I meandered up to see how the melt-out was progressing in Middle Echo Canyon this morning. With all this hot weather, seems like it should be getting close to ready to open up soon.
Arriving at the canyon crossing on the trail, I was not too surprised to find the pools full and flowing slightly (maybe 1/10 cfs). I pulled on a wet suit and plunged in to the cooling water. Seemed to go pretty well with only one largish snow chunk up into the “Echo Chamber”, and then after about 30 minutes of climbing upcanyon, I encountered the first serious obstacle. In a narrow section, several very large chunks of snow/ice were pinned 20 feet above the canyon floor, dripping furiously, and perhaps 50 feet long. Passage beneath was easy.
A few minutes past that, a 20-foot-tall plug of snow on the canyon bottom blocked the way; it was broken into chunks and had re-frozen. I considered climbing past this section, but could see some broken down trees in the canyon above this, and felt I was still quite a ways from the last rappel. I was also solo, so pushing the envelope was not in the equation. I turned around here. Of note, there were 2-3 swims in icewater to get that far.
I suspect the hanging chunks are melting out fast, and could fall at any time. I estimate 1 to 3 weeks before it melts out enough to be “visitor-friendly”. I suspect that hard-core canyoneers could make there way through using tools such as ice axes and avalanche shovels – but since I did not make it to the last rappel, it is hard to say. The next section of the canyon above where I stopped is quite narrow, and there were tips of big pine trees sticking up, suggesting the canyon may be blocked with both snow and with tree debris.