On sept 21st I went up the East Buttress route on Mt. Whitney with Sean from our Truckee store. On the next day we tried Mt. Russell Fish Hook Arete, which I made a second trip report for. This long stretch of pics is of the hike in to Iceberg Lake, and our Whitney Climb. If you're curious about some minor descent talk and pictures back to the Whitney Portal Trailhead, check out the Mt. Russell post.
We camped above Lone Pine off the portal road and were treated to a nice view of the mountains and our route in the morning.
The Alabama Hills are really cool. Some day I'd like to explore around all those dirt roads and do a little climbing. But....perfect white granite awaits above!
Lone Pine Peak is on the left, with the long north ridge on it's right skyline. On the list.
4300' in 4 miles gets your 40-50lb pack wearing body to Iceberg Lake. Mine was the 50, with all the climbing gear. The weather was predicted to be perfect for a few days! We didn't bring a tent, just a hardware store tarp for emergency bivy. No water filter either, we used Micropur tablets. I could see shaving 10 lbs fairly easily with a lighter material pack (forget it, Dakine's guide pack has features for every sport and only costs $140). Less powerfood and fuel, we had extra for sure. Or less pro. Nope, not giving that up either. I also bring the SPOT personal locator beacon, primarily so I can send a message that I'm okay to the family. This is way cheaper than a sat phone, and they appreciate it. SPOT also sends a pre-determined message, and also a request for help obviously to SAR/Government agencies through their website. My pre-determined message says "I'm okay, but won't be home on time". All of this for 8oz and $160. The new one coming out this fall is 5oz. No it doesn't tell you where you are. Yes, let's get on with the story. Buy a SPOT at our store www.thebackcountry.net
I'd heard of the Ebersbacher Ledges being a little sketchy. No big deal for a climber, but perhaps not something you want to negotiate in the dark. I'd been up whitney twice. Once on the Mt. Whitney summer trail, and another time skiing to the summit using the Mountaineers Gully and this same North Fork of Lone Pine Creek trail. Skiing of course we just went straight up the drainage and flew back down. Anyway, I figured for this first summertime trip to the mountaineering area of Whitney, I'd come back before it gets dark. It's pretty easy to follow large cairns along the way. In the dark however, you'de need a strong headlamp and prior map/guidebook study. I think this is reasonable now that I've gone through there. I know people do it all the time too. Anyway, at this point I realized we probably only had time to climb to the TOP of one of our objectives, Whitney or Russell. We needed to get back to the car after the 2nd day of climbing by dark AND drive to Las Vegas in time to go to bed for Interbike tradeshow the next morning.
Lower boyscout lake on the right. Skirt it on the south side. Follow cairns to get through thick bushes and over wet slabs.
We took a break at Upper Boy Scout Lake. This is where you would camp to climb the 3rd class Mt. Russell East Ridge. Some suggest doing the south side climbs too from here in a long hike if you wanted to descend the East Ridge.
BAM. finally you see it. Day Needle, Keeler Needle, and Mt. Whitney 14,496'. Our East Buttress climb is the right skyline of the peak on the right.
Above Upper Boy Scout Lake, you follow cairns and a well worn trail to the base of wet slabs with grass and flowers growing. The route follows immediately below that, and bangs a right and climbs straight uphill to Iceberg Lake as soon as the wetness ends.
X marks the Whitney - Russell Pass. This is about a 30 minute hike from camp at Iceberg Lake, where you get the full view and access to Mt. Russell's South Side. You can also get up there from Upper Boyscout Lake with a little longer hike.
We started hiking at 9am and spent about 5 hours getting to Iceberg Lake. No rushing neccessary, there was no climbing to be done today. Sean took a nap and I hiked around above Iceberg Lake to check out the area. This is looking at the northeast side of Whitney. The East Buttress doesn't look steep at all from this angle. Which way to go is the question though. After my first season doing alpine rock climbs, I see the realistic amount of beta you can get from guide books. I couldn't do it without them, but you're lucky to find half of the terrain features shown on a guidebook topo.
