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
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
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
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
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!