Cascade Falls is a fantastic place for beginners to try their skill at ice climbing. The ice is located at the head of Cascade Lake. The pitches range from WI 2-3. Start at the Bay View Campground and traverse across the slope above Cascade Lake. About ½ mile from the campground, take the approach trail that cuts across the creek. Follow this downhill until you reach the top of the waterfall. To reach the bottom of the climbs either rappel or climb down some hazardous terrain 90 feet to the right of the falls. This approach can take ½ an hour to an hour.
Gun Tower Cliffs is only 1.5 miles south of Meyers. The routes here are classified as WI 2-3 and are frequently thin. Do not ski in from above the cliffs as it is illegal due to avalanche hazards. Park at the Caltrans gun tower just before the big left curve on highway 50 to approach this climb. The cliffs are 200+ feet to the north from the gun tower.
Lake Audrian is located near Echo Summit and has slabs, gullies, faces, and sometimes thick, vertical pillars to offer. The routes here vary from WI 2-3 and WI 4 when pillars are present. Park in the turnout ½ mile west of Echo Summit on the south side of Highway 50. Ski across the bridge and up the ridge. Traverse along the north and east shores of the lake to reach the cliffs. When descending, go west and down the slopes.
Mount Ralston’s face is southwest to Echo Lakes Lodge. Sometimes ice climbing can be found on the northeast face of the peak.
Lover’s Leap can be tricky in route finding as you approach it seems the ice is unconditioned when, in fact, the route is actually in good condition. The feature here is Eeyore’s Fantasy (WI 4-5) which is almost 500 feet long. Approach this climb by ascending the Main Ledge through a gully.
This climb is at the north bowl of Echo Peak. The route has a long approach, but the climbing here is great. You will ski up Angora Ridge Road to the resort at Upper Angora Lake. The climb leads up a gully toward the eastern side of the cliff face above the lake. This is high avalanche area!
Eagle Creek Canyon has many different options for ice climbing. Park in the parking lot off Highway 89 at Emerald Bay. Check road conditions before heading out as Highway 89 in this area is closed due to snow a lot of the times. There are many small formations if you hike south up Eagle Creek Canyon. Most of them are in the trees and up gullies on the north side of the canyon. Mayhem Cove is on the right side of the canyon near the beginning of the approach. This route is called The Devil’s Coat Tails and is rated as a WI 4-5 climb that is 65 feet.
If you hike or ski up Eagle Lake Trail toward Velma Lakes, there are occasionally some climbs that form on the north side of Maggies Peak. When the ice has formed here, the climbs up the gullies can be up to 700 feet tall. The climbs rate WI 3-4.
At Eagle Lake itself, there are several routes that form along the cliffs just south of the lake. These climbs range from WI 3-4 and 65-125 feet in length. If head up one mile past Eagle Lake there is a wide slab of ice that forms call The Sunny Falls. The Sunny Falls offer 65 foot routes that rate WI 3-4. There are also some climbs that form occasionally along the north face cliffs between The Sunny Falls and the lake. These routes are WI 3-4 and 65 foot long climbs.
Lastly, The Inertia Tube (WI 4+, 65’) forms a little more than a half a mile just south of the parking lot at Emerald Bay and 150 feet through the forest up hill.
This climb forms in the chimney of the north face of Crag Peak. This route is one of the longest in the Tahoe area, at 650+ feet. This route is technical and steep. Crag Peak is along the boundary of Desolation Wilderness. There many approaches to this climb which is Southwest of Rubicon Peak. The easiest approach is to ski Rubicon Peak and descend toward Stony Ridge Lake. Then ski to Crag Peak. Expect to stay the night or have a very long day.
This climb comes and goes very quickly during the season… hence why the name is Here Today, Gone in Twenty Seconds. Thunder Cliffs is a WI 4-5 climb that lies between Tahoe City and Alpine Meadows Road. On Highway 89, one mile south of Tahoe City, park at the pullout at the private bridge crossing the Truckee River. So from the middle of the turnout the climbing route is directly across the highway at the cliff above the road. Look to see if you see ice before approaching the climb.
Donner Peak features ice climbing on the north face. Routes at Donner Peak vary from WI 3-4. To reach this climbing area, ski to the north side of Donner Peak from the top of Donner Pass Road. Then traverse above the railroad tracks toward the east. The routes will be directly above you and below the summit of Donner Peak.
Cold Stream Canyon climbing is located at the end of the canyon. This is a long backcountry approach which keeps it less crowded. There have been six lines led here. Cold Stream Canyon has some of the best ice climbing in Tahoe. There are two lines to the left of the buttress at the lower cliff- Code Red(far left, WI 4+) and Candle Spooge(WI 5). To the right of the buttress the four lines include from left to right: Coldstream (WI 4), Coldscream (WI 4), Code Blue (WI 4), and Walk on the Wild Side (WI3+).
The upper cliff offers shorter routes and ice bouldering. Skins are recommended for the approach to the upper cliff. The access the upper cliff, one needs to traverse behind Mount Lincoln toward Anderson Peak. Make sure not to trespass through Sugar Bowl Ski Resort. Also, make sure to allot plenty of time for this approach and the return trip as the route is difficult to navigate. As always, be aware of avalanche hazards.