Friday, December 25, 2009

Leavenworth Ice - 12.24.09

Jennifer was supposed to work Christmas and Christmas Eve, so I was trying to find something to do. I successfully wrangled Ryan and Dylan to be followers and climb an ice line up Icicle Canyon. I was hoping that the recent warm weather didn't destroy it, and we would be rewarded with an early Christmas present to ourselves.

We took a casual start and arrived in Leavenworth around 10am. The beauty of this route is the "ten minute" approach. So we readied ourselves at the car and hiked into the woods. The route was easy to find having done the trail to Condor Buttress earlier this year.

The route in Spring

Within ten minutes of hiking we were at the first step of the route. Since it was a bit steep, we opted to hike past it and start at the second step. So we roped up and started with the second step. The second step had an easier line on the right, and a steeper line on the left. Since it was the first lead of the day, and I wasn't sure how strong the ice was, we kept to the right side. After the step there was quite a bit of flat stream so I set a belay and brought Dylan up who then brought Ryan up. We unroped and hiked up the stream bed a distance before reaching the next step. While this step was a solid WI2, it was short and we decided to solo it as we knew there was more hiking above it.

While the climbing so far was generally easy, the ice conditions were quite variable. As I suspected, the wet warm trend from earlier in the week left the ice poorly bonded to the rock in some areas. A section of the first step had a hollow 3' square area surrounded by well bonded ice. This next step that also had areas of poor ice as well, but fortunately I used the pick holes from a soloist (who had passed us) so as not to damage the ice further when I went up.

Some more hiking through a now brushy and less open creek bed got us to the next step. This is where the real climbing starts. From the base of this next step, I thought I could make it to the base of the final step in one rope length. But once at the top of this step, there was a little more distance before another penultimate step. So I led to the base of that step and brought the guys up. I then led out on the penultimate step which was really fun. There was a bit of snow on the ice and there were some hollow sections, but I was able to sink screws in it fairly well including a 19 cm screw. Once at the top of that step I was in the basin below the final step and proceeded to the ice to build an anchor. Unfortunately, the ice on the final step was thin and I couldn't sink screws well. (I was out of shorties.) I had to use 21cm screws not fully sunk as the anchor.

I brought Ryan up and he belayed Dylan up. We discussed the final pitch when we were met with another soloist. We chatted with him a bit. (Turns out the other soloist was his buddy.) And then we let him go ahead of us. The left side of the final step starts with about 12' of 85° ice. It has been climbed as it had pick marks. The right side had also been climbed usually on the far right. I decided to take something right up the middle where I knew there would be pro (wrong) and it was a bit steeper than the right side.

I started up heading toward an icy rib that looked like it offered good protection. Unfortunately, it would not take a screw all the way and I had to tie it off. The stance also was not great for placing the screw and I really worked my calves while placing it. Just past the screw the ice was tympanic and did not feel comfortable, but this passed. A little further up and I found a rest stance, so I placed another screw in shallow ice. My calves were really getting worked and I decided instead of heading a bit to my left for a short step, that it was time to head straight for the top. I worked quickly and methodically through the final bit of the pitch and was on flat ground heading for a large Ponderosa. Once there, I made it my anchor and brought Dylan up. He belayed Ryan up while I sought out the descent or a possible continuation.

Most parties stop where we did and descend. This is the option we choose after the bits of ice above our location didn't seem to offer any great climbing (that we could do.) So we headed down, following the trail of footprints in the snow. Most of the descent was fine to do in bare boots, but there were a few icy sections that would have been nice to do in crampons. Not sure it would have benefited to leave them on the whole descent, but Ryan did and he didn't complain.

This was fun route, but the climbing really starts farther up and the first few steps are warm ups. Due to the short approach and the length of the non technical portions, it is an easy day trip. (Car to car for us was around six hours.) The ice wasn't in the best condition, and was hacked out in a few places as well. (Very different from how we found The Goatee.) The climbing on the upper three pitches was great, and I'd go back to do this again.

My pics are here.
(Dylan took pics, but I haven't seen them.)

No comments: