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[TR] Kalifornikan ice - Lee Vining Canyon - variations on a theme 12/25/2010


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Trip: Kalifornikan ice - Lee Vining Canyon - variations on a theme


Date: 12/25/2010


Trip Report:

Last week Pete (MtnHigh) and I made pilgrimage to a sacred place in Sierra Nevada – the Lee Vining canyon. A vibrant metropolis with nightlife and such for desperate californikans seeking water ice, which is also conveniently accessible from PDX by only a 12 hr drive.


So, we drive south, well… MtnHigh does, thanks to the speeding-friendly WA state for my DL still being suspended. To recuperate en route, we stop in Carson City to pay a visit to one of those fine establishments Nevada is famous for. Too bad none of those ice climbs are in :). Not a good sign.




We continue further to our final destination some 3 hrs away.


Mono Lake Basin:



Eastern Sierra:



Lee Vining Canyon:








We wake up to bluebird skies, 70 mph wind gusts, occasional snow dumps at night and high 10s which was pretty much the scene we encountered over the three days in the canyon. Over the month of December, Sierras got 12 feet of fresh snow and consistent low temps. Fortunately for us, the access road to the TH for the canyon was plowed. Unfortunately for us, the postholing in the canyon sucked as expected and the first day we were the only idiots heading up there.


To summarise, the approach was a combination of this:



Rigging the crossing over two creeks:



Steep postholing to the base of climbs:



Here is MtnHigh getting his ass up the blonde sierras granite he is so passionate about:





While running out of breath in spindrifts at 10K feet, everything we do is as in a slow motion movie.


Day 1. We start at the Chouinard falls wall to get warmed up on some easy stuff.


Right flows (currently at WI3-) - the easiest we could find:





The bottom part was solid and took screws well while the top was hollow that I run out and only tag a tree up top. I wish I had a rock pro on me. MtnHigh follows and is not happy with the pitch.

We descend through the avy-prone terrain down and move to the middle part of the Chouinard falls.


Next I lead the Classic Curve (WI3), a 2 pitch link-up with a small roof. Fun moves. One of the best lines on the Chouinard falls in the current conditions. The roof can be buried in fatter ice according to the locals.






MtnHigh follows, we descend and repeat.

MtnHigh’s lead on the Classic Curve:





Day 2. With colder temps and more miserable spindrifts, we stick to the Chouinard falls again and get on the left side climbs:



I start a lead on the Piolet (WI3+). It feels harder than a day before for my oxygen-deprived brain to make smart routefinding choices and to stay in balance.




Almost at the top I end up in some weird crack system with hollow ice where one of my tools blows and I fall on the other. After shaking and crying, I downclimb to where MtnHigh was able to lower my sorry ass. He re-leads the pitch on the pre-placed gear and takes the left variation to the top. A much wiser choice.



MtnHigh higher up on the Piolet:




MtnHigh next jumps on the right variation of the Far Left 140’ WI4-. A hard lead on the hollow ice, almost unprotectable in the current conditions. Only 3 screws were placed.


MtnHigh leads the Far Left:





Day 3. Winds subsided so we decide to hit the Main Falls wall with 2-3 pitch lines ranging from WI4- to WI4+ and with a much better ice at that:



Having recovered from the epical Chouinard falls, I lead a first pitch on the phattest ice I could find on the entire Main wall – Center Left Flow.


MtnHigh comes up:



and leads the Spiral Staircase. If you are into thrills of mixed climbing, then do the interesting 50’ granite ramp start like we did. Sometimes filled in with thin ice, it took the stubbies:



MtnHigh higher up on the Spiral Staircase:




On our way back we have a look at the seriously badassed multi-pitch Bard-Harrington wall but it normally comes in fat conditions only around February (Photoshop CS is however in - the thin streak at the top pitch, far right side):



More mixed lines on the north side of the LVC:



Next day it rains in the canyon, ice is shedding and another storm system is supposed to come in the evening so we bail and head back home.


But the winter bouldering opportunities will always stay there:





Gear Notes:

A Rack


Approach Notes:


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After shaking and crying, I downclimb to where MtnHigh was able to lower my sorry ass. He re-leads the pitch on the pre-placed gear and takes the left variation to the top. A much wiser choice.


What where you guys sport climbing? :lmao:



Whats up Pete! It's been a couple years, I'm back climbing a lot right now we need to tie in together soon. Thinking an ice trip might be in order?



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Nice work on Hamilton. I've been wondering when you would get back on those flows. The last time we roped up together was on Blackjack back in '99. That was a great season in the Gorge.


What where you guys sport climbing? :lmao:


Sport climbing? What you talkin about? You know that ice and sporto don't go together.


I'll PM you my number. Give me a call.




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