Snake River Ice Climbing: A Guide
The Snake River is home to some challenging sporty rock climbs, but few realize that every year when the temperatures drop, Ice climbing can be had on either side of the water. The climbs are conveniently locate in the vicinity of Granite Point, a popular rock climbing area in the Palouse. For the climbs on the South side of the river, a boat can be launched just opposite of the climbs making for a pleasant paddle on calm water.
One Winter day in 2010, departing Pullman during the calm that so often inhabits Saturday mornings, my two partners and I made the 40 minute drive to the Snake River. We hauled an aluminum canoe, planning to cross the river and explore the unclimbed ice that could be seen from the north bank of the river. We crossed a quiet flow of water and landed beneath our first climb. Ben Herndon, a local photographer set up to take some shots, while Craig Pope and I climbed “Wilma’s Life Jacket” 20m (WI3+). The climb was the most likely prospect during our gentle paddle, and it was a cool single pitch climb in a Fjord like setting with the huge expanse of water below. We then hopped back in our canoe and paddled west to climb “No Wake Zone” (WI3+). This particular climb is wide, and would be great for a large party (outdoor rec. group) of people looking to hone there skills. I had crossed water, or ice rather, to climb on the seldom reached west side of Banks lake in the winter of 2007. I remember how much more out-there it felt than the climbs with the road right below. These climbs on the snake feel so much better than that. The setting. The beauty.
Since this day on the Snake, I have wanted to make apparent to WSU or UI students, and residents of the Palouse area, that there is in fact ice climbing in their part of the world – a place that is all too often labeled baron of such activities. During my time at WSU I climbed ice in Elk River falls, ID. The Snake River area, and unsuccessfully on the misty walls of Palouse Falls. More First ascents are a sure thing for those willing to get out in the still air Palouse winters.
To see more of Ben Herndon’s photography click here.