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Doug_Hutchinson

WA Ice Conditions 2020-21

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I am preemptively (and prematurely) starting this thread in an attempt to consolidate ice conditions beta here. As the seasonal stoke is building, I have been involved in many offline conversations about the best way to share condition info. My vote is to not reinvent the wheel, and do it here; solely or in addition to any of the numerous (and ephemeral) Facebook forums. Since I am aware that posting to an internet-based forum is way too time consuming for many,  next best would be to strongly encourage that you tag your local social media ice posts with #WAice.

Last we talked, Kyle M was redesigning the internet to create a better ice conditions mousetrap. Even if he dazzles and amazes again, this can be the repository for unpolished beta that he later shines and geocodes up. 

To not be a complete tease, here is all I got now: Mt Baker seracs and the lower flows on Heliotrope have received a decent amount of activity in late Oct/early Nov. I don't think Cosley Houston fully formed and was climbed before the snow switch flipped ON the second week of November and access become challenging, but the early season skiing has been the best in years.

My #WAice season began on Nov 13. Tom and I were hoping for some semi-alpine ice in the WA Pass zone but the deep, unconsolidated snow pack (21" fell the day we were there) meant cross country travel, even with skis, was nearly impossible and the pass closed for the season (very early) a few hours after we left. The consolation was getting the rust off on the practice roadcut ice along the highway below the Liberty Bell group:

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This morning (Happy Thanksgiving), I skied around Alpental Valley (can you say concrete) and as expected there was nothing/nada, nary a drip or drab to be seen. The snow is deep but the temps have been consistently too warm to get anything more than a few icicles forming. Based on the long term forecasts, it will be several weeks before any pick dulling may be possible in the Alpental zone. Mazama is reportedly all dry now too. It is still very early.

Happy ice hunting. 

Edited by Doug_Hutchinson
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Ice is slowing forming, but it is still early. On Thursday (Dec 3), Tom and Christian scratched their way up Chair's NE Butt's left variation and reported snicey conditions - not recommended yet. Chair from Snoqualmie, looks more covered than it is:

 PXL_20201204_165412554.thumb.jpg.fb298bbc1b24524c98737bdf81080894.jpg

The three of us went reconning on Snoqualmie's NW Face yesterday, and managed to scratch two pitches up this slabby flow in a corner halfway between the Thunder Basin exit chute (AKA west ridge notch) and the Snot. This climb starts right of a large cave and looks like it would top out through a house-size chockstone. Anyone know its history and route name? We found several rap anchors. The exit chute is off to the right center edge of this photo:

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New York Gully, under very dry conditions:

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Pineapple Express/Blue Moon - thin but probably the farthest along currently:

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Turf Testament, still pretty turfy:

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Edited by Doug_Hutchinson
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DSC05163.thumb.JPG.cdfce02f09bdec6bad865a7a2d83ffbe.JPG

North Face lundin looks like it has some potential. There's also some vertical ice most definitely formed on the cliffs below the Lundin/Red saddle on the north side.

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You can see the ice lower right in the above photo.

Commonwealth Falls is running water, obviously, with a little ice on the sides.

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On 12/5/2020 at 3:31 PM, kurthicks said:

I think that's Calvin Klimb 

Thanks for the link Kurt. Calvin is the next corner system, up and right (west), that was our plan B because it looks better now compared to the FA.

Christian Junkar made this video of what we climbed. Does a good job of showing the current state of the ice, or lack thereof

https://youtu.be/eb9cnOqKXg0

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Toured around Snoqualmie on Saturday. Multiple parties gunning for NEB Chair, one party reported a successful climb later. The ice step seemed to be in pretty good condition actually.DSC05368-scaled.thumb.jpg.71ae326df8a4162a2bcd4cbf502f7fa4.jpg

 

Source Lake Line, all the other stuff, not in.

Made it out to the summit of Wright to scope the surprisingly impressive north summit of north Roosevelt (north^2 roosevelt). This area is often loaded, with 6-7 single pitch lines right next to each other and multipitch potential. Only really one of the single pitches looked good currently, but it's still very early in the season. Maybe someday I'll have the motivation to stop sliding down couloirs and climb some of these guys, but I've been by them a few times now and it's a pretty cool spot.

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Edited by Kyle M
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My partner and I climbed the NE Buttress of Chair Peak on December 12th. The route was in really climbable condition, with some enjoyable mixed climbing in the S-couloir. The route was mostly snow climbing, but the ice step was in good shape at around WI2+ (steep but short). We pitched out the entire route which made upward progress on the slower side, and we reached the summit around 4pm, which was later than we intended. A strong northerly wind caused for blustery conditions with significant amounts of spindrift.

We accidentally descended down the wrong gully from the summit. The route description we followed said to descend the obvious gully for 200 feet until you turn left at a notch to find a rappel anchor. We descended the gully for about 400 feet looking for the left turn and notch before realizing we were in the wrong gully. We located some rap tat and were able to cut into the correct notch from below with a rappel, some up-climbing, and then some down climbing. Because we had to rap sideways, the rope was pulled over a rock band and got stuck. I had to solo up to free it. At this point, dusk had fallen and the rest of the descent was done in the dark. From the notch, we located the chains (nice looking bolts) on skier's right. I rapped 200 feet, passing 3 intermediate anchors. There was no rap tat or rappel station at the 200 foot mark, so we decided that my partner would rap to the 3rd rappel station, a single bolt with a rap ring at about 150 feet down, and set up the last rappel for us. I was unroped, standing on a ledge in the corner of the gully. My partner rapped, and while pulling the rope to set up the last rappel, the rope got stuck and he had to climb up the couloir for a significant distance to free the rope. We could have down climbed from there, but I was worried about the avy danger and wanted to rap as far out of the couloir as possible.

We did the last rappel and realized that the strong winds from throughout the day had created wind-loaded slopes in the bottom of the descent couloir. Despite the avalanche hazard being forecasted as "moderate" for that day, the hazard had certainly moved into the 'considerable' or even 'high' range. I pulled the rope and began to coil it while my partner started down climbing the rest of the gully, looking to remove himself from the loaded slope as quickly as possible. While I was coiling the rope, my partner triggered a windslab about 10 feet below me. I heard him yell out "avalanche!" and could make out debris pouring down the slope. The slab was 40 feet wide and 8" deep. He slid for about 30 feet but was able to self arrest by swinging his ice tool into the hard snow beneath the slide/debris. I watched the debris pour over him and shoot down the rest of the slope. I carefully stepped below the crown to avoid triggering any more loaded snow, and made my way down to my partner. He was thankfully uninjured, but both of us were shaken from the close call, and exhausted from the arduous day.

We continued down safely the rest of the way, and were extremely cautious of travelling on wind-loaded slopes until we reached Source Lake. While this route is fun and in good condition, it should not be taken lightly, as the objective dangers are serious. While it is satisfying to complete a route, it is better to do so in good style. Avy gear should be considered mandatory on the approach, descent, and on route. Consider another objective if heavy wind loading is present. 

This was definitely a learning experience as I am relatively new to winter alpine climbing. I'm sharing this information both to acknowledge the mistakes we made, and to give a heads up to other parties interested in this popular route. 

Our rack: Avy gear, two pickets, a large set of nuts, singles of cams from .3-1, a few KB's, a short LA, a small angle, and 6 screws from 10-17cm. We used all the gear except most of the nuts and two screws. 

Here are a few photos from the route:

 

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Thanks for the sharing your experience on Chair @Eli Spitulnik. The technical climbing is often the easiest part of a Cascade alpine adventure, especially in the winter; and finding the descent gully/rap stations off Chair is not trivial.  

I have seen many slides on that slope your partner triggered - the loading is often way different on that climbers left side of the upper Chair Peak basin compared to the slope you ascend on the right to start the route. As soon as one enters the Source Lake basin the avalanche terrain exposure quickly ramps from challenging to complex and increases to straight up complex in the Chair basin - basically most of the approach/descent is one big terrain trap, so the forecasted avy danger for given day doesn't mean that much in that zone. Great TR! Sharing your experience is very educational.

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On 12/20/2020 at 11:15 AM, cascadazepam said:

Anyone have any beta on the condition of pan dome falls currently? Was thinking of heading up there 12/25 or 12/26

Pan Dome is still pretty thin. Getting there though.

The resort now requires that you lead the route. They consider it trespassing if you walk around to the top to set-up a toprope...

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12 hours ago, Jason_Martin said:

They consider it trespassing if you walk around to the top to set-up a toprope...

What does the USFS say about the matter, considering that they're the landowner?

I'm not aware that the ski area's permit conditions have recently been revised, but feel free to correct me if I'm wrong!

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Good TR! Glad you made it out OK.

Seems like everyone has close calls when they're new to the Alpine game, but your situational awareness and humility saw you through. Well done and congrats on the classic.

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Checked out the Melakwa Valley today. There's lots of ice forming, and maybe some is climbable, but definitely not protectable. Very thin and lots of snow sitting on the ice so I presume it's aerated.

IMG_20201227_143745090.thumb.jpg.c7be130e0c0ba8c11abeff926c8c6536.jpg

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Hot Tubbs.

IMG_20201227_140321587.thumb.jpg.1a3349138b68525f81dc65d3e8aec53e.jpg

Melakwa Flows.

Also, Source Lake Line not in. Other random ice around Snow Lake - same status.

For more details, see our ice observations page! https://cascade-ice.com/observations/28

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Trekked up to the base of Abiel today, there is ice but in a very similar condition to what Kyle described i.e. climbable but with almost zero chance of pro. Ice is thin and unconsolidated with layers of snow underneath. 

 

North Face direct starting to form:

DSCF8977.thumb.jpg.6fd6a966d20c52ee99a59d97cef1f25e.jpg

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Blind date:

DSCF8993.thumb.jpg.bdbb336ac18cc9c8399d5174ea9c6602.jpg

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On 12/23/2020 at 9:26 PM, JasonG said:

What does the USFS say about the matter, considering that they're the landowner?

I'm not aware that the ski area's permit conditions have recently been revised, but feel free to correct me if I'm wrong!

I'm extremely familiar with the FS and its relationship with the ski area. 

Essentially, the area is leased. So the ski area has the right to close areas. If you walk around and go through a closed area, it's no different than if you were on skis and enter a closed area. The ski area can legally "trespass" you off the resort and not allow you back into the area, for skiing or climbing, for a period of time. Additionally, it's possible for them to collect a fine. I'm not sure how that works though.

Nothing has been revised. This is how it is. They're rules about the ice climb are no different than an uphill policy for backcountry skiers. Indeed, the ski area also has the right to close the falls to climbing completely if they want to.

So it's best for us to all comply with their rules about walking around to TR the route.

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Went for a ski by Chair Pk today; ne butt looks great, particularly the 1st pitch variation between the normal shallow gully on the left and the ‘s’ gully on the right.

The goulotte just around the corner on the right looked sporty w  more snow than ice.

N face has lots of snow cover.

The ski down to snow lake was wind buffed with islands of exposed hard icy crust.  Almost zero powder.

oh, skied up summer trail at 9am and encountered 8 ppl total.

Edited by Marko

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4 hours ago, Jason_Martin said:

indeed, the ski area also has the right to close the falls to climbing completely if they want to.

Thanks for the detail.  I thought that they couldn't close it off if you weren't buying a ticket, but I understand the uphill travel analogy.  I'm sure that they would make the argument that it is impacting safety or something like that. 

Still though, it is sort of fun to tweak Duncan now and again.  Just to feel alive.:moondance:

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@Doug_Hutchinson and I checked out the Roosevelt Flows yesterday. Most of the ice was rotten and aerated with snow clinging to it, just like most everything else we've seen in the snoqualmie area recently. We climbed the thin gully feature, which went at WI2+/3- for 60m. There's a lot of potential here, but none of the climbs are really in. Definitely worth the trek when it's in!

https://climberkyle.com/2020/12/28/roosevelt-ice-exploration/

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IMG_20201228_103404683.jpg

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On 1/8/2021 at 10:22 AM, AquaFresh said:

Anyone have knowledge of ice conditions around Strobach Mtn?

39 degrees and raining today on the summit according to Meteoblue.

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