Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Best Ice Climbing Season Ever?

The Bard-Harrington Wall in mid-March. What a season we had!

With all the attention on record snowfall, amazing powder skiing, and warm spring temperatures, I'm beginning to forget about what a great ice climbing season we had here on the Eastside. From my perspective, it couldn't have been better! So, here's a little recap.

All my ice climbing this past season came in one of two forms. I either worked, or climbed for "fun" with my friend Christy. It's funny looking back at such a busy season with so many partners and clients around and realize that I only climbed "recreationally" with one person. But she's a rock star, and a blast, and motivated, and nice. Couldn't ask for more, really! And clients are great friends, excellent partners and strong athletes. Certainly blurs the line between fun and "work".

Christy and I started the season back in early December with a day of top-roping at Chouinard Falls. I was fresh off a month of not climbing at all (mainly partying around the country...) and she was diving back into ice climbing after a pretty burly, but in the end, brief, "exit" from the sport. She can elaborate if she likes... I'll just say that she has overcome, and then some!

My next, and perhaps most important, ice climbing session was 5 days in Ouray, CO just before Christmas. I took the inaugural AMGA Ice Instructor Course, and my whole world is better because of it. Check out a more detailed report on this course here.

Around the Holidays I worked a ton of ice climbing. We had fresh snow, stormy weather, and whacky approach conditions.

Check out this video for a summary of post-Christmas approach drama.

Excellent "full" conditions for beginner ice climbing on New Years Day 2011!

January brought an even mix of personal climbing and work climbing, all with the constant undertones of the best kind of soap opera. Lee Vining 90210 at it's most entertaining!

Christy and I climbed Photoshop on the Bard-Harrington in early January, possibly the first ones up for the season. The Bard-Harrington Wall in Lee Vining Canyon has been called California's biggest reliable ice climbing area. It certainly is big (3-4 or more pitches), and more reliable than other climbs of its size. Even then, it only comes into truly great condition once every few years. This was one of those years!

Mid-month Taylor and I climbed up the main portion of that wall. Also, possibly the first ones up there for the year. Again, the "conditions" videos tell the stories better:

Photoshop (pardon the production issues. Things were "transitional" on the admin end...)

Bard-Harrington with big, bad Taylor!

At the very end of January Christy and I climbed the Bard-Harrington again in somewhat thin conditions. Coincidentally, there was a professional photo-shoot going on. We scored some "publicity" here and here.

February brought a whole pile of beginner climbers to the Eastern Sierra. What a joy it was for all of us at Sierra Mountain Guides to share sweet conditions and beautiful scenery with a wide range of folks. All of us got out in both Lee Vining and June Lake areas teaching tons of skills and pitches! Awesome!

Things warm up, and wind down, in Lee Vining Canyon in March. Sun hits the top of the routes, and eventually entire walls. Warmer air temps plus these sunny conditions eventually erode the ice. However, if you've been training all season, have your systems down and pay close attention to the potentially warming temperatures, there's no better time to blast up many pitches of plastic ice in the Canyon. My highlight for March, and the end of my ice season, was a custom day with strong and motivated Andy. We estimated that we got in 350 meters of ice 4 that day!

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