Guided Ice Climbing in the Eastern Sierra

Overview

Lee Vining Canyon Approach Sunset

The sun sets over the approach to Lee Vining Canyon. AAI Collection.

As the Summer fades and Fall's crisp temperatures begin to turn cold, ice climbers around the nation over begin to think about tall, shaded walls of hard water ice.  With dozens of climbs ranging from one to three pitches, and from WI2 to WI5 M5, Lee Vining Canyon is almost without parallel as a place to receive ice climbing instruction. We use the varied terrain to our advantage, designing instructional courses for ice climbers of all skill levels, working on everything from top-rope routes to difficult multi-pitch ice climbs.

 The nearby June Lake area provides additional climbing, with several choices of both one and two pitch climbs.  Because of their easy access and beautiful settings, these are ideal locations for guided ice climbing trips.

The road from the tiny hamlet of Lee Vining to Tioga Pass, the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park, climbs from Mono Lake through Lee Vining Canyon.  From this highway, ice climbers can gain access to some of the best waterfall ice in the Sierra Nevada.  The road into Tuolumne Meadows is plowed high enough to give excellent access to the entire Tioga Pass winter playground.

This area began to see development in around 1970 as Yvon Chouinard and Doug Robinson started putting up first ascents with the modern style tools that Chouinard was developing.  It has since become known as the home of California's longest, steepest, and (often) most interesting ice.  As California ice unendingly forms, melts, and reforms, new and engaging variations of routes appear on a weekly basis providing the perfect instructional training ground for climbers.

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Guided Ice Climbing in the Eastern Sierra

Prices and Details

Per-day Pricing

  • $385 - Private
  • $265 - (per person) 2 people
  • $225 - (per person) 3 people
  • $200 - (per person) 4 people

*Private guided ice courses in the Sierra are scheduled on a per-trip basis; please contact the office at 360-671-505 to discuss dates and availability.

Outing Program Group Learns to Ice Climb

Cal Tech's Outdoor Program student leaders smile after a day of ice climbing instruction. Ian McEleny.

Meeting Time and Location for Full-Day Programs

Courses are available for climbers of all levels; participants will meet their guide at Nicely's in downtown Lee Vining. Days start at 8 am at the latest, with the day finishing around 5pm.  If you would like to do a backcountry route, please request the route by name and the office will work with both you and the guide to set an appropriate meeting time and location. 

Rental Equipment

For beginners and other climbers who do not have their own personal climbing equipment, we offer rentals.  Please contact our office for more details.

Please note that we do not rent boots in the Sierra; your best option if you need mountaineering boots for your course is to contact Wilson's East Side Sports in Bishop, CA, Mammoth Mountaineering in Mammoth Lakes, CA, or to bring rental boots with you to Lee Vining.  Regardless of what you need, please be sure to alert all parties of your rental needs as soon as possible.

Lodging, Shuttle Service, and Directions

Your travel dates should allow for an arrival in town the day before your program begins and for departure the day after your trip ends. We do not recommend that you fly out any earlier than the day after your course.   

The closest airport to Lee Vining is Reno, NV, which is roughly a three hour drive away.  Other options include flying in to Las Vegas, NV or Mammoth Lakes, CA.  Lee Vining is a small town with a variety of accommodation options you can take advantage of before, during or after your course.

During this course, you will need to provide transportation to and from the course location and possibly while on the course. You should come prepared to drive yourself and your instructor to and from the trailhead and climbing areas. If you would like assistance arranging a rental vehicle please feel free to contact our Travel Coordinator, Lisa Greif, at 509-972-4028.  

Travel Insurance

We strongly recommend that you purchase comprehensive travel insurance that includes trip cancellation coverage.  Our climbers and trekkers have had good experience with Travelex, the company we  use, over many years. The Travel Select Plan covers climbers with the purchase of the Adventure Pak add-on.

