ADDITIONAL PHOTOS COURTESY © KARL ESCARCHA , 2017
I'm not much for ice climbing, being a Florida boy and all, but at least once a year I make it a point to get out there. This year we headed to June Lake, California to swing some axes at the Horsetail Falls crag.
"Horsetail Falls, besides the Roadside Ice, is one of the most reliable ice climbing areas in June Lake. Unless it is a very cold winter, the falls tend to still be flowing so the ice varies wildly in make-up and quality. It can range from cauliflower ice over a snow base to perfect baby-blue water ice. Usually, the quality is somewhere in between mid-winter." –MountainProject.com
First and foremost, I want to thank Karl Escarcha for his addition of photos to this post and this fantastic video edit from the trip. Thanks Karl!
Horsetail Falls, besides the Roadside Ice, is one of the most reliable ice climbing areas in June Lake. Unless it is a very cold winter, the falls tend to still be flowing so the ice varies wildly in make-up and quality. It can range from cauliflower ice over a snow base to perfect baby-blue water ice. Usually, the quality is somewhere in between mid-winter.
We left Los Angeles on Friday, February 3rd 2017 and headed up to the Sierra's. The plan would be to crash at a cheap motel in the area and start climbing early Saturday morning. This years snow storms have been unusually substantial, and by the time we passed Bishop there was a snow chain enforcement on the roads.
James, Luis, Karl and I arrived at the hotel just shy of 10pm, it was dark and cold and our anticipation was high!
We woke up the next morning around 5:30/6am to a splendid view of snow covered mountains. Then we headed to an early breakfast at Joe's Brown Trout Cafe, or some funny named place along those lines. It was Mexican/American food but most importantly it was the first business to open in the morning. From there we headed to the approach gate, located next to June Lake's Roadside Ice Crag.
To get to Horsetail Falls requires an approach that will vary on snow conditions and also popularity of climber's beating a path. I think we had a little more work cut out for ourselves than expected.
It was a beautiful hike in, worth the effort. Not too terrible post holing and the snow was soft enough that it didn't require crampons.
When we got to the climbs, there was some legitimate snow covering the ice and winds created some mini spindrifts at the top. Wasn't exactly enjoyable belaying in knee deep snow, but the company was fun and I made the best of the situation.
Just getting to the tie-in spots required some work!
The climbs at Horsetail Falls are long, they could be done as two-pitch routes or connected with a long rope for a single pitch
Here's Karl on the center route of the wall, my photography leaves much to be desired.
Above is Luis climbing the right hand gully, an interesting route.
Above is me climbing the gully, top-rope-tough-guy. Karl took this photo, which is why it looks so good.
After a few hours and some laps in, we coiled the ropes and headed for the long hike back to the car. Then Pizza Factory in Lone Pine and back to Los Angeles. Was a fun weekend!