OverviewMoonage Daydream (AKA Watchtower Gully) is probably the longest water ice climb in California. When it forms completely (which doesn't happen every year) it is around 1,000 feet, or 6-7 pitches long. The nature and difficulty (nominally WI4) of the climb depends entirely on how much ice there is, and where it is. The route forms from melt water flowing from the west-facing snowfields above, so the ice starts forming at the top, and then works its way down. If not fully formed, the lower section may be dry rock, thin ice, or verglas and snow-covered hell. The technical crux will vary, but will be found on the lower half of the climb. If you're planning on attempting this route be aware that it is threatened by avalanche from the slopes above the climb, as well as the snowfield halfway up. Beacons and probes aren't the answer--just stay away if you have information suggesting that either might be unstable. It could ruin your whole day.
ApproachFrom Lodgepole, follow the Tokopah Valley trail from the east end of the parking lot a little more than a mile until you are directly beneath the climb. There are many options available for reaching the base of the route. All involve finding a way across the stream, followed by steep snow, and possibly ice covered slabs. The most straightforward approach continues past the climb 100-200 yards until you see an open slope leading up and right towards some trees just beneath the start of the route. This approach avoids having to contend with rock steps, water ice, and possibly unstable snow on top of ice.
Route DescriptionThere is no mystery as to where the route lies. The first pitch ascends a pillar spilling out of a lower angle gully. The gully dead ends in a headwall, above which lies a couple of hundred feet of steep snow. 3-4 pitches to the snowfield, depending on where you place belays. Above the snow lie two beautiful cascades of ice over steep slabs. Though these are more like WI3 in difficulty, they are quite striking from below, and aesthetic to climb. The upper step is a full 60m rope length to an ice belay, or about 70m to a tree belay.
Supposedly, if the first pitch isn't formed, it is possible to bypass on rock to the right. This is of course completely dependent on conditions. If dry, this option might be in the 5.9 range, but snow and ice could make it considerably more difficult.