I was down in Red Rock earlier this month for a guide course and thought I'd stop in the Sierra on the way back and do a little scrambling. The north ridge of LPP had been on my list for a while and I figured it was far enough south to be fairly snow free given the general lack of snow this year, so why not go hit that.
Not mine. I didn't take a lot of pictures so I'm going to be shamlessly ripping pictures from this Supertopo trip report
The ranger in Lone Pine told me the Whitney portal road was closed and like a fool I believed her. Thus I parked down at Lone Pine campground and hiked the extra couple of miles up to the portal planning to bivy there only to find cars in the lot. Doh! Knowing this would be a long day I got up at 5 the next morning, hiked most of the meysen lake trail in the dark.
Mine. First light on the ridge. The route is the obvious left skyline, summit in the middle.
Mine. Some nice couloirs. Unfortunately it would be a long hike just to get to the snow and even then the condition were pretty bad, crust on dust. I had some fun postholing through it later.
I passed a tent in Meysen basin where one leaves the trail, surprised to see anyone else up there. I came up to the ridge abit lower than the gully shown on the above picture, popping out about where the yellow arrow is (though note the complete north ridge does another 2-3000 feet of scrambling to get to this point). Once I got to the top of the first tower, I thought I heard voices above, and sure enough before long, some folks were rapping down the second tower (second note, the numbering of the towers appears to be inconsistent between various tops, I will be using the numbers above but ymmv). Turns out it was a guide I knew and a client. They had ended up bivying a bit higher up but with all that gear were just moving too slowly to finish so they were backing off. I spent some time chatting with them despite needing to keep moving since I definitely did not have the gear to spend a night out. Or at least anything but a very miserable night out. Taking off again, I dropped down left/east from the notch in some snow to a groove where I saw their boot prints.
Not mine. The groove.
The guys in the trip report roped up here and there was much more snow and ice on it now. I got up about as far as he is before deciding this was stupid, climbed back down. Investigating to the right/west of the notch where my friend rapped down yielded a slightly steeper but much more secure line, 5.7 handjams versus icy 5.5 slab.
Not mine. Super cool fin above.
Boot prints again went up the right tongue of snow, but I was in rock shoes at this point, so I thought I'd follow a thin ribbon of exposed rock on the left side. Once I got up and was committed to it, I noticed a strange brown substance spread over the rock. Someone had smeared *** all over the only holds! This is one way to deal with human waste, wag bags are better obviously, but for the love of god don't do it on the route itself. There was thin snow covered slab separating me from the good snow tongue at this point so I didn't really have a choice but to delicately climb up, brushing crap off each little nubbin hoping I didn't slip off. Not fun.
Above the fin I did some more fun, slightly steeper climbing that probably could have been avoided by downclimbing left to a ledge, but what's the fun in that? But it meant that by the time I got to the second notch I was slightly sketched out. And I knew the next tower was supposed to be the crux of the route, but didn't quite remember where exactly one was supposed to go.
Not mine. I guessed the dihedral on the far left might go, but didn't look very promising given the snow so I was looking for an alternate.
Not mine. I poked around for a bit over to the right/west side of the ridge again on steeper but hopefully more secure terrain. I did find the old ring piton that apparently marks the standard route, but didn't want to commit to the exposed move so ended up coming back down to the notch.
Running out of options and running out of time before I would be able to reverse what I had done before nightfall, I made one last go traversing far right on a ledge. I hoped this would take me all the way to the next gully but it cliffed out just short. Vowing to retreat immediately if it didn't work, I headed up the corner where the ledge ended and luckily managed to piece together something that got me back up to the ridgecrest.
Mine. View of the final headwall.
The climbing eased a bit here thankfully, more like 4th class with nice intermittant ledges to make one feel a little safer. I don't know that they would actually stop you if you fell, and even then a broken leg up there would be pretty bad, but I always feel better soloing when there's at least something under me. I was pretty worked at this point, having done something like two thousand feet of hiking and another three thousand feet of climbing/scrambling, so I couldn't properly enjoy it, but through the haze I remember thinking this was the best part of the route. I popped out right onto the summit at around 4pm.
Mine. I had been eyeing the snow slopes about 1/3 from left as the descent as I climbed. They looked easy enough, but were a long way away, requiring climbing back up/around the high point on the left, probably a mile from the true summit.
Not mine. Luckily it turns out there's a much better descent much closer. The other author got suckered into some other chutes and had a rough time. The correct one is the skier's leftmost and is easy scree sliding the whole way.
I was super stoked to find the easy way down since it probably cut an hour or two off my descent. I had to posthole through a fair bit of snow to get back to where the trail emerged again around 10,000 feet. I still ended up hiking down in the dark but at least I made it to the trail in the light. Made it back to the portal at around 9, so 16 hours camp to camp, no speed record but I was just glad not to have epiced given my various bumblings. All in all, this is a great route, would definitely recommend, though I'd probably rather bring a partner and simul climb it next time or at least wait until the snow is fully melted. That said, it was totally climbable with the snow and Whitney looked good to go. Looks like it's going to be a great early Sierra climbing season.