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[TR] Heliotrope Ridge - Various Heliotrope Water Ice 11/08/2020

Kyle M

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Trip: Heliotrope Ridge - Various Heliotrope Water Ice

Trip Date: 11/08/2020

Trip Report:

Just an update from the Heliotrope Water Ice "Playground". Over the last few years, I've had a great time getting back into the flow of ice by cragging at the various water ice flows above the Heliotrope Ridge Trail in the fall. The combination of Fraser outflow events, northern aspect, and superfluous water supply from the glacier above seems to create the most consistent water ice opportunities in Western Washington from late October until the trailhead is inaccessible. The climbs are easy and short, yes, but it's pretty easy to get in 10 reps of a 50 foot pitch and then, bam, you have 500 ft. of ice climbing just a short walk from the car. Not bad IMO.

To help explain some of these climbs, I created this map. https://caltopo.com/m/06CB. I'm by no means claiming FAs or anything, but there is limited information about these climbs so I thought it was helpful to name a few so I can give my recollections.

In 2019, on Nov 1st, I climbed a ton of climbs, starting with "hidden in plainsight" and working my way through the "heliotrope headwall". All the "misc curtains" were fat, lots of other climbs like "Cauliflower Curtains" were manageable. We had an early dump of snow (late september) that started the freeze thaw early. Some of the climbs are fed by glacial runoff and streams, but others need seepage from early snowfall and freeze/thaw.

In 2020, I headed up there October 24th during a cold spell (overnight around freezing in BHAM). It was evident the ground was still too warm and almost none of the climbs were in. We did however find "Femoral Bleed" a bit higher up than I had ever explored before. It was in great shape on the 24th, but when we returned on the 25th, after a very cold night, it somehow had become very wet and was spurting water out of a hole in the middle, nowhere near where we had climbed the day before. Bizzare.

Femoral Bleed

I returned on Nov 8th (today). Temps were very warm (freezing level 7k) just a few days ago, so I wasn't too hopeful. Friends had walked up there on the 6th and found running water everywhere and no real ice. But as we started hiking up, the ground was very frozen and signs were good. We found "Cauliflower Curtains" to be in good shape, not protectable on lead, but good fun on TR. It was possibly in better shape than the year before even. This had gone from a full waterfall to climbable in less than 48 hours. Impressive.


We continued up to Femoral Bleed. It was very thin and wet compared to last time, not in good shape at all. Perhaps it does not form as well under fast-freeze conditions? Maybe it will bulk out in the coming days. But just to the right we found a beautiful line "Supermarket Shrimp", with wonderful tentacles and striking ice formations. This was a fun TR. Two weeks before, when Femoral was fat, this climb was running water. Go figure.


It looks like serious snow is coming soon, but maybe some people will find this useful in future years. It's a primo spot: 1-2 hr approaches to relatively reliable water ice, at least by WA standards. Happy hunting!

A few more details can be found in my trip reports:



Oh and if you were wondering, CH is looking quite a bit better than a few weeks ago. Probably good to go.

Gear Notes:
microspikes very helpful for the trail, as always. screws, tools, and slinging boulders all used for top rope anchors.

Approach Notes:
Road can be treacherous, take caution in the fall. It's usually worst a few days after a low snow event and freeze thaw on the road.
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17 hours ago, Kyle M said:

Approach Notes:
Road can be treacherous, take caution in the fall. It's usually worst a few days after a low snow event and freeze thaw on the road.

Amen to this. Most white-knuckled driving I've ever done, that late afternoon on the 25th. I think I convinced my friend to get winter tires and chains/socks/whatever for her AWD Subie. A friend ended up loaning his chains to another CRV that had pulled over halfway down iced-over road (the driver hopped in with my friend to the end of the ice, and then hiked the chains back up to their car to be able to get out safely). 

Nice compilation of resources :very_metal:

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