Trip Report
A Horsetail Tale with Em Knot and Cragman
Thursday January 6, 2011 7:49pm
There are myriad benefits that all of us receive here at the Tacostand. For me, perhaps none is as great as the friendships that I have developed in my relatively short 18 months here.

Led here originally through the awful circumstances of the death of our mutual friend JB, I can now say that in the shadow of that tragedy, I now know more of this "tribe" to which we all belong, and I am richer for it. And for that, I am eternally grateful. For me, at it's core, this sport has been about relationships; even more so than summits.

Today, I had the priviledge of reaping the benefit of hanging around this site; the opportunity to spend some quality time with Em Knot. I met Em here last winter, shortly before I managed to inflict severe injury upon myself, thereby taking myself out of an extraordinary ice season, and more importantly, out of the joy of adding to a friendship.

In the time since then, Em realized a dream; she moved to this incredible east side of the Range of Light, and is not wasting any time getting after it!

Em responded within minutes to my quest here on the Taco yesterday for a partner, and frankly, it wasn't for climbing. It was for breaking trail up to Horsetail Falls after the monstrous snowfalls over Christmas. She told me she only had half a day, but I felt that at least we could get the approach in, with a slight chance for some tool swinging.

We left the cars at 7:45, with a temperature of 5F. This approach gives one virtually zero warm-up, it's pretty much straight to the business, and at it's steepest right from the start.

We were both in 32" snowshoes, and sinking in 12 to 14 inches. Needless to say, we were sucking O's pretty quick.

Following the trestles approach, there are basically two distinct steps to ascend before leaving the trestles to get over to the Falls. The first step, about 200 meters high, is the steepest, with a slight break of 50 meters before ascending the second step, which is about 100 meters high. Here's Em, breaking trail at the top of the first step:

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This is my 23rd winter here, and I have NEVER seen this amount of snow on the approach to Horsetail! It was consistantly six to eight feet deep on the trestles, which had me rather skeptical about the more avalanche prone traverse above, from the trestles to the Falls.

We made good time, in spite of the difficulty, and stopped often for both a breather and some amazing photo opportunities.

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Near the top of the trestles, the snow began to change drastically from deep powder, to a mixture of wind slab, firm wind pack, and Sastrugi ridges.

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It was here at the top of the trestles that we were treated to a REAL bonus; a huge avalanche had, in recent days, come down off the cliff band above, sweeping down across our route! In all these years, I have NEVER seen this spot go!

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In the shot above, you can see the cliff band that released, from near the two dark trees on the right, all the way across the skyline to the sun/shade line; a distance of about 125 meters! A crown face is slightly visible near the two trees, though the area had almost completely wind-loaded back in.

I was relieved to see that this slide had come down, offering us safer passage, at least for about 60 meters.

Here are some shots of crossing the deposition zone, which was about 25 feet deep.

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Looking up the center of the run-out zone:

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Stunning view of Pap Smear, looming on the wall above us:

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Some beautiful wind-carved flutings amidst the deposition zone:

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Leaving the relative safety of the deposition zone, it was clear we had some dodgy terrain to cover. I felt the avalanche was caused by radiant heating of the cliff band first thing in the morning, causing a section to slide, and creating a sympathetic release in the small bowl where that crown was visible. However, the same cliff band slightly further south, was not getting the sun, and had not slid. We altered our course to avoid being directly in the kill zone, and decided to dig a pit.

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We dug through approximately 4 1/2 feet of snow to reach the ground. We found a very small, 2 inch layer of faceted snow at ground level, followed by a VERY firm layer of about 18 inches, then another firm 12 inch layer, all topped with about an 18 inch layer of powder; our most recent system. Then we set to administering a shovel sheer test.

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We observed three distinct sheers, including one at near climax level.

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I determined the avalanche danger at the vicinity of the pit to be moderate, and in the shadowed, wind-loaded slopes above us, high. We continued on, keeping a safe line away from the danger above.

Here's Em following across the creek, 12 to 14 feet below her under a snow bridge!

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The last 100 meters up to the Falls begins by ascending the gully pictured below; a shallow slot of about 60 feet high, with a tree growing out of it at mid-height. Normally this section is mostly rock; today it was SICK DEEP SNOW! We shed our snowshoes and I started kicking steps.

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The tree is a welcome point of aid, with the crux of the gully about 6 feet above the tree; perhaps 60 degrees and BOTTOMLESS snow. Here's Em 4th classing her way up.

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From the top of the gully, the rest of the approach is pretty simple, and in a normal year, all on smooth rock slab. Today, there was no rock to be found. Once again, I have never seen this much snow on this section, which actually made the climbing MUCH easier, and safer. Here's Em doing a little drafting through that section.

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A few more meters higher, we caught our first glimpse of the Falls.

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Here's Em making the last few steps to the base.

