crossing and cold water. There have been rescues for ice climbers on that crossing before . . .
Ryan Carrasco- My friend & I made an attempt last year after a “cold snap” and found it to have plenty of ice, but you could see the water flowing just beneath the surface (with lots of open flowing water holes). One local told me here that temps needs to be in the teens for days or a week (daytime high) for it to shape up to be safely climbable. And we crossed at the flat water pool, just be very cautious that you will likely be doing the crossing (if you do it in a day) in the dark!! Our oarlock snapped on our attempt, we got VERY very lucky we were able to gain control of the situation. And that approach gully is a death trap in considerate any conditions. I have a kayak (single man) that anyone can borrow if they plan to make an attempt in the future. And if I remember correctly a fast team could make the approach in 2.5-3hrs?? I am game to make a go when/if it gets super cold!
Mark Shipman- Crossing the Wenatchee River: The simplest and safest place to cross the river is at Lake Yolanda, and then you just walk upstream to the correct canyon. My favorite place to cross saves some time/walking. You go upstream on the highway to just past the next stream coming into the Wenatchee on the right after passing Lake Yolanda. (There’s not much room to pull over, but there’s enough.) At that spot you put your canoe or whatever vessel you are using into an eddy. You cross a short bit of moving water to an eddy on the other side of the river….easy/sleasy.
Necessary climbing conditions: The day you climb needs to be cold and overcast. Even if it’s in the teens, pieces of ice the size of railroad cars come off Drury Falls when the sun hits it. (Remember, if faces pretty much south.)
Avi conditions: The gully below Drury Falls is a death trap. Make sure the snowpack is pretty stable before you go up there.
I’ve gone up to climb Drury Falls, several times, and I’ve only actually climbed it once.
The same information is valid for The Pencil (which is only two pitches, but the first pitch is usually sportier than anything on Drury.) And, in all these years of climbing, I’ve only climbed The Pencil once as well. Drury is a little more committing because it is longer.Stay safe, Sam! Have fun!
Curt Haire (this response is from today)- took a drive this morning to see what I could see — so I guess this would qualify as the first “ass-clammin” report for this season. Drury – there may be enough ice there to climb; I’m not sure it would hold a climber — lots of rock/water showing, but yes – a line or two does connect all the way. Pencil – actually looks complete, although thin. we might get lucky this year? Comic Book Hero – forming, but has a LONG way to go. A week of single-digits would be wonderful. In the Icicle, the Funnel is in, but won’t last if it warms up — I’d happily jump up there, and have done it before on weekdays between my bus runs. I’m guessing Millenium wall is likely in because there’s been plenty of water, and it shares with the Funnel the points of a bit of altitude, and protected from sun -won’t be able to get up there until next week–Candlesteins are forming, and might go as mixed climbs for the adventurous. I’ve done Candlestein Left as a mixed climb in very thin conditions, and its great training for mixed alpinism, pray for a week or two of single-digit lows to bring in the stuff that’s close to the road. Sam – about Triple Couloirs — I was in the hidden couloir in late August, and it was entirely snow-free. The upper two couloirs were nearly bare as well. Given the negative quality of the rock in there, I’d wait for some snow to fill those chutes in. You don’t want to be in there when the dragon is throwing rocks at you.