New overview of Ice climbing around Plains
In the middle of my third year living and climbing in this area I thought I would give a detailed overview of the current climbing conditions, access and possibly new routes.
Cascade Falls on Hwy 135 comes in fairly early and stays unless it is raining and warm for a week, which unfortunately it is around here rather often. Varies anywhere from a thin scramble up to WI 3 for a short spell on a pillar near the top, pillar often gets melted out on the underside during warm spells.
St Regis Seeps: On Hwy 135 near Camp Bighorn. These come in late in the year if they come in at all. This year it seems like they might have a chance if it doesn't get too warm this weekend.
Climbs around Paradise: Haven't seen anything about any of these climbs anywhere.
---Falls above Paradise School: there is a half-3/4 pitch WI 3/mixed on the East side of the river above the Paradise Elementary school. Gets lots of sun, forms for about a week at a time and often falls completely down. Gets plenty of water so if it gets cold for a week it forms. Access is somewhat dubious, seems that you can sneak through to it in the winter, but can't promise that nobody will come and yell at you. First climbed, as far as I know, this Jan.
Climbs around the water spring on Hwy 200 S. of Paradise: Access is unmarked some on private property some not, you takes your chances.
--------Left of the spring there is a full pitch chimney, which fills with a thin ribbon if it stays cold enough long enough. WI 3/mixed, which I first climbed solo the last week of Jan 2011.
--------Left of spring there is also a gully, which if it is cold enough is a easy ice scramble, as well as a deep cleft which early in this years wet and cold combination formed a tight 20 ft high playground, but alas also melts fast.
-------Right of the Spring: There could be 2-3 fairly hard thin mixed lines that form, but they are here one day and gone - the next, with dubious top-outs as far as I can tell. Go nuts.
River Road East, turn off Hwy 200 before crossing bridge to Paradise: All on Forest Service land.
-----There are three climbs that form just a short way past the cliffs right on the road (which have three TR anchors by the way for some rare decent rock in this area): A gully WI2/3, a face never tried it, and another gully WI2. There are a few more climbs closer to Plains, both on private property, one which looks fabulous is somebody's water supply and they will be mighty angry if you climb there.
Hwy 28 just past Dog/Rainbow lake as you are heading towards Hot Springs: Reservation Permit needed
------Forms in and out completely multiple times a year, if there is snow or high water levels and then a good solid cold snap these come in fairly well, but hard to protect with out rock gear. One is about 1/2 a pitch of thin WI 3 first soloed by me 1st week of Feb 2011. Then there is gully which can form, WI2 for 3/4 pitch, and a section of steeper mixed/overhanging stuff, but it is only about 25 ft high near the top. But a good option is to climb one of the longer pitches and then easily scramble down to a ledge and play on the harder stuff.
East side of Hwy 200 on the way from Plains to Paradise: All of these climbs are on Private Property or BIg Horn management winter closures, so find out who to talk to or don't go at all. These are all sunny side climbs and as such form only if it is really cold and then only for a little bit.
---Just past Weeksville creek there are two lines which form halfway up the cliff face. One is a really good looking pillar, which I have yet to see touch all the way down. The other is 60ft WI3 in a cleft which shades it from the sun and keeps it around longer. Need rock gear to protect the top part.
-------Just past the above there is a series of seeps which can come all the way down, but mostly are very brittle chandler ice, then there is a amphitheater about 100 yard across and maybe 30 ft high which fills with variable quality ice, but you have to get by crossing a big horn sheep closure, or private property and the area itself might be on that same land. It looks good from the road in cold weather, but I've never found it to be worth the hike.
------Just past the sheep viewing turnout, directly across the river from Rainbow falls, there are two little runs which again form only every so often and even then are thin. Private property to access, ask before you try getting up to it.
Which leads to The climbs past the end of River Road west out of Plains, ie Rainbow falls and the like:
We have confirmed with a GPS that the Popsicle, the right and left spike, rainbow falls and anything north of rainbow falls is on Forest Service Land. That said you can not access the Popsicle or the spikes except for going through Private Property. The only way to access Rainbow without crossing private property is by crossing the river somehow. There are some willing landowners who live on the private road that leads to these climbs, but you have to take the time to stop in and ask them for individual permission. The other option is to cross the river, land near Rainbow falls and hike up Outlaw gully to access the top of the climbs and then scramble/rappel into them. All of these climbs have formed in one shape or another each of the last three years, but getting to them involves more work than it used to.