White Pass Washington ice climbing on clear creek falls

11 Jan 2004 - by John Zazzara

Sunday Jan 11th Charles Alexander and I went to White Pass (Actually went up the nite before and crashed in the Ski resort RV parking lot) to explore ice conditions at clear creek falls. Clear creek runs out of Dog lake, 2.2 miles east of the white pass. A short and deep snow hike skirting the creek for about 1/4 mile led to the top of clear creek falls (best to bring snowshoes for this). These falls are actually too high volume to be climbed, but the margins of the falls do freeze, and another 20 feet to the north the weepage from the cliff faces also freeze. After a considerable amount of time digging out a belay spot and throwing large amounts of snow over the falls, we finally got a good look down at the icefall and set up a belay spot. This climb requires an awkward rap down, right next to the raging waterfall (very wet!). Charles was the first one over the edge and once he was lowered about 25 feet he did a few test swings on the obviously thin ice. This suceeded in liberating a large 3 foot diameter hole thru the ice. The hole provided a view thru the ice into the falls, and also revealed that the ice was damn thin, only about 2-3 inches thick. None the less Charles, being top-roped, as he was and crazy as a rodeo goat, rapped down, over a prow of ice next to the falls, to the bottom of the cliff face (30 feet of WI 4). He managed to climb up the thin ice and then up over the prow back onto the falls. He did this twice actually, using some "Scottish Ice" (Tree trunks and frozen Mud) as needed, I repeated, but not going over the prow. This area is cursed with willow thickets at the top of the falls, making a clear rap down onto the ice very tricky, but in good conditions it would yield an interesting pitch of WI 4-5.

All in all these conditions were sad and marginal. Only the desperate and demented would have attempted. Ironic that the whole city of portland was covered in a foot of ice, and there was so little actual good ice to be found. HOWEVER, if these falls do come into condition, i can reccomend them as probobly the closest good icefall to metropolitan Portland. The "Washington Ice" book provides clear and accurate directions to these falls.


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