Over the weekend the deep snow, bad weather and a poor forecast forced our first Whitney team off the mountain and back to Lone Pine. All made it back in good form, thus the mantra of ” Safety First” won again!
Team number two was scheduled to be on the mountain early this week but avalanche conditions prevented them from going above C1. Instead, they opted to go rock climbing today and will do some training tomorrow.
George called in from Upper Boy Scout Lake on Mt. Whitney today to report that the deep snow made for some difficult trail-breaking this afternoon. As a result, they pulled up short of the typical high camp location and will instead make up that time with lighter packs in the morning.
The last pitch before the summit. (Photo by Trent Carey)
George Dunn is finishing up his last minute checklist here in Washington before he jumps on a plane tomorrow to head down to Lone Pine, CA to kick-off the IMG climbing season on Mt. Whitney.
Most people climb Whitney in the summer but we schedule our trips in the spring to maximize the alpine environment that Whitney provides this time of year. In the summer, the Mountaineers Route is typically a loose scramble up a rock gully but in the spring it becomes a snow climb on terrain up to 45-degrees, a great challenge for all climbers.
We’re running more trips than ever this year, 7 in total, so we’ll have plenty to post here on the blog.
George called in from the ski slopes of Mammoth Lakes this morning where he’s taking a small family vacation after a couple winter climbs of Whitney.
He said his last climb summitted in some epic (but safe) conditions! They had 9 of 12 on top – unfortunately one team member had to head downhill due to some health concerns. So one of the guides along with climber Chuck Norman, who is a trained U.S. Coast Guard Nurse, descended with the climber – all turned out to be just fine. A big ‘thank you’ to Chuck for giving up his chance at the summit to assist in getting one of his fellow teammates downhill. We’ll see you next year Chuck – it’s on us of course!
We have one more climb on the mountain who is currently camped at Lower Boy Scout Lake. They’ll make the most of their time on the mountain by training as the conditions on the upper mountain are not conducive to climbing. That’s life in the mountains!
We had a great summit day! The route was in excellent condition and the weather was very good – a bit windy and cold, but mostly good.
The team departed high camp at 12,000 feet about an hour before sunrise. Unfortunately, one member elected to remain back in camp due to a knee injury. The rest of the team climbed well and we made good time up to Iceberg Lake just before dawn. We climbed up into the Mountaineers’ Gulley finding good firm conditions up to 35 degrees in angle. At the “Notch”, the top of the gulley at 14,000 feet, the team rested while the guