Wednesday, February 16, 2011

January Ice Climbing, 2011

January was awesome for Ice Climbing! While the skiing deteriorated (just a little, we made it work, but it wasn't ideal) the climbing only improved. We scrubbed the snow off, and then ol' Ma Nature let the water run and the temps freeze coverage onto more of Lee Vining Canyon's walls than has been covered in years. We ran a mid-week Ice 101, a custom photo shoot, some private guiding of the bigger routes, even some sort of wedding reception ice climbing extravaganza! Not to mention all of our personal climbing!

Ice Report Archive from January 2011:

Black Mountain, January 2011

On January 25 and 26 Neal W. came out from Chicago with a flexible and motivated attitude! Looking for an enjoyable two day snow-and-scramble adventure, he and I got set up to climb something near Convict Lake. We had fast and firm snow conditions for the approach, and set up camp in the drainage between Morrison and Mount Aggie. We woke in the daylight, and started snow-shoe free climbing almost immediately adjacent to camp. Along the climb to the Morrison Saddle we discussed options and scoped the surrounding peaks. Black Mountain, opposite the imposing North Face of Morrison, seemed like the best option, so we went for it. A few pitches of shale scrambling brought us to the summit. From there we could descend entirely on snow to camp. We packed up camp and hiked out with daylight to spare! Perfect comfortable pacing and conditions, along with flexible objectives, sent Neal home satisfied and psyched!

Holiday Ice Climbing 2010/11

We ran some excellent ice climbing programs during the Holiday '10-11 period. A custom day Christmas Eve, an Ice 101 12/26-27, another January 1-2, and a custom program January 2-3. It was a stormy, exciting time. Most notably, we were the first ones in after the pre-Christmas "Snow-pocalypse". We broke trail, found the ice almost completely plastered with "Snice" and the canyon bottom filled in with huge piles of avalanche debris. Immediately following Christmas the creek draining Ellery Lake started flowing at what must have been 4 or 5 times the normal flow. We dealt with tricky crossings, collapsing snow bridges, random waist-deep slush and crevassed piles of avalanche debris. Crazy! Finally, windy snowy weather was the theme, with guides and students alike learning ever more about taking care of ourselves in adverse conditions.
Ice Report Archive:

AMGA Ice Instructor Course

We at Sierra Mountain Guides pride ourselves on employing AMGA trained guides. And we keep ourselves motivated to continue training. We are also very proud of our friends and clients and fans that know how the AMGA training process works and how it improves the quality and safety of our trips. Both as compared to offerings from other guide services, and as compared to your past experiences with us. The guide training and certification process requires that a guide be working in the field, leading his or her own trips, while completing the formalized programs. Even our fully-certified guides stay involved with AMGA programs, as instructors and consultants and vicarious students. Our SMG trips are pretty evenly staffed with guides fully certified, and those in the process. As one of those in the process, I benefit greatly from the mentorship and experience of our fully certified guides. And, with each program I attend, I can bring home the latest and greatest techniques and skills to the rest of the staff.

The AMGA recently instituted a required "Ice Instructor Course." Given where I am at in my training, I was one of a select few to have the option of attending the full course or an abridged "challenge" version. We at SMG have long led the charge in Eastern Sierra Ice Instruction and Guiding. Inspired to uphold that reputation, I chose to step up to the full Ice Instructor Course. Perhaps more than any other formalized guide training I have done, this program was worth every penny and every hour. The conditions weren't ideal (5 days of rain, in normally cold and dry Ouray, CO) but the instruction was above par, the content was eye opening, and all of our ice programs back here in the Eastern Sierra have improved significantly as a direct result.

I did the IIC back just before Christmas. We made the most of the marginal conditions, and didn't get in all that much great climbing. However, the spirit of the experience was learning, not climbing. We spent most of the time climbing along the "Camp Bird Mine Road" as the Ice Park closed for the warm weather, and higher, longer routes were significantly avalanche exposed.