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Just south of the Falls is a prominent gully. Today, this gully was COMPLETELY FILLED IN, and had self-propogated in recent days. Take note of the BLOCKS in the debris field, and the crown face, nearly obscured by spindrift and windslab.

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NEVER seen this kind of action here before! REALLY IMPRESSIVE!!!

Here's a shot of the bottom edge of the Falls, with Pap Smear in the background center, and Tatum's Falls in the gully back and right.

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With Em's limited time today, and the 2 1/2 hours we spent on the approach, we were unfortunately without time for a single pitch of ice. But that was OK by me, as my goal had been reached; to bust open the trail.

Em at the base, wishing for more time.

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Turn around time came all too soon, but we were content with our accomplishment of making it to the ice in the time we had, and safely at that. Rather than try and downclimb the gully, we elected to rap via a tree and the Dulfersitz method.

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Returning on the relative safety of our tracks, we made our way back to some warm sunshine at the trestles, and some much needed calorie intake.

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With some food down-loaded, and after some deeply personal and cathartic conversation (thank-you Em), we turned toward the bottom of the trestles to give the track a final good packing!

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And back at the road after a 5 hour mini adventure, right in my backyard.

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The climbing at Horsetail isn't Lee Vining Canyon in quality, but is WELL WORTH the hike! Just the approach alone can be a joy, as it proved today.

PLEASE BE AWARE that much danger still exists in regard to avalanching, especially between the existing debris field and the creek crossing; about a 200 meter traverse. Of course, as each day goes by, this could either improve or get worse; weather dependent. Feel free to contact me for updates.

Presently, go FULL AVALANCHE READY, with beacons, shovel, probe, and most of all, know how.

With the trail now open (YOUR WELCOME!!!:) expect 45 minutes to an hour for approach time, if one is in decent shape and relatively acclimatized.

I don't know how many times I've done this approach now...countless. But I have to say, I have NEVER had a better time than I did today. Extraordinary, unprecedented conditions were a part of that, but mostly, it was the incredible partner I had in Em.

She is extremely fit, deeply experienced, and most of all, up for anything! Her great attitude and full of life personality, are quite frankly, intoxicating! Do yourself a favor and look Em up here at the Taco, and make yourself a climbing date with her. I promise, you will not be disappointed!

Finally, I'd like to once again offer to anyone that wants to have an eastside adventure, to come on over! We have plenty of room if you want to bivy here, and I am ALWAYS a willing partner, should you need one.

Once again, thank-you Em Knot!

Safe Climbing,
Dean Rosnau




  Trip Report Views: 1,843
Cragman
About the Author
Cragman is a trad climber from June Lake, California....via the Damascus Road.

Comments
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Comment on this Trip Report
eKat

Trad climber
  Jan 6, 2011 - 07:54pm PT
Check it out!

Youz dadz ROCK!

TFPU!

eKat
Jaybro

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
  Jan 6, 2011 - 07:57pm PT
Looks like a great time! Good on you guys. Thanks for posting.
Park Rat

Social climber
CA, UT,CT,FL
  Jan 6, 2011 - 08:01pm PT
Dean,

Nice report and great pictures.

Park Rat
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
Maestro, Ecosystem Ministry, Fatcrackistan
  Jan 6, 2011 - 08:03pm PT
Em! Cragman!

Awesome!
Mike Bolte

Trad climber
Planet Earth
  Jan 6, 2011 - 08:05pm PT
That is an excellent report! Nice photos.
Robb

Social climber
It's Ault or Nunn south of Shy Annie
  Jan 6, 2011 - 08:14pm PT
Nice, but
"...go FULL AVALANCHE READY, with beacons, shovel, probe, and most of all, know how."

Didn't you forget to include poodles?
rhyang

climber
SJC
  Jan 6, 2011 - 08:19pm PT
Super !!
Mighty Hiker

climber
Vancouver, B.C.
  Jan 6, 2011 - 08:25pm PT
TFPU!

I wonder how many waterfalls around the world are named horsetail falls?
10b4me

climber
  Jan 6, 2011 - 08:33pm PT
thanks for the TR Dean. I might take you up on the partner offer this season.
mooser

Trad climber
seattle
  Jan 6, 2011 - 08:37pm PT
Fantastic, Dean! Thanks for the post, and cool about your new friendship!
tom woods

Gym climber
Bishop, CA
  Jan 6, 2011 - 08:37pm PT
Sounds like a good day. Sometimes, just getting out of the house is all it takes.

BTW- Scarpa Invernos?
sullly

Gym climber
  Jan 6, 2011 - 08:40pm PT
Fine report Cragman and Em. Now back to the skating rink with you Cragman.
bluering

Trad climber
Santa Clara, CA
  Jan 6, 2011 - 08:42pm PT
Em is an awesome gal. Never met her, but she comes off as priceless!

Dean, you and her have more adeventures in hand, I'm sure. I'm glad to see her having a good time in the playland, and Brutus would be too, I'm sure.

Have fun, the both of you!!!! Cool to see TacoHeads getting out. Enjoy!
em kn0t

Trad climber
isle of wyde
  Jan 6, 2011 - 08:48pm PT
nice one Dean -- thanks for a great workout!

Didn't you forget to include poodles?

au contraire...if you followed Tami's avalanche poodle thread you'd know that I'm a certified avy poodle.

But, quite truthfully I'm KNOT extremely fit; Dean broke trail 90% of the way. And I was whimpering about turning around as soon as I started seeing wind slabs and avy debris. I would've turned tail on this Horsetail tale had it not been for Dean's keen eye for threading a safe path. It was instructive to dig a pit, great to make it up to the base of the Falls, and SO COOL to do a Dulfersitz rappel!

woof!!woof!!
bergbryce

climber
East Bay, CA
  Jan 6, 2011 - 08:49pm PT
Looks like there is a ton of snow up there! Nice job you two.

I'd be happy to come bust some trail some time and clear some snow off that 'ol blue ice!
telemon01

Trad climber
Montana
  Jan 6, 2011 - 08:52pm PT

nice one
Gal

Trad climber
going big air to fakie
  Jan 6, 2011 - 09:03pm PT
I really enjoyed reading this. Sounds fun and adventurous, not to mention beautiful! I'm inspired! You two are tough!
Studly

Trad climber
WA
  Jan 6, 2011 - 09:04pm PT
Rowdy
em kn0t

Trad climber
isle of wyde
  Jan 6, 2011 - 09:18pm PT
This guy IS tough! and smart...

Dean & sastrugi (with Pieps)
Dean & sastrugi (with Pieps)
Credit: em kn0t

Dean just below & left of Horsetail Falls. Big chunks of slab debris i...
Dean just below & left of Horsetail Falls. Big chunks of slab debris in gully to climber's left of falls. Be careful out there folks.
Credit: em kn0t


Dean looking up at the Falls. Pap Smear, in center background, looked ...
Dean looking up at the Falls. Pap Smear, in center background, looked pretty warm and wet. It was sad to hear the story of Pete Schoerner's accident there. Pete sounds like an amazing mountain man. RIP
Credit: em kn0t
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
Maestro, Ecosystem Ministry, Fatcrackistan
  Jan 6, 2011 - 09:34pm PT
Em how was the climbing? You gonna gun me up that thing here in a few weeks? Last time I was in there was with Burl. Looked like great weather.
rockermike

Trad climber
Berkeley
  Jan 6, 2011 - 10:18pm PT
Wow, you even make snowshoeing sound like fun. But wouldn't skis have been even more fun?
Cragman

Trad climber
June Lake, California....via the Damascus Road
Author's Reply  Jan 6, 2011 - 10:41pm PT
Hey, nice to see the comments here....and so soon.

I've been hanging with the family for a few hours, and am now sitting by a warm fire, and enjoying the Crown Royal (strictly medicinal purposes :), so thought I would visit.

So much fun with you today Em. Thanks for posting up a few pics. Couldn't you photoshop out the old dude wrinkles though? :)

Hey Tom Woods, nice spotting, as those are my old Invernos, the PINK model! I have the more recent version (black), but this older pair have been such a great 'friend' to me over the years...I just can't seem to leave them behind. Silly, I know, but we've been through much together, and frankly, THEY WORK GREAT! I'm enough of a nutjob to handle the wisecracks too. :)

Would love to partner up with anyone, so don't hesitate to call, whether it's ice, peaks, cragging....whatever!

Bluey, I hope you are correct in that I have many more days in my future hanging with Em. She's the real deal.

Cheers all,
DR

EDIT: Rockermike, skis on this line are worthless. Snowshoes are truly the ONLY way to go for this approach. I will continue to pack the route, so hopefully from here on out, boots will be fine!

10b4me, the door is open dude. It'd be a pleasure to see you again.
Flanders!

Trad climber
June Lake, CA
  Jan 6, 2011 - 11:43pm PT


nice one Dean, and you are so correct that it's the company that really makes it,
so much more than the climbing/outing. Great pics of the home turf. Out here in Ouray
there is so little snow, shocking.


Doug
Lynne Leichtfuss

Trad climber
Will know soon
  Jan 7, 2011 - 12:07am PT
Terrific TR Cragman and Em.....Wow !!! love from lynnie

Bertrand

climber
California
  Jan 7, 2011 - 12:12am PT
Thanks for the awesome TR, Dean. I will definitely get out there soon. I thought RM had a good point, it looked like a fun opportunity for AT gear..at least on the descent.
johnboy

Trad climber
Can't get here from there
  Jan 7, 2011 - 12:13am PT
Just fantastic bump.

It doesn't get any better than that in my eyes. Very nice.
flakyfoont

Trad climber
carsoncity nv
  Jan 7, 2011 - 01:46am PT
Cragman ,and Em Knot,awesome trail breaking session. I havent seen that much snow up there since '83. Good work. Lots of calories burned on my end just lookin at the photos. Thanks for the share. Ive gotta get down there soon ! i'll be sure to look you up .
Jan

Mountain climber
Colorado, Nepal & Okinawa
  Jan 7, 2011 - 05:34am PT
Great to see a winter report on an adventure that didn't take a lot of technical expertise. It gives hope to a lot of the rest of us.

Please do more trips and more reports!
Cragman

Trad climber
June Lake, California....via the Damascus Road
Author's Reply  Jan 7, 2011 - 10:12am PT
Thanks all for the shares and input.

In regards to skis on this line, there is really no good descent line. The approach on the trestles is too narrow for making decent turns, and the rest of the slope is REALLY tight with trees, boulders, and general tanglefest.

I guess I am at a loss for why so many turn their nose up to snowshoes. This line is a classic case for their usefulness, and the more time one spends on them, improving on one's technique, the more desirable they become.

As I said above, in the case of this approach, it will soon be packed enough to where boots alone will be perfect. The line just needs some traffic!!!! (hint, hint)

Doug, you've been around here longer than I; have you ever seen an avalanche of that magnitude up there? That crown was right at The Staircase.

Cheers all,
DR
pc

climber
  Jan 7, 2011 - 11:07am PT
Fantastic Adventure! Thanks for the great TR and Photos.

Nice going Dean and Em.

cheers,
pc
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
  Jan 7, 2011 - 11:13am PT
Yes, very inspiring. Cragman, glad to see you out there burning serious calories like that, way to rep for us 50-something peeps.

I was a little surprised you guys elected not to keep your snowshoes on for the steep ascent part in the last bit given the look of the snow in the pictures - kickin in with the crampons - then again, I wasn't there. :)

Enjoyed the write up, too. TFPU.



P.S. Just read your last post. I'm a believer, too. FWIW. In snowshoes having their place, that is.
Cragman

Trad climber
June Lake, California....via the Damascus Road
Author's Reply  Jan 7, 2011 - 11:18am PT
Fruc, thanks for the post.

Snowshoes from the gully up to the ice were really not the way to go. Too steep in the gully, and many times one is stemming across the slot, with occasional contact with rock. Above that, the snow was firm enough from windpack to make travel very easy in boots.

We never put on crampons at all yesterday.

Cheers,
DR

EDIT: By the way, I'm still in my 40's.
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
  Jan 7, 2011 - 11:45am PT
Ha. 49 then? if memory serves? ;)

What, did you not have crampon attachments on your snowshoes? Pardon my oversight, then, as they are always a staple on mine. Used not just for ice but for 6" - 24" semi-consolidated snow, incl. sierra concrete over ice. But you are spot on from a previous post - a couple dozen different snow conditions out there, each calling for its own way or ways, I was merely posting some of my morning curiosity...

P.S. I'm 50. ;)
Cragman

Trad climber
June Lake, California....via the Damascus Road
Author's Reply  Jan 7, 2011 - 11:59am PT
Fruc, yeah, crampons on the snowshoes, but it was never that firm in the upper, steep sections. Frankly, just too steep for snowshoes; boots were much better.

Yep, 49, but still feel 25.
Wade Icey

Trad climber
www.alohashirtrescue.com
  Jan 7, 2011 - 01:30pm PT
nice one
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Jan 7, 2011 - 01:58pm PT
Had heard that the area is a 'possible' avy zone, but had not seen evidence. Good wake up call for the weekend warriors of us. Thx Dean.


"I'm a certified avy poodle."

LOL!!!!

Does Tami do training?
Cragman

Trad climber
June Lake, California....via the Damascus Road
Author's Reply  Jan 7, 2011 - 05:07pm PT
How about an Avy Cat; they're expendable! :)
Cragman

Trad climber
June Lake, California....via the Damascus Road
Author's Reply  Jan 7, 2011 - 08:32pm PT
Marina was just overhearing my phone conversation with a friend, telling him about yesterday's avalanche zone. I didn't realize she was picking up on every word.

When I hung up the phone she said, "Pop, what's an avy poodle?"


BWAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHA!!!!!!!!!! LOL!!!!!!!!!
msiddens

Trad climber
  Jan 7, 2011 - 10:13pm PT
Great one guys- keep 'er up!
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Jan 7, 2011 - 11:37pm PT
Thanks for sharing cragman and Em Knott
10b4me

climber
  Dec 31, 2012 - 11:21am PT
How is Horsetail these days? Buried?
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