The ice is in! In Lee Vining Canyon in the Eastern Sierra we have seen the best early season ice in at least 45 years, according to Doug Nidever who has been climbing here that long. In fact, the ice is looking better than at almost anytime last season. The early precipitation and unseasonable low temperatures have really made for some great early season ice climbing.
Chouinard Falls ice is fat in the middle flows and thin but climbable on the far left flow. The right flow, which hasn't seen much ice in recent years, is starting to come in. The Tree Route in the middle of the cliff isn't really forming up yet which had been typical the last 5 years. Yesterday, we found the ice to be wet and sticky... perfect conditions for the first time out this season. Temps were right around freezing in the middle of the afternoon, or just a little above, with lows in the 20's at night.
Main Wall is the biggest surprise. The middle flow is fully climbable with fat ice the whole way except for a thin section on the first 25 feet. Reports from those that climbed it said the ice was great and they were able to get in good ice screws the whole way.
Spiral staircase on the left side is beginning to form up with at least some ice from top to bottom. However, it may be a bit longer before it becomes a reasonable lead. We haven't seen this gem in shape in years! Caveman on the right side is beginning to form up nice and should be climbable soon hopefully.
The lower angle ice climbs further up canyon from Chouinard Falls are fully in and fat, which is typical early season. And the "slabs" above Chouinard Falls are also coming in.
As for the approach to Lee Vining Canyon, it could be better. We need a lot more snow to cover the talus, but overall it wasn't too bad with a trail somewhat packed down. However, with just a little more snow on the way tonight the approach could become more tricky with some fresh powder covering up the holes between talus blocks.
Overall, there is lots of water flowing in Lee Vining and temps have remained cold enough at night to allow for good ice formation. With more moisture coming our way tonight and lows projected in the teens next week things should only get better! We are getting very excited about our upcoming ice climbing courses. This is the year to get out on the ice.
Elsewhere in the June Lake Loop, Horsetail Falls looks as though it is in shape. However, reports from yesterday were that the ice was hollow and a bit scary. Probably best to give that one another week or so if daytime temps don't get too high.