View of Mt. Russell from the Whitney Russell Pass. I drew a line on the classic and beautiful Fish Hook Arete we would go up the next day. I chose Whitney for the first day, figuring that we would definately have time to summit one of these peaks with our Iceberg Lake Camp. The next day would be tricky to summit Russell and be back at the car before dark. Russell wasn't exactly "right next" to Whitney as I had imagined. Plus we are not fast or high level climbers. We did pretty well all things considered the next day actually, you'll have to read that post.
My little afternoon tour from our camp at Iceberg Lake. Lone Pine Peak's northwest side in the background. I hiked up a class 2 route to the summit of Lone Pine Peak with Steph a few years ago, from the Meysan Lakes Trailhead. I keep trying to get a spring ski trip in up there, but it hasn't snowed much in this zone for many years.
Here is Sean wondering what he got himself into here. The route we choose is rated 5.7, and ignorance is bliss sometimes. No need telling him we might need to climb something harder or rappel, which he hadn't done before. Sean did amazing and helped me climb the thing really. A solid climbing partner from day one. Which was up the street from the shop and kind of recently come to think of it!
BAM again! 6am. We thought we had the mountain to ourselves, when a south shore team of 2 appeared to climb the same route. They hiked 4 hours starting at 3am, and I knew one of the guys from shopping in our store recently. Since they were geared up and closer to the climb, I didn't try to beat them up there to start. We took our time getting ready, only to hike up there and they hadn't even started yet. Now that I know how slow a climb like this can be, I would start before the sun hits the rock and just tough out a cold first pitch. I read about some tahoe guys doing the route in 3 hours. This is a 10-12 pitch climb. Although I could cut our time in half knowing the route now, we spent 6-7 hours climbing it. And it's a LONG way down.
I was a little worried about rockfall or being in each other's way, but quickly realized this route wanders all over the place. No problem, and they turned out to be much faster climbers than us anyway. Funny, we both made the same mistake of starting the climb at the notch between tower 1 and 2. This was rated 5.8, and warned as "not recommended" in Supertopo. I kind of wanted to do this way initially anyway and found protection to be fine. Quite loose though, and this first pitch puts you in a poor position to transfer to pitch 2. Some airy downclimbing and rope route engineering worked out fine, but took extra time. We got a nice view of the 5.7 East Face route from this notch too. I look forward to doing that route next time.
Sean high on Whitney's east side, with Mt. Russell behind him. I believe this picture is where Supertopo calls belay 7. We went directly up after traversing the loose flakes, in a short vertical chimney that could be the 5.6 on the topo. Then I definately found the 5.8 chimney, and climbed about half of it before going left onto the 3rd class scree field.
The last pitch to the summit required some looking around. I could hear people and see the sun, but was staring at hard moves to get there. Then I spied a large cairn and traversed around to it with a long drop beneath me. This worked well and we packed up the gear right below the actual summit plateau knowing we were done.
My line shows the Mt. Whitney hiking trail to the summit. This is 22 miles round trip. Our route was more direct and more adventurous, and many people go up there every day without intentions of technical rock climbing. A few by accident I bet too. Most people going up to Iceberg Lake are climbing the Mountaineers Route (class 3). Pretty sandy and loose. If you're hiring a guide to go up there, I'd do one of the two 5.7 routes with an ASI guide and come down the Mountaineers route like we did. It's not going to be any longer if you can follow 5.7 easily, and you'll see both routes. www.alpineskills.com
These guys used to be based out of Lone Pine, and Bela himself has guided Whitney over 50 times. His guides will take care of you and zip you up the routes the right way.
The summit emergency shelter and someone sleeping on top for his birthday.
Descending the Mountaineers Route is not something you could do in the dark. We had to shop around looking for hand holds, generally on the sides of the gully. The descent is split into two sections. The top is steeper, and has a cruxy finish with just the right sequence to gain the notch, and second part. Bang a right and look for the notch and big cairn accessing the east facing gully for Iceberg Lake. This gets steeper as you go down further. The entire descent is slippery.
Now I'm wishing I had snow and skis. My winter ski tour of Mt. Whitney is here:
http://www.thebackcountry.net/bb/viewto ... ht=whitney
Sean is finally spit out a the end. What a great day!