California Ice Climbing & Backcountry Skiing Report - Dec 20th

Here's the climbing & backcountry skiing condition report for December 20th... A large, yet warm, Pacific storm rolled through the state late last week dumping copious amounts of snow at higher elevations. While it may have blown out most rock climbing opportunities, it added A LOT of water to our ice climbing venues. Temps dropped about as dramatically as they could with some areas in the Eastern Sierra registering below 0 deg temps within 36 hours of seeing temps in the 50s. It's all about higher elevation backcountry skiing and what may become one of our fattest ice climbing seasons in years. And there's another colder Sierra winter storm on tap for Friday!

Welcome to our 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

Eastern Sierra

Backcountry skiing in the Eastern Sierra is great above about 9200 feet. From Mammoth North, there was about 3-4 feet of new snow above 9500 ft and about 1-2 feet down to 8500 ft. No new snow below 8000 ft as the storm came in as almost all no backcountry skiing below 8000 ft. Over the weekend, there were reports of cold fresh powder above 9500 ft but not much base to it as in many places there just wasn't any snow before the storm. You could stick your pole down 3 feet right to the ground. The rapidly colder temps sucked a lot of moisture out of the snowpack. There is another colder winter storm predicted for later in the week so hopefully we will see some more snow lower down...and more powder!

Check the snow observations before heading out and be conservative. There were deep crowns in explosive controlled areas at June Mountain Resort last weekend on relatively short yet steeper terrain.

Mammoth Crest 10,000 ft NOAA Weather Forecast
Eastern Sierra Guided Backcountry Skiing


It's still all about going high. You've got to get above 8000 feet. So backcountry skiing venues that go out to lake level are not recommended as there just isn't enough snow down low. The Mount Rose Highway area has been going off. Up there there were reports of heavy skier traffic and popular line such as Hour Glass were very tracked up. However, great powder conditions were reported on North facing aspects and a deep snowpack of well over 5 feet. Just get off the beaten track and you can find some great turns! Let's hope for that storm later this week to dump some more snow lower down. There was a report of an avalanche yesterday on Mount Houghton that ran over existing tracks.

Castle Peak (Donner Summit) 7500 ft NOAA Weather Forecast

Mount Shasta

Great skiing and a very deep snowpack on Mount Shasta. Reports of lost of wind also lately...typical for Shasta this time of year.

Mount Shasta 8500 ft NOAA Weather Forecast


California Avalanche Advisories & Observations

Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center (Observations only)

Sierra Avalanche Center (Lake Tahoe Area)

Mount Shasta Avalanche Center


Backcountry Yurt AIARE Level One Avalanche Course

Ice Climbing

Lee Vining & June Lake

Ice Climbing is going to be going off! The ice has been coming back with a vengeance with all the new water added from the last wet storm and dramatically dropping temps. With temps expected to remain well below freezing, expectations are for one of the better and fatter Lee Vining ice climbing seasons we've seen in years.

Roadside ice in June Lake has really come back! The ice is far and wide and there are flows coming in that have not been see before.

June Lake's Horsetail Falls is fat. The water fall in the middle is frozen over so climbing on either side of it should be great (Do not climb over the central waterfall!).

Lee Vining Canyon Ice 8000 ft NOAA Weather Forecast
Ice Cimbing Classes...winter 2016/17

Roadside ice in june lake

Roadside ice in june lake

Alpine Climbing

High Sierra

It's winter mountaineering season now in the High Sierra now that there is a somewhat supportive snowpack. Our guides reported from Matterhorn Peak last weekend very, very, very, very cold temps!

Palisades 12,000 ft NOAA weather forecast

Mount Shasta

Full, and we mean FULL, winter conditions. It's just skiing up on Mount Shasta.

Mount Shasta 12,000 ft NOAA weather forecast

Rock Climbing

Joshua Tree

It's been off and on in Joshua Tree lately with rainy days interspersed with sunny climbable days. This pattern looks to continue through this week.

Joshua Tree, Hidden Valley Campground NOAA Weather Forecast

Eastern Sierra

Owens River Gorge has been good in the last few days and is about the only rock climbing venue right now with reasonable temps for climbing. Later in the week another storm is rolling in with dropping temps.

Owens River Gorge NOAA Weather Forecast
Mammoth Lakes 9000 ft NOAA Weather Forecast


We are done with Yosemite rock climbing reports for the season.

Yosemite Valley NOAA Weather Forecast
Tuolumne Meadows 8600 ft NOAA Weather Forecast