Drury Falls

February 23, 2001

Drury falls was suposidly in great shape from the reports we had heard. Infact, our friend Jeff had just climbed it two weeks prior and said the river was super easy to cross and the ice was great. Greg and I were excited to see how far we could go on Washington's most covated ice climb.

Drury looking awesome.

It was a georgous day in Tumwater Canyon, just West of Leavenworth. Actually, it was quite warm and sunny, but we were not worried because the ice is so much higer up and doesn't get sun after mid-day. After arriving at the river under the Falls Creek drainage, Greg and I drove back and forth looking for a suitable crossing. We had borrowed Jeff's inflatable raft that he had used two week ago. His only warning was that the raft seemed to leak water through the bottom, but he didn't know why. The boat had a bit of duct tape to it's credit!

Drury looking awesome.

We found an easy crossing just West of the Falls Cr. drainage just down stream of a big pullout. Packs went in first, then us. To our surprise we floated! Greg and I tried for a while to figure out how to paddle on opposite sides with little luck at first, but we eventually got the hang of it before the current got the hang of us.

After ditching the snowshoes, we were committed to the set in boot track heading up the drainage. Nelson's guide mentions something about 5 hours max up to the base of the climb. Either Jim has been really laid back about training in the winter, or he had a lot worse snow conditions! It took about 1.5 hours to get to the base of the first pitch.

Greg and I were keen on scoping out good moderate cragging areas as we had heard that there was an abundace of shorter easier climbing in the drainage.

Dave soloing a short ice plug in the gully on great ice.

We found lots of interesting looking one and two pitch climbs, but the real deal up here is Drury falls. Probably 5-6 pitches of technical ground, it offers the longest consistant water ice climb in Washington. The breakdown is roughly as follows: first pitch, 50+ m of WI3, easing to WI2 at the top. Second pitch, another 50+ meters of WI3, Third pitch (speculative now), on the upper falls now, looks like WI3-WI4 especially steep near the top. This lands you on a "ledge" of ice on the upper falls. Pitch 4 & 5 seem to be sustained hard 4, with a steeper column at the top of the climb which is possibly grade 5.

The first pitch of Drury Falls with cool alpine feeling ice continuing up the gully.

We had heard that most parties solo the first pitch, and it didn't look so bad, maybe 2+. The sloppy condition the ice was in made me think twice about soloing, but Greg was comfortable with it so we decided not to waste time with a rope on the easy looking ice.

Greg soloing the first pitch.

Unfortunatly for us, the ice was of doubious quality and was steeper than it looked! The slush ridden climb was easily WI3 and we ened up taking the longest line up it (right side). Greg went first and I followed on his left a little wile afterwards. Climbing the 75-80 degree slushy ice was nerve wracking and all one could do was think of up. Downclimbing the slop didn't seem like a great idea, and getting ropes out now was out of the question! But the ice was within our comfort zone, so we quickly made it to the top of the pitch. What we saw was not encouraging. The second pitch seemed to be falling apart. Several glide cracks had sliced the falls horizontially and there was a couple big holes right in the middle. After a quick lunch, we decided to check out the ice anyhow.

The second pitch is in the sun and the upper falls is in the backround.

The ice was in the same rotten condition, but because we still had plenty of time, I decided to try and lead it anyhow. The initial 20-30 feet is steep, probably 80 degrees, and the 22 cm screw I sunk about 15 feet up didn't inspire too much confidence. I pushed on to the top of the steep bit where it seemed to ease to a lower angle. As I aproached an even more rotten step, I got a good look at one of the glide cracks. The climb was not healing, it was dying! The holes in the pitch looked scary and so I decided to back off.

Greg rapping to the base of the first pitch.

The lower rapells on Drury seem to be pretty easy, but I've heard of more confusing rapel length on the higher up rapps. For us it was on easy 60m double rope rappell back down the mixed gully and into the basin under the first pitch. Seeing as we still had a lot of day left, Greg and I decided to continue the theme of the trip: "Rope is for rappell," and soloed around on good ice smears in the gully.

The descent seemed long. Falling into rock moats down in the slushy boulder fields prooved good practice for falling into crevasses, but offered little amusment for the falle. Perhaps snowshoes would have been a good thing to bring... hmmm. Soon it was time to cross the river, but we were vetrans now! Quickly we plopped the packs in the boat and jumped in. Unfortunatly for this "vetran", I ended up sitting right on my ski pole shaft, which made for an uncomfortable crossing to say the least! As we paddled across, we entered a swift current right before the bank. Seeing as greg and I were still working out this "you paddle harder, no now stop! wait, paddle some more!" thing, the current took the opportunity to spinn us in circles a few times before we could grovel over to the ban and to safety. We were pretty amused after the fact at the sight of us sitting on our full packs, heading down the rapids below!

Next year...

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