Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Rainbow Falls - 01.05.09

First post of 2009!

Steve and I gambled on the impending weather doom* to see if we could hit some ice in Leavenworth. Our gamble paid off, as it never went above freezing in Leavenworth, and we even had a "mostly sunny" day.

We weren't sure what was in and what we could climb. So we headed up the Icicle to see what was there. First stop was Rainbow Falls, but we saw another party gearing up, so we continued on the road. We drove all the way to the end of plowing around Bridge Creek. There were assorted ice climbs that were visible from the road. Some not. Most of what we could see would involve wallowing long distances through knee/waist deep snow to get to. Other interesting looking formations involved inconvenient crossings of Icicle Creek. So we headed back to Rainbow Falls.

We parked at the Snow Lakes trail head and walked across the street. The approach was about 2 minutes of deep snow hiking to the base. There was a small section near the right, where the falls were still running. Steeper sections of the falls looks great. Lower angle portions had a fair amount of snow on them. (Maybe 6-8")

The other party was climbing the steeper far right side of the falls. We opted for the stepped middle of the falls. Steve had first lead. He picked his way up a ramp through the middle and topped out. He built an anchor and brought me up. The ice was variable. Some sections offered great ice for climbing, while other sections had little or no ice. Some sections required quite a bit of snow cleaning even as the second. After I topped out, we made the decision to walk off. Our 60m rope would have been too short to rap the route. The walk off was long and through deep snow. Steve and I sometimes went in up to our thighs.

When we returned to the base we had hoped to climb the right side. However, a third party arrived, and were climbing it. So I took the lead on a slightly different variation up the middle. What Steve and I thought would be better ice, turned out to be more of the same. Only steep vertical sections proved to be great for climbing. Sometimes the ice above a bulge was scary and made for unsavory moments. I was a bit tired and gripped when I reached the last step before the top out. I down climbed back to a good screw with a decent ledge, placed a second screw and brought Steve up to finish.

After the walk off, it was near dark and time to go home. We had some frozen gear that we needed to sort at the car and dry out at home.

Overall, this was a great experience for Steve and I. It was our first ice climbing this season. It may have been Steve's first time on waterfall ice as well. It was interesting, because of the highly variable conditions that we experienced. If the ice was better throughout, we would have enjoyed climbing it more, but wouldn't have gotten the experience we did.

My pics are here.
(I've included some of Steve's pics.)

*A warm spell with above freezing temps up to 3700', and rain. Making avalanche danger rising to extreme for 4000' and above. (High avy danger below.)

No comments: