December 27, 2016


Front Range: O’Malley – Williwaw Lakes (O’Malley Falls ice climb)

Took Little O’Malley Gully to the ballfield down to Williwaw Lakes and O’Malley Falls ice climb.  The east sidewall of the Little O’Malley Gully is heavily wind loaded (cross loaded).  It is prone to avalanche, and advisable to hike away from it.

Climbed O’Malley Falls, which is fat with very nice ice.  In some areas there is a superficial ice crust, but most of the route is plastic goodness getting slightly more brittle with elevation gain.  Beware that the climb is in an avalanche path, and there is a lower angle snow slope between ice pitches that could also slide.

Took the NE ridge from the top of the falls to the summit of O’Malley, then followed the ridge over False Peak back to the Little O’Malley gully trail.  Snow coverage is generally very thin except in catchment and wind loaded areas.  There was some post holing on snow slopes to get around gendarmes on the ridge; it was generally breakable wind board less than knee deep, but was up to chest deep in heavily faceted areas around rock outcroppings.  Some subtle “whumphs” (collapses) were experienced on upper elevations leeward slopes that were crossed.

Hiking (microspikes useful, but not necessary) was the most efficient means of travel today, as there is not enough snow to warrant snowshoes or skis.

Heavily cross loaded gully sidewall that experienced a small avalanche likely during the most recent wind event (near summer trail between Black Lake and Williwaw Lakes).  Gully sidewalls and steep slopes at the uppermost elevations are the most prone to avalanche given current snow coverage:


O’Malley Falls and the Williwaw Lakes area:


O’Malley Falls:


O’Malley Falls from the top:


Williwaw Lakes & Pass area from the top of O’Malley Falls:


O’Malley NE cirque and ridge:


Williwaw Lakes area from O’Malley summit:


Middle Fork Campbell Creek valley:


South Fork Campbell Creek (Powerline) valley: