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[TR] Tumwater Canyon - Drury Falls 12/11/2009

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Trip: Tumwater Canyon - Drury Falls


Date: 12/11/2009


Trip Report:

I've dreamed of climbing Drury Falls since I first read about it in Nelson's Selected Climbs book after first moving to WA state about 9 years ago. It seemed the epitome of badassedness and I didn't think I would ever be up to the challenge.


Nelson: "Drury Falls is a route for competent ice climbers only"


Sez me: "Am I one of those?"


Martin/Krawarik: "Do not underestimate any part of the approach, climb, or descent"


Nelson: "Beware of avalanche danger; the drainage is a giant funnel".


Sez me: "Oh shit"


So for years I've looked up at Drury while driving down Hwy 2 on my way to more modest objectives. I've gained a bit of ice climbing experience over the last few years, and have gained some confidence.


So then I saw this picture:



Sez me: "Well, at least there won't be any avy danger"

(Big thanks to IceFrog for posting that picture!)


So the plan was born. I started calling and emailing and got AlpineDave and Jeff H. on board for a one-day attempt.


We left Seattle at 4am on Friday morning with a kayak, got to the pullout about 300m upstream of the Falls Creek drainage around 6:30am. The river crossing was very intimidating with class 1/2 rapids both upstream and downstream of our launching point as well as having a thick ice shelf on both sides of the river.


Dave went across first trailing a rope tied to the stern. He landed on a small island just downstream from the launching point.






It's not obvious in the pictures, but the water was moving at a pretty brisk clip.


We used the trailing rope to pull the kayak back and then Jeff went across. This was Jeff's first time ever kayaking, so he has some huge balls. What a time and place for your intro to kayaking! We all got out to the island, and then repeated the one-at-a-time ferry operation to get to the other side about 60m downstream of our launching point.


"OK, how are we gonna get back?"


"Uh... We'll figure that out later. LET'S GO ICE CLIMBING!"


In normal years, apparently the approach is filled in with snow and avy debris. Instead, we encountered lots and lots of WI1 and WI2 steps which we soloed. Some fun little stuff, but it was time consuming.


Approach steps:



We arrived at the base of the real ice around 10am.


Dave led the first pitch (WI3):




Jeff led the second pitch (WI3) and stopped just below the top:



I led the very end of that pitch and moved the belay up easy ground to the base of the next real pitch.


Dave led this one which, with a bit of simul-climbing by Jeff and me, took us to the base of the final headwall:



I tried to lead the first pitch of the headwall, but chickened out and gave it to Dave. I've been doing a lot of couch potatoing and internet browsing, while Dave seems to spend his spare time swinging 50' kettlebels around, climbing Patagonian spires, and eating raw yeti meat. Clearly Dave was the better man for the job.


Dave leading our last pitch (pitch one of three of the final headwall):



We decided to turn around at the end of this pitch at about 3pm.


We rapped off one V-thread at our highpoint and then were able to rap from trees to the climber's left of the route to the base of the real climbing. This is when it got dark.


We decided it wasn't going to get any darker, so we might as well take our time, be safe, and rap all the little WI1/2 steps in the approach gully. I can't count how many little raps we did, but I'd guess maybe 8? Fortunately Dave is a world-class speedy V-threader, so this didn't take as long as one might think. Huge props to Dave for setting up every single V-thread on the descent.


On weary legs and with waning energy we arrived back at the river.


"OK, now for the crux!"


I was extremely intimidated about this crossing. It was completely dark. We were tired. The stakes were high. Drowning? Hypothermia? Losing the boat and getting stranded on the other side of the river? Should we walk down to Jolanda Lake carrying all our gear and a kayak? Should we try to build a fire and shiver-bivy all night?


Dave cowboyed up and gave it a go.


We put an ice screw into the frozen river and used that as a directional to belay him across. Jeff and I watched Dave's headlamp bob across the river and hoped for the best. Some flailing and some scraping noises and then suddenly the headlamp rose up out of the river! Dave was across!


Jeff went next. On his first attempt he got to the far shore, but was expecting Dave to help haul him out. Dave was expecting Jeff to get out by himself, so that attempt failed. I hauled Jeff back across using the belay rope keeping him from disappearing towards Leavenworth in the dark, icy water. After refining our plan for the second attempt, Jeff made it across flawlessly.


I hauled the kayak back across, now with a rope tied to the bow, removed the ice screw anchor from my side, jumped in the boat and shot out into the river broadside to the current due to the way the rope was now pulling me. That initial entry provided an exhilarating few moments, but then I floated gently across being guided by Dave's belay on the far side.


With three whoops for joy/relief after my successful crossing, we were back safe and sound at the truck around 10:30pm.


What an adventure.


Big thanks to Dave for leading the hard pitch and doing all the V-threads. Big props to Jeff for his coolness under pressure.





Gear Notes:


Two half ropes for kayak work.

Two different half ropes for climbing.

Dave's super speedy V-thread skillz.

Lots of V-thread cord.



Approach Notes:

River crossing is sketchy.

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5.12Dreamer and his partner AB (don't know if he has a cc.com name) and another party of two attempted the climb yesterday. They apparently were able to walk across Jolanda Lake about 0.75mi downstream of where we crossed. Probably safer than our crossing, but added some hiking time.


5.12Dreamer and AB made it almost as high up as we did, but they set a saner turnaround time and with the help of our V-thread trail were able to get back across the river just as it got dark.



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Sounds like a great adventure! And the river crossing part sounds intimidating indeed...

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for those that want to give it a shot soon. I was apart of the other party. We crossed at the top end of Jolanda lake. There are two huge cairns that mark where we found a safe place to cross. And I will agree with the others, the approach is pretty slow going due to the lack of snow. Beautiful day and beautiful area. Can't wait to go back.

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the approach is pretty slow going due to the lack of snow.


You guys crack me up...3 hrs to the lower ramp isn't slow going. Gets even slower post holing past your belly button from the creek :) In and out on some of the shortest days of the year is a good effort!


Last pitch pretty sun rotted?

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Awesome work boys. I was up there mucking around with johnson on Saturday. What a route! And what a funky approach!


Sounds like a grand adventure guys! No flow on the Pencil yet?


Pencil was looking pretty dry. On a related note-- what's the story on that big, grade 5-looking bastard climber's left of Drury, a little higher up the drainage?

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Nice report yo. Glad you guys gave it a go!


When I climbed this in 2001? I was with Dan E and Scott B, and our day was so fantastic - 24 hours door to door - sunny and warm on the climb, climbing with our shirts off during the afternoon! - we topped out at sundown, froze instantly as the temps dropped about 20 degrees in what seemed just a few min - rapped and downclimbed the entire route with only 1 headlamp between the 3 of us. It's an endless decent any way you do it. We also crossed the river in the dark, in a raft for 3 very low in the water. But all that effort makes it so memorable. One of the finest times I've had climbing ice in WA.

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Can you tell us a little about the ice conditions. Was it dry or raining water?


p2 was a little wet, but mostly avoidable. Our last pitch had some wetness, but not too bad. It was cold enough that anything that got liquid water on it almost instantly became encapsulated in an ice shell. Had to be careful with locking biners.


We didn't get a look at The Drip.


Like Mr. Duke, I am also curious what the thing to the left of Drury is. Anyone?

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If it's ~100 to 150 feet to the left of the top-most pitch of Drury, it's the very mean chunk of ice you rap over/down on the standard climbers-left descent as described in Washington Ice. It makes Drury look wimpy wimpy wimpy! No idea about ascent info. If it's not that (eg at the same elevation as the top pitch of Drury) then I have no idea....perhaps Rolf might?

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The line that Duke and I are referring to is much further to climber's left.

It's in a different branch of the drainage.


As you do all the approach rambling, you are looking right at it and can't see Drury. Then you take a right turn around a corner and see Drury. You would keep going straight to get to this scary looking 5/6 thing. It is visible from the road.


Rat has probably soloed it naked at night with a 50' pack on.


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Your river crossing brings back fond (not) memories of the same in about '84, when slurpy-consistency river ice made it impossible for me to reach the highway side bank returning from our successful climb. I got dunked, and my partner spent the better part of that night stranded on the Fall Creek side, until a friend had the bright idea that we could tie a light line to a hammer, and throw the hammer across the river. My partner had retrieved the kayak,via a line we'd tied to the stern but in my dunking, I'd lost the paddle, and failed to keep hold on the bow line that would have allowed me to pull him across. Once we got the light line across, getting him was a piece of cake. Glad to hear your experience was better.


I wouldn't count on that Lake Yolanda crossing to last the week... It's pretty rare to have it freeze bank to bank... Rolf told me once that he prefers to wade the shallows below Swiftwater in hip-boots, but I've never tried that...

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Does anyone know what was happening on Rt 2 by leavenworth saturday at about 8 am. What it looked like to me was there was 2 stranded ice climbers and a tipped canoe halfway across the river and possible 2 more at the guard rail. Also there was several police and a few ambulances lined up. My only guess is someone ran into problems heading to Drury falls.


Anyone know?

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Second hand news is that some cats tipped thier raft trying to cross, took a bath and had to be rescued. All involved in good shape except for the wounded egos.

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