Friday, December 23, 2011

Donner Peak: a myriad of mixed

Despite surprisingly good snow conditions (not brutally icy everywhere) it's pretty hard to spend more than an hour or two on the planks right now.  As long as it keeps not snowing, might as well keep on not skiing.  The best thing going at the moment is the ice climbing.  If you're not too picky and don't need a consistent 300' (or even a 100') vertical wall of ice, then Donner Peak makes for amazingly fun adventure climbing.

Tucker Cunningham, Jeb Mirzak and I went out for a day to test the conditions on this juggernaut of a peak (...maybe juggernaut is the wrong word).  After looking at the pile of snow-drifted granite our skepticism in finding decent ice grew.  We lackadaisically set out to find a smear or two of ice close to the snow shed to muck around on.

Our first option was completely detached from the rock and a couple light taps with a tool was all that was needed relieve the granite of the clinging ice.  After dry-tooling the crack next to the former icicle, we ascended to another gully where we found this nice piece of ice:

Enough ice to keep the tools wet!
A thin trickle provides a vein of ice thick enough for one tool.

Pulling up the final bulge- fun climbing!

Jeb starts out on the lower section, a few delicate icicles low with some good tool placements higher. 

J-Lo called...she wants her sunglasses back...

A steep section before a two move traverse.

The final move of the first ice mini-climb.

Tucker watches the belay closely as Jeb climbs below.

One pitch led to another and we found a whole series of small ice flows.  Some were purely ice.  Some were a few moves on ice then a few dry tooling moves on rock.  Below, Jeb maneuvers the ice between boulders of granite.

Jeb solos another flow about halfway up the peak.

Tucker follows a safe distance behind.

A really cool ice feature where we set up an achor before the last couple pitches.

The jaws of an ice monster gape open above our belay.

Walking off at dusk.

A great way to end a great day!  Walking off with just enough light to scrape by without headlamps.  Our lax approach stretched the day to its fullest.  We were happy to have discovered pitch after pitch of ice and still made it out under the beautiful light of the evening sky.

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