In the deserts of central Washington, there are areas where groundwater flows over the familiar basalt cliffs to create dozens of ice climbs. Because of typical erosion at the bases of these cliffs, the routes can be very steep, and freestanding columns are not uncommon. These seasonal frozen waterfalls can, during the right conditions, make for some of the most exciting climbing near the Cascades—and compare favorably to many of the classic ice climbs in Colorado and the Canadian Rockies.
Conditions are clearly important: the ice can be thin and brittle, or quite good, depending on precipitation and temperature. Good years for ice happen when a warm and wet fall gives way to a cold winter. But these remote areas, many pioneered by Mark Shipman, Glen Frese, Bruce White, and John Emmiger, during certain months offer truly outstanding ice-climbing in a desert setting of solitude, mystery, and bone-chilling cold. Old hands say the best ice forms here between Christmas and mid-February. Equipment: Ice tools, ice screws, two ropes.
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