Drury Falls

January 11-12, 2003

With a week of sunshine behind us, a stormy-looking weekend approached. Loren and I discussed trying some alpine adventures, but the temperature data for the East side convinced us to give Drury Falls a chance. Expecting some crowding, seeing as it was the middle of January, we left Loren's house at 5:20am Saturday morning.

The drive over to Leavenworth flew past, and we soon were feasting on breakfast at the Waffle House. (Actually it is the Waffle Haus; those zany Bavarians!) After a fine meal, we headed down HW 2 waiting for the moment that the ridges part and we would see whether we would be skunked. All of a sudden, there it was. Huge, white, in. The binoculars revealed that the upper tier was a bit thinner than when Loren had been here last, but it looked very doable.

We parked in the usual pullout just upstream of the Fall's drainage, and pulled out the inflatable boat that Jens had leant us. Loren and I traded off packing, organizing and inflating the raft. By the time all the packing was done, we were still pumping air into the main chamber of the raft. This seemed odd, and after a little inspection we found the culprit hole. A bit of duct tape, and on with the pumping! Five more minutes of pumping lead to more hole patching, but finally we were ready to hit the river. We hopped on the packs, and pushed off, both already familiar with this short and easy crossing.

After stashing the raft, we headed up into the woods on snowshoes, angling uphill as we approached the entrance to the drainage. Very soon, we notice a singular pair of hip-waiters, and a set of footprints heading up the side of the gully. There were no other cars on the road, so we figured it was just someone's stash who had scoped out the climb earlier in the week.

We climbed up the gully a ways and eventually stashed the snowshoes under a large chockstone. Continuing up, we reached the first little ice step. It had far less snow and ice than it did last year, but was pretty fun non the less.

Dave climbing up the gully step. Ice, woohoo! Photo by Loren

A little further up the gully is a branch off right that leads to the first pitch of the lower falls. Here we climbed up another thin ice step to reach a disappointing view: the condition of the first pitch.

The first pitch of the lower falls in lean conditions.

The first pitch was only basically formed, a far cry from the fat wall of ice that we had both seen on our first trips two years earlier. The neat mixed gully on the upper left had more ice though, and looked like the easiest way to get up. Loren decided he would be the first to taco his nice sharp picks on the thin ice.

Loren heads up the first "pitch"

We hiked up, and were blown away by the view of the second pitch of the lower tier. It looked like total garbage! A gigantic slab of wet rock was surrounded by some thin and mushy looking ice was where the climb usually is found. After some discussion though, we noticed a thin but dry variation just to the left of the main spillway. It gave us some hope for tomorrow, for the upper falls looked to be in great shape!

Drury Falls. The thin lower tier and the fat upper tier on Saturday morning. Photo by Loren

Our plan was to camp up on the shoulder between the two pitches of the lower falls. It had only taken us two and a half hours to climb up to our camp, but we were enjoying the relaxed pace that a two day venture afforded us. Besides, most of the gear on our backs would have come along on a day trip anyhow. We spent the afternoon watching the climb and melting water. By dinner time, the weather had started to build up in the East. We looked out as darker and darker clouds blew our way. Just as it was getting dark when I noticed the telltale hazy streaking meaning that fresh snow was headed our way. We had read many conflicting weather reports promising everything from "mostly sunny" skies, to "significant accumulations of snow." Loren and I were both a bit worried about what the definition of "significant" might be.

The one thing about climbing overnight in the winter is the loooong night of sleep. Even with an alpine start, I usually get more than I do at home. I was awake when the alarm went off at 6:30, and we slowly started to gear up.

Dave gearing up for the climb in the morning light. Photo by Loren

We had been lucky, for significant apparently meant 1.5" of snow. Even still, every sub 80 degree part of the climb had adhered to the new snow, making the climb take on a bit different character. Eager to get going, we were racked and climbing by 8am. Loren decided to tackle the first pitch, seeing whether it would make or break our climb. There was steep, thin ice which was mostly covered by snow. Loren rated it WI 3 R/X. He placed 3 pieces in 60 meters.

Loren heads off on a bold lead.

Soon the rope came tight and I readied for the first pitch of the day, which always seems to be the hardest. My thick belaying gloves caused me to over grip my tools and expend way too much energy for following. The first ice was thin but solid. Above there was a good 30 ft. of scary unconsolidated sugar snow wallowing to Loren's first piece. For Loren, that is just his specialty. I joined him at the belay and we coiled up the ropes for the hike to the upper falls.

Dave leading up to the upper falls. Photo by Loren

Instead of detouring far to the left, we simulclimbed a short WI2 pitch which gave us direct access to the first pitch of the upper falls. At the point the snow had stopped, and the clouds began to part allowing some intense morning sunlight to blast the climb. This did not bode well for the fresh snow. As we were setting off, small sluffs were coming down off the surrounding cliffs. Soon, huge cascades of soft powder began pouring over lip of the first pitch, filling the air with frozen mist and all exposed parts with cold cold powder. I passed the lead off to Loren, and he went at the initial runout on cauliflowers with speed and agility.

Loren leads through steep cauliflowers that leads to the ramp above on the first pitch of the Upper Falls.

After a few more snow sluffs, and a few bogus screws, Loren setup the belay on the good ice of the ramp. I followed up, realizing how technical the conditions were. There was lots of snow and crust ice which would just hold weight, and sometimes a tool. Moving up from one mushroom-cave to the next was pretty sketch with the poor tool placements. We rated it WI 4 R.

Dave following the first pitch of the Upper Falls. Photo by Loren

The ice on the ramp was actually pretty good. The next pitch climbed up a short section, and then made a rising traverse to the left side of the falls.

Dave leads off the belay on the second pitch of the Upper Falls while Loren hopes to avoid a 24-point tattoo on his forehead. Photo by Loren

The ice continued to be weird and crappy. I climbed across and up short steps, only occasionally getting gear. I set two screws at the base of an awkward pillar and moved up, not finding the solid top-out ice I wanted. I continued up until I was starting up the ramp feature that cuts back across the climb for the final pitch. I set a good screw in some solid ice, and looked up to what looked like a good belay. Then I notice our good friend, the rotten cauliflower ice was all over it. So I resigned to setting up my belay in the direct firing line of the next pitch. It was to be, a long belay. Following a similar trend, we graded this pitch WI 3 R.

Loren soon joined me at the belay, and we scoped out the easy looking ramp above. He said it looked a little less steep than on his first climb of Drury, but we both knew that the cauliflowers above gave only rests and mushy ice.

Loren head off on the last pitch of the Upper Falls.

Placing a piece of "protection".

Loren slowly and methodically climbed up the pitch. Soon he was out of sight, and the rope ran out. We had agreed to simuclimb if the ropes didn't reach the top from our belay. Fortunately untying my clove hitches on the anchor allowed him just enough rope to reach the tree at the top. "Yeeeeeehaaaaaaaw!" signified that I was on belay.

The pitch was surprisingly steep (WI 4 X). Always that deceptive view from the belay, I guess! There were a few good screws in the lower mushrooms, but above that was the common "hollow tube" formation that often graces the top of the climb. The ice was 3" thick and made a terrible thunking sound with each swing. I pulled Loren's screw out of the slush, used a hole for a foot hold, and thoroughly enjoyed to steep climbing with the comfort of a top rope. What a totally amazing position.

Dave finishing up the last pitch. Photo by Loren

We wallowed off left, and added a sling to the living tree atop the decent "gully." We walked down a bit, and made another short rap down, avoiding a short ice pitch that goes down the gully on the left. This landed us on a bench above another steep cliff. There is a tree with sling off to the left, but Loren knew to traverse right and down a bit to another tree so that we would touch all the way down. This put us at the base of the upper tier, from where we walked to the top of the lower tier's 2nd pitch. a full 60m rapp just brought us down to the base. We pulled the ropes and I walked them over to the rapp that would take us all the way down to the bottom of the first pitch. We then walked back over to camp and packed up our gear.

Dave heading out after packing up. Photo by Loren

It took us 5 hours and 45 minutes to do the climb from our bivi, and an hour and 15 minutes to descend. This paled in comparison to our not-yet-mentioned entertainment on Saturday. You see, the lone footsteps belonged to a friendly guy named Adam from Montana. He had come up to solo the falls, on-sight. By the time we had arrived Saturday morning, he had climbed the lower tier, and backed off. Just when we thought he was gone, there he was, climbing back up to give it another shot. Loren and I both marveled at how effortlessly he walked up the climb. He was 50 minutes up, and an hour down setting his own v-threads and rapping with a single 60m rope. Talk about style.

Adam styling the thin ice of the lower tier on Saturday.

Adam on the upper falls. Our (and his) route in orange, with our belays at the dots.

Loren and I, being on the two-day game plan trudged down the gully and back to the beckoning lights of the highway. Back at the river we pumped the boat back up and setoff on the even more entertaining river crossing at night!

Loren and the snow ghost prepare to cross the river.

We were back at the car by 6 to find our truck with those familiar check marks you see on abandoned vehicles along side the highway. About then the WSDOT Incident Command truck pulled up, and the guy politely informed us that we should leave a note next time, because you can be towed for parking here over 24 hours. Good advice. Seeing as the hour was no where near epic, we were able to relax and have dinner in Leavenworth, instead of AM/PM. Overall, a fantastic trip!

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