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StefanS

[TR] TUMWATER CANYON - STEEP CREEK 11/18/2014

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Trip: TUMWATER CANYON - STEEP CREEK

 

Date: 11/18/2014

 

Trip Report:

UPPER_STEEP_PITCH1.jpgVIEW_MIDISH_HEIGHT.jpgUPPER_STEEP_CREEK1.jpgTRASH_FIRE1.jpgICICLE_RIDGE_DEVIDE1.jpgGOOBER_MID_HIEGHT1.jpgGOOBER_EATIN_MUSH1.jpgTRASH_FIRE.jpgSTEEP_CREEK_ROUTE.gifICICLE_RIDGE_DEVIDE.jpg

 

Steep Creek flows off of Icicle Ridge down a NE aspect of Tumwater Canyon into the Wenatchee River. The creek flow varies dramatically throughout the year; in the summer it’s a trickle, in the winter it is buried under snow, in the spring its prominent as the snow melts and becomes a torrent charging down the hill, sometimes in the fall its flow recharges.

When you are in Leavenworth and heading into Tumwater Canyon you can see Steep Creek on the hill side above, especially in the spring. It’s an unbelievable line, any ice climber will immediately be thinking “Man if that was frozen it would be sweet”. Once in a while the creek flow picks up in the fall and temperatures fall enough to ice it up. Usually it only lasts a couple days and warm weather or snow work the creek over.

We had some storms deposit snow on top of Icicle Ridge in late Oct and early Nov. Then the temps warmed back up and it rained a lot, Steep Creek was flowing. The creek was booming and then the temps dropped, a lot, and they stayed low for a few days. After a few cold days I took my spotting scope for a little excursion. There was ice on the rocks at the creek outfall into the Wen River. The upper reaches of the creek were frozen, I couldn’t see any open water. Steep Creek was in good shape for ice climbing. I went home and told my wife, Heidi about the conditions, she was psyched.

The next day I had a biz meeting, one of my climbing buddies is involved in the project. He came rolling into the meeting, looked at me and said “have you seen Steep Creek lately”. Later we made plans to climb Steep Creek on Thursday as we all could get out of work then. The weather looked to be holding its cold pattern for a few more days. We started making arrangements and packing for a Thursday climb.

A couple days before I did a recon on the approach. The Wenatchee River level was down, so it was easy to walk its banks to the creek outfall. The cold temps had frozen the creek almost down to the river, so it was easy to get started on the ice. The earlier rains and the couple weeks of sun had reduced the snow depth on Icicle Ridge to less than an inch. So we made a plan: approach along the river, follow the ice up Steep Creek to the top. Hike over to the Icicle Ridge trail and descend that, all in a day. Check the weather late Wed night, holding cold but a bit warmer thru Thursday and Friday. Friday evening a change is forecast to start bringing snow.

Early Thursday morning we do a car shuttle in the dark, park at the pipeline bridge and we are off. Our buddy couldn’t make it, so it’s Heidi and I, getting after Steep Creek. We follow the river bank in the early dawn light. Once we get to the creek we notice there is more open water flowing, and we can’t walk on the ice to get started. So we end up bushwhacking for a while. We pass under the Highlander Wall trying to link together the least resistant path thru the heavy brush. Finally the creek looks to be frozen, so we make our way over to it. There is ice but we have to be careful where to step. As we go up the ice thickens and is more solid but we are always watching for thinner spots. In the lower creek we are mostly walking and just using an ice tool occasionally on a bulge. Late in the morning we stop and brew up some soup, eat and rehydrate.

After our break the ice started getting steeper, we both started using a second tool more often. Occasionally we would get to a bulge, and then we would rope up and belay for a short pitch. The ice kept going up and up and up. When you see Steep Creek from town it looks like a straight shot down, but it actually has some bends in it. So when you are in the creek bed you can only see a section at a time. We would climb up to a bend and look up the next section, hey there is another 400’ of ice here, over and over and over again. By early afternoon we were above the divide overlook on the Icicle Ridge trail. A little later we were above Tumwater ridge and still there was more ice going up. Around 4 pm we were setting up to belay a bulge and Heidi took the time to call her mom for a status report. She left a message that we would be very late and would call back later to check in.

So we climbed that pitch and up to a bend, more ice leading up to a steep step. We roll up to the step, it has water splashing of the top and spraying over the whole curtain below. The light is starting to fade as I lead the cold shower with a view pitch, I finish it by headlamp. While belaying Heidi up I scope the ice above, there is another steep step above. Heidi gets up to me in the dark, we decide to bivy and scout out a little spot. There is wood debris scattered around so we get a little fire going and settle for the night. Heidi starts looking for her phone, it’s gone, we can’t call her mom and let her know whats up. We knew then mom would be worried about us.

We dried out our wet stuff by the fire and moved rocks to make things a bit more comfortable. We ate and drank a bunch of water. We both have brought extra layers just in case and it wasn’t really cold either at this point. From our bivy we could see most of Leavenworth, we could watch cars drive up into the canyon about a mile before they disappeared. We took turns snoozing and feeding the fire. Later in the evening as lights in town have been going out, we can see our house, the front porch light is on. We keep the fire going for awhile but at some point we both fell asleep.

We get up as the night starts to fade. The day before had been clear and so had most of the night. At some point clouds had moved in and a lower cloud layer had formed in the valley below. We get some grub going and start discussing our plan. Descending from there would have been painful, it would be possible just very painful. As its getting a little lighter we scope the steep ice pitch above. The creek goes thru a constriction here so the ice was narrow. There was a thin shell of ice over most of the width so you could see water splashing against the back of the ice, I really didn’t want to lead that pitch. We noticed a ramp and blocky break in the adjacent cliff, the break lead to the skyline. We decided to try this and see if we could bypass the ice shell pitch. We did a couple rock pitches that lead to a scree slope that got us past the shell pitch. We got back on the ice right where the creek makes a 90* turn, this is the highest spot you can see Steep Creek from town.

From the turn there is about 800’ more of ice to what looks like the crest. As we are getting back on the ice and we hear a helicopter fly into the canyon. Uh oh we are in trouble. The cloud cover keeps the helicopter from gaining any altitude, so we never see it even though sometimes sounds like its right next to us. We roll up the last ice pitches quickly. Where Steep Creek flows of the plateau there is a jumble of down logs frozen into the creek ice, it looked ugly to climb. So we finish with a couple frozen earth pitches, some downed trees add interest to the climbing.

Once on the plateau it is starting to snow, so we rig for hiking and keep moving. Our friend that couldn’t make it, had climbed the adjacent ridge line once and hiked down, he had given me some beta on getting to the trail. We started following a rib between a rocky bowl to the right and a massive steep drainage to the left. We kept following the rib winding around brush patches and lots of down trees. There was only about an inch of snow so hiking was straight forward and always up. After awhile we saw footprints, we would see them, loose them, and find them again. Finally there wasn’t any more uphill, and few minutes later we found the Icicle Ridge trail. I think it took about an hour from the crest to the trail.

We took a minute to reconsolidate our loads and grab a snack and then start rambling down the trail. After about 90 minutes of hiking there is a black dog on the trail. I holler at it and somebody also hollers at it. Hey it’s our friends Scott and Justin, what are you guys doing here? Scott asks if we are alright and what the fuck happened all at once, they hiked up to look for us. We’re all fine except for Heidi’s cell phone. Scott lets us use his phone, Heidi calls her mom to let her know we are OK. Thanks Scott and Justin we owe ya one or two.

We keep hammering down the trail, after another hour our friend James W is on the trail, also looking for us. Thanks James we owe you one or two. We pound down for a while and pass the divide overlook. A few minutes later we meet with a Chelan Co Mountain Rescue crew. We know 3 of the 4, they make sure we are OK, and then more hammering down. Thanks CCMR, Mike C, Will D, Mark S, Dr Tran.

Finally we get to the trail head. There is a CC Sheriff Deputy & crew from the Search and Rescue unit. We debrief with them, what happened, lots of climbing, a real lot it. and then we dropped our phone so no communication. He told me the weather front had arrived 12 hours early, so S & Rs efforts would have limited by the storm. Thanks for looking out for us Chelan County Sheriff, Search and Rescue Unit.

 

So we drive home, it took a second effort for me to step out of the car. It took less than 10 minutes to be molded into the car seat shape. Heidi’s mom is not happy with our performance. Our kids are spooked and we freaked out almost all of our friends. Hopefully they will forgive for what we done, at some point in the future. Thanks for putting up with our behavior.

Thankfully we had a week end to get back into our regular routine. Cause I was one sore individual. These pictures were from Heidi’s SLR, most of our route pics were on her phone.

So Steep Creek is about 3000’ vert from the Wenatchee River to the crest at Icicle Ridge. I think we bushwhacked about 500’ of the lower vert, which was time consuming. If you like ice climbing it’s a great climb, when its in shape.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gear Notes:

Shoulder slings, ice screws, green Metolius cam, med stoppers

Left a lost arrow fixed at the cold shower pitch

 

Approach Notes:

Across pipeline bridge and downriver to Steep Creek

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A little easier on the eyes

 

 

 

Steep Creek flows off of Icicle Ridge down a NE aspect of Tumwater Canyon into the Wenatchee River. The creek flow varies dramatically throughout the year; in the summer it’s a trickle, in the winter it is buried under snow, in the spring its prominent as the snow melts and becomes a torrent charging down the hill, sometimes in the fall its flow recharges.

 

When you are in Leavenworth and heading into Tumwater Canyon you can see Steep Creek on the hill side above, especially in the spring. It’s an unbelievable line, any ice climber will immediately be thinking “Man if that was frozen it would be sweet”. Once in a while the creek flow picks up in the fall and temperatures fall enough to ice it up. Usually it only lasts a couple days and warm weather or snow work the creek over.

 

We had some storms deposit snow on top of Icicle Ridge in late Oct and early Nov. Then the temps warmed back up and it rained a lot, Steep Creek was flowing. The creek was booming and then the temps dropped, a lot, and they stayed low for a few days. After a few cold days I took my spotting scope for a little excursion. There was ice on the rocks at the creek outfall into the Wen River. The upper reaches of the creek were frozen, I couldn’t see any open water. Steep Creek was in good shape for ice climbing. I went home and told my wife, Heidi about the conditions, she was psyched.

 

The next day I had a biz meeting, one of my climbing buddies is involved in the project. He came rolling into the meeting, looked at me and said “have you seen Steep Creek lately”. Later we made plans to climb Steep Creek on Thursday as we all could get out of work then. The weather looked to be holding its cold pattern for a few more days. We started making arrangements and packing for a Thursday climb.

 

A couple days before I did a recon on the approach. The Wenatchee River level was down, so it was easy to walk its banks to the creek outfall. The cold temps had frozen the creek almost down to the river, so it was easy to get started on the ice. The earlier rains and the couple weeks of sun had reduced the snow depth on Icicle Ridge to less than an inch. So we made a plan: approach along the river, follow the ice up Steep Creek to the top. Hike over to the Icicle Ridge trail and descend that, all in a day. Check the weather late Wed night, holding cold but a bit warmer thru Thursday and Friday. Friday evening a change is forecast to start bringing snow.

Early Thursday morning we do a car shuttle in the dark, park at the pipeline bridge and we are off. Our buddy couldn’t make it, so it’s Heidi and I, getting after Steep Creek. We follow the river bank in the early dawn light. Once we get to the creek we notice there is more open water flowing, and we can’t walk on the ice to get started. So we end up bushwhacking for a while. We pass under the Highlander Wall trying to link together the least resistant path thru the heavy brush. Finally the creek looks to be frozen, so we make our way over to it. There is ice but we have to be careful where to step. As we go up the ice thickens and is more solid but we are always watching for thinner spots. In the lower creek we are mostly walking and just using an ice tool occasionally on a bulge. Late in the morning we stop and brew up some soup, eat and rehydrate.

 

After our break the ice started getting steeper, we both started using a second tool more often. Occasionally we would get to a bulge, and then we would rope up and belay for a short pitch. The ice kept going up and up and up. When you see Steep Creek from town it looks like a straight shot down, but it actually has some bends in it. So when you are in the creek bed you can only see a section at a time. We would climb up to a bend and look up the next section, hey there is another 400’ of ice here, over and over and over again. By early afternoon we were above the divide overlook on the Icicle Ridge trail. A little later we were above Tumwater ridge and still there was more ice going up. Around 4 pm we were setting up to belay a bulge and Heidi took the time to call her mom for a status report. She left a message that we would be very late and would call back later to check in.

So we climbed that pitch and up to a bend, more ice leading up to a steep step. We roll up to the step, it has water splashing of the top and spraying over the whole curtain below. The light is starting to fade as I lead the cold shower with a view pitch, I finish it by headlamp. While belaying Heidi up I scope the ice above, there is another steep step above. Heidi gets up to me in the dark, we decide to bivy and scout out a little spot. There is wood debris scattered around so we get a little fire going and settle for the night. Heidi starts looking for her phone, it’s gone, we can’t call her mom and let her know whats up. We knew then mom would be worried about us.

 

We dried out our wet stuff by the fire and moved rocks to make things a bit more comfortable. We ate and drank a bunch of water. We both have brought extra layers just in case and it wasn’t really cold either at this point. From our bivy we could see most of Leavenworth, we could watch cars drive up into the canyon about a mile before they disappeared. We took turns snoozing and feeding the fire. Later in the evening as lights in town have been going out, we can see our house, the front porch light is on. We keep the fire going for awhile but at some point we both fell asleep.

 

We get up as the night starts to fade. The day before had been clear and so had most of the night. At some point clouds had moved in and a lower cloud layer had formed in the valley below. We get some grub going and start discussing our plan. Descending from there would have been painful, it would be possible just very painful. As its getting a little lighter we scope the steep ice pitch above. The creek goes thru a constriction here so the ice was narrow. There was a thin shell of ice over most of the width so you could see water splashing against the back of the ice, I really didn’t want to lead that pitch. We noticed a ramp and blocky break in the adjacent cliff, the break lead to the skyline. We decided to try this and see if we could bypass the ice shell pitch. We did a couple rock pitches that lead to a scree slope that got us past the shell pitch. We got back on the ice right where the creek makes a 90* turn, this is the highest spot you can see Steep Creek from town.

From the turn there is about 800’ more of ice to what looks like the crest. As we are getting back on the ice and we hear a helicopter fly into the canyon. Uh oh we are in trouble. The cloud cover keeps the helicopter from gaining any altitude, so we never see it even though sometimes sounds like its right next to us. We roll up the last ice pitches quickly. Where Steep Creek flows of the plateau there is a jumble of down logs frozen into the creek ice, it looked ugly to climb. So we finish with a couple frozen earth pitches, some downed trees add interest to the climbing.

Once on the plateau it is starting to snow, so we rig for hiking and keep moving. Our friend that couldn’t make it, had climbed the adjacent ridge line once and hiked down, he had given me some beta on getting to the trail. We started following a rib between a rocky bowl to the right and a massive steep drainage to the left. We kept following the rib winding around brush patches and lots of down trees. There was only about an inch of snow so hiking was straight forward and always up. After awhile we saw footprints, we would see them, loose them, and find them again. Finally there wasn’t any more uphill, and few minutes later we found the Icicle Ridge trail. I think it took about an hour from the crest to the trail.

 

We took a minute to reconsolidate our loads and grab a snack and then start rambling down the trail. After about 90 minutes of hiking there is a black dog on the trail. I holler at it and somebody also hollers at it. Hey it’s our friends Scott and Justin, what are you guys doing here? Scott asks if we are alright and what the fuck happened all at once, they hiked up to look for us. We’re all fine except for Heidi’s cell phone. Scott lets us use his phone, Heidi calls her mom to let her know we are OK. Thanks Scott and Justin we owe ya one or two.

 

We keep hammering down the trail, after another hour our friend James W is on the trail, also looking for us. Thanks James we owe you one or two. We pound down for a while and pass the divide overlook. A few minutes later we meet with a Chelan Co Mountain Rescue crew. We know 3 of the 4, they make sure we are OK, and then more hammering down. Thanks CCMR, Mike C, Will D, Mark S, Dr Tran.

Finally we get to the trail head. There is a CC Sheriff Deputy & crew from the Search and Rescue unit. We debrief with them, what happened, lots of climbing, a real lot it. and then we dropped our phone so no communication. He told me the weather front had arrived 12 hours early, so S & Rs efforts would have limited by the storm. Thanks for looking out for us Chelan County Sheriff, Search and Rescue Unit.

 

So we drive home, it took a second effort for me to step out of the car. It took less than 10 minutes to be molded into the car seat shape. Heidi’s mom is not happy with our performance. Our kids are spooked and we freaked out almost all of our friends. Hopefully they will forgive for what we done, at some point in the future. Thanks for putting up with our behavior.

 

Thankfully we had a week end to get back into our regular routine. Cause I was one sore individual. These pictures were from Heidi’s SLR, most of our route pics were on her phone.

 

So Steep Creek is about 3000’ vert from the Wenatchee River to the crest at Icicle Ridge. I think we bushwhacked about 500’ of the lower vert, which was time consuming. If you like ice climbing it’s a great climb, when its in shape.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gear Notes:

Shoulder slings, ice screws, green Metolius cam, med stoppers

Left a lost arrow fixed at the cold shower pitch

 

Approach Notes:

Across pipeline bridge and downriver to Steep Creek

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Thanks JBP, I have watched that sucker for years. This was by far the longest it has stayed in that great shape. Most years are a non event.

 

Thats right Ivan all that plus a lot of really fun climbing.

 

Num1mc thanks for the edit, it was a struggle for me to get this into the trip report form. I wanted to caption the pics but couldnt figure out how to or how to put them thru out the text.

 

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Sounds like a fun adventure all within view of your house!

 

A reminder to us all to leave a detailed itinerary to a trusted source so as not to send in the calvary when you are merely benighted.

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