Here's the report for December 13th... It's a mixed bag now. The warm storms that rolled in last week did a number on the ice in Lee Vining and June Lake with warm temps and rain. But it dumped lots more snow above about 9000 ft in the Eastern Sierra and above 8,000 ft in the Tahoe area. The biggest Sierra storm in years is predicted to hit later this week so we are expecting big changes in both ice climbing and skiing!
Welcome to our new weekly climbing and backcountry skiing report for the state of California. Our goal is to provide a weekly single source of climbing and skiing conditions around the state. We hope you stay tuned!
Backcountry Skiing & Boarding
Backcountry skiing in the Eastern Sierra is good in some areas above about 9500 feet from Mammoth North. Last weeks storms rolled in wet with rain all the way above 10,000 ft but the snow level eventually dropped to about 8500 ft. There are pockets of good snow up higher in the Mammoth Crest area. Red Cone Bowl on the crest is looking good, just have to negotiate some obstacles getting back the car. However, it's barely skiable below 9000 ft due to little snow coverage.
Virginia Lakes area got about 6" of new snow at the 9500 ft trail head and maybe up to a foot above 10,000 ft. However, the snow was very wind affected and any exposed areas saw some wind scouring and it was hard to find good powder. Lots of obstacles and lots of wind loading. You can currently drive all the way up to Trumbell Lake Campground with 4wd.
Some good skiing to be had at higher elevations. Our own Eric Layton of Split Board Guides International reported up 30" of new snow off the Mount Rose Highway with really good riding to be had. Very wind blown on the ridges and creamy powder on the colder North aspects. South facing were crusted up. Elsewhere at lower elevations around Tahoe below 9000 ft there are reports of rain crusts and marginal skiing conditions. You have to go high!
There was a recent fatal avalanche on the closed chutes at Mount Rose so be careful out there. This happened right during or after the latest storms. So please always tone it down during and right after storms. And check the local avalanche bulletins before heading out.
There was good powder skiing on lower angle terrain and considerable avalanche danger on Shasta last week. This mountain just keeps getting hammered. NOAA is predicting up 4-7 feet of MORE snow in the next 3 days! All we can say is...wow.
California Avalanche Advisories & Observations
Lee Vining & June Lake
Ice Climbing is not highly recommended right now. However, there are reports of climbable ice in Lee Vining Canyon. The rains we got last week did a number on the ice everywhere. And we had many nights with above freezing temps. However, the good news is there is a lot more water flowing now and the temps are supposed to plummet (single digits) later in the week so this could make for great ice climbing conditions later in Dec. The best ice seasons we've ever had were the result of wet, warm storms and then plummeting temps. Stay tuned!
Before the rains, there were reports of good leadable ice on Chouinard Falls and Main Wall in Lee Vining. In fact, we had a report that the classic Spiral Staircase (WI3+) had it's first ascent in years! After the recent storms it looks like the middle flow on Chouinard Falls is still in shape, but the left side is a bit thin. Still ice on the main wall.
Roadside ice is out of shape. Mostly washed away.
No reports from June Lake's Horsetail Falls, but we can't imagine it would be safe to climb till much later in the week.
It's winter mountaineering season now in the High Sierra now that there is a somewhat supportive snowpack.
Full, and we mean FULL, winter conditions. It's just skiing up on Mount Shasta.
Great rock climbing weather in Joshua Tree last week, but rain is coming later this week. And for this coming weekend, it looks to be cold and breezy.
Owens River Gorge and Pine Creek were great last week and since they are in the Sierra rain shadow were spared much of the precip. However, if you are planning a rock climbing trip up to the Eastern Sierra this coming week and weekend, think again. Rain is forecast during this whole week for the Gorge and for this weekend it's sunny but with highs barely above freezing. Bouldering may be the only reasonable option.
We are done with Yosemite rock climbing reports for the season.