This weekend turned out to be just super cool. I had a small get together at my house thurs night, didn’t make it to bed untill late. I got up Friday, went to work. Ray called me at work and told me he couldn’t make it for the weekend. I was a bit disappointed, it would have been nice to have the company for the long drive, but oh well. My friend Michelle was organizing a group to go to dinner and the see the movie, Magnolia. Since I wasn’t sharing a ride anymore and had told Brian “I’ll be there when you wake up Sat morning” I made the decision to join them for the movie. Good flick, kinda weird, kinda fun. It got out at about 11:30 pm. I stopped by Starbucks, picked up a triple latte, and started driving. With a stop for gas, it was about midnight by the time I got rolling.
UGH. I drove all night, it was almost 300 miles, and with a few short naps, I pulled in around 6:30-6:45. It was raining/sleeting/slushing/something for most of the last 100 miles or so…. Unfortunately it was raining when I got to June lake. (Just north of mammoth Mt. ) I think my entrance woke the cabin, soon Brian (a fairly regular climbing partner of mine for aobut a year now), his wife Cindy, and his freind Helen, were all up. We spent some time picking out gear, adjusting crampons, fitting clothes. Brian loaned me a pair of Gore-Tex, North Face Bibs to wear. We ate breakfast, drank coffee, and wished it wasn’t raining. then wished more. Around 9 we decided we couldn’t wait any longer, and headed down the road. It was only a few miles, and you could see the sheets of Ice just off the road. They looked really neat, a big band of frozen waterfalls, about a 100-130 feet tall. We piled out into the rain, and made the short walk to the base of the climbs. Apparently this is one of the few areas where the ice has formed this year, and it showed, their were people everywhere. But we were there, and for the first time, I was starting to get really excited about climbing ice.
Brian was the only experienced ice climber. Cindy doesn’t climb. I’ve got lots of rock climbing experience, but this was my first time wearing crampons. Helen had done some mountaineering/glacier type stuff, and climbs rock, but hadn’t done any vertical/steep ice climbing. Brian led up the ice, placing only a few ice screws for protection. It was neat to watch, but looked really easy. I was getting wet, and happy for the gear I was wearing. He setup a toprope, and soon it was my turn. He handed me the tools, explained the basics of the swing and planting my feet, and I was on my way. My technique was crude, I spent TONS of energy, got a amazing pump in my arms, was sweating like a pig, and almost took an ice tool in the face when one popped out of it’s placement. But I made it, and loved it.
Helen went next. While my technique had been like using a sledgehammer to crack an egg (effective, but messy), Helen delicately worked her way up the ice, each placement was deliberate and efficient. I’ve told many new rock climbers that it’s not about strength, and it was looking like I needed to take my own advice. It had been raining all morning, and despite our gear, we were getting quite wet. By the time Helen had finished her climb, we all elected to head back to the cabin for a warm, dry lunch.
Lunch dragged on, getting longer and longer as we stared out the window at the heavy rain, but hell, we were here to climb, and climb we would. So we put on our wet stuff, and headed back out.
So we put on our wet stuff, and headed back out.
The next climb was bit different. It was like a serious of steps, a steep, section, followed by a flat section, then another steep section, and so on, with a big bulge at the top. And it was flowing with water, it was only partially frozen. Again, Brian led up the climb, set a top rope. this time Helen went second and I was last. I was already wet form rain when I started the climb…and just got wetter. the lcimbing was pretty easy most of the way, but wet. I’ve had margaritas that were more solid than this climb. When your arm was up, water flowed down it to your body. If I put my arm down, my gloves filled with water. Each tool placement created a new little stream, as water escaped from behind the ice. Weird. My clothes were doing an exceptional job of keeping me dry, except I seemd to be getting water in my pants and down my legs. And it was filling my Waterproof boots from the inside. I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. my jacket was working, and went well over the top of the bibs. Apparently, the engineers at North face put a zipper on that is supposed to be less prone to being affected by gravity, and closed has the pull-slider at the BOTTEM. I had not thoguht of this when i checked to see if I was done up, and feeling the fly at the top, must have thought I was closed. So my fly was open, and letting in lots of icy cold water. OUCH. the final section of ice gave me a bit of trouble, but soon enough I was over the top and done. With our extended lunch and the short days, it was over too soon, but I loved it despite being cold and wet.
Back to the cabin for tacos and hot drinks. Watched Waynes World and fell aslleep. I was pretty tired after no sleep friday night. Before we fell asleep though, the rain tunred to snow. Woke up Sunday morning to 3 inches or so of fresh powder everywhere. cleaned the cabin, ate breakfast, loaded the cars, and headed out. the fresh snow obscured some of the ice, but it looked awesome. I was still snowing, but snow is ALOT drier than rain, and the ice was frozen solid, so that was nice. Brian led up this intimidating route, that had an ice curtian, about 6-12 inches thick, with empty air behind. Much steeper than anything we’d done Sat. I went up second. I was trying to find ledges and holes for my feet, like rockclimbing, but by the second half of the route got better about using my crampons and just kicking them into the ice. FUN FUN. The tools made a satifying “thunk” as they sank into the ice, and despite struggling, I was loving it. VERY cool stuff.
Played around on another route, then the snow turned back to rain, and with all of us facing long drives, we called it a day around 2:30. Met up again in Bishop for some mexican food, and I stopped by Wilsons Eastside, a climbing shop. Pricing ice tools. I want to go again. Badly.