Unlike many vacations that are less physically demanding, a climbing and trekking vacation can be ruined by an illness or relatively minor injury that occurs before departure. While you can still tour a city or head to the beach with a sprained ankle or a very bad cold (albeit, less conveniently), such an injury or common illness can stop you in your tracks short of your climbing or trekking destination.

Trip Cancellation

Trip cancellation insurance provides reimbursement of non-refundable program expenses in the event that an illness or injury prevents you or your traveling companion from going on your journey. It also protects you if a family member or business partner of you or your traveling companion has an illness or injury that prevents you from going on the trip. Coverage also is effective for many other listed causes.

Trip Interruption

You will also be covered for trip interruption (the value of the unused portion of your trip), if you or your traveling companion has to cut it short because of illness or injury so long as you purchase the Select policy along with the Adventurer Pak which covers mountaineering, extreme skiing, etc.

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Guided Ice Climbing in the Eastern Sierra

Curriculum Options

Ice Climbing - Introduction to Waterfall Ice

Introductory level climbers will learn the basics of ice climbing, crampons, ice tools, ice screws, ice bollards, belaying, knots and hitches as well as to top-roping techniques. Climbers will learn the basics required to be a competent top-roping partner for more experienced climbers.

Ice Climbing - Intermediate/Advanced Waterfall Ice

Intermediate and advanced level students learn to apply ice climbing techniques on steeper ground and gain the skills to follow and lead climbs in a multi-pitch setting.

Sierra Alpine Ice Climbing

Alpine ice persists year-round in many shaded couloirs in the high Sierra. These gullies make perfect outdoor classrooms for teaching alpine ice climbing, one of the fundamental skills of the mountaineer. This introduction will prepare you for any alpine ice you would encounter in the Sierras and give you a solid base for climbing on larger glaciers in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

Guided Ice Climbing and Winter Ascents in the Cascades

Washington is home to a great variety of ice climbing opportunities. Learn the basics of ice climbing in one of our introductory courses or, once you have the skills, join us for a guided winter ascent of an alpine route.

Alpine Ice Climbing - Introduction

The first course offered by AAI in 1975, this intensive program provides thorough instruction in all the skills required on difficult alpine ice climbs. Through this curriculum, you will develop a complete repertoire of state-of-the-art high-angle snow and ice climbing skills and learn to apply them efficiently in all conditions. All of this instruction is located in America's top glacier training area, the Coleman Glacier of Mt. Baker.

Winter Mountaineering in the Sierra

Held on Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the Lower 48, this program is designed to be an introduction to alpine travel and climbing in Winter conditions.

Guided Backcountry Skiing & Snowboarding in the Sierras

The Sierra Nevada Range is a virtual alpine playground in every season. As with most mountain ranges, the locals eagerly anticipate the end of the busy summer season and the start of the quieter winter season. The Sierra gets a healthy dumping of snow, but that isn't what makes it unique. The chance to complete long alpine traverses, ascents, and descents under blue skies is what brings backcountry skiers back to the high mountains of the Sierra year after year.

Guided Ice Climbing in the Eastern Sierra

Scheduled Courses

Lee Vining Canyon is home to dozens of beginner, intermediate and advanced level single and multi-pitch routes. Our regularly scheduled programs will have you working on basic climbing skills, movement, anchor building, rescue technique, leadership skills on single-pitch terrain, leading multi-pitch routes. 

Ice Climbing - Introduction to Waterfall Ice

Introductory level climbers will learn the basics of ice climbing, crampons, ice tools, ice screws, ice bollards, belaying, knots and hitches as well as to top-roping techniques. Climbers will learn the basics required to be a competent top-roping partner for more experienced climbers.

Ice Climbing - Intermediate/Advanced Waterfall Ice

Intermediate and advanced level students learn to apply ice climbing techniques on steeper ground and gain the skills to follow and lead climbs in a multi-pitch setting.

Guided Ice Climbing in the Eastern Sierra

Related Courses

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