Saturday, December 12, 2009

Bicycle approach to Confluence ice flows

Went out to check conditions at Confluence and SCII yesterday. We loaded up our bikes and gear and left the house around 7am. We decided to ride our bikes into Confluence to check conditions and possibly do some dry-tooling. I figured the ice would be a no-go since it hasn't been that cold very long. Since we hadn't had snow, the bike ride seemed like the logical way to get the flat 2.25 miles on the Rail/trail out of the way quicker. This only left the 800+ vertical gain up the hillside to the old quarry wall. It was the coldest morning of the season (about 12 degrees) I've never ridden my bike in mountaineering boots, but it worked out well. We took the ride slow and made it to the hike in about 10min. The sun was out, but it didn't seem to make it any warmer. Riding in sure did save the legs for the hill climb. It was about the easiest its ever felt. The hillside was frozen solid with a slight crust of snow in some areas. We saw the tracks of someone from what I would guess was the day before checking conditions or just trying to locate the ice. The tracks disappeared by the top of the hill and we didn't see any sign of them walking around near the ice, so maybe they didn't make it to the ice. Confluence has been an elusive place for many people to find. I've heard stories of folks hiking around for 7 hrs trying to find the place (they paid and were being guided believe it or not). Well we made it to the cliff, and as I expected the wall had ice in many places, but was in the process of being washed out due to all the water run off. Confluence, for the most part is one of the least reliable places to climb in the region. It gets direct sun and melts out very quickly. It also has old mine openings at the bottom that spew warm air up under the ice and causes it to melt out from the backside. We thought we would be able to check out some dry tooling possibilities, but there was soooo much water running, that it would've been completely miserable to even try to give anything a go. We hung out for about 30min. watched tons of ice fall on every line and decided to head back to the car. On the way out, we stopped at the old stone walls near the bottom of the hill to pick around for a minute and shoot some photos. We made the ride out and decided to go check conditions at SCII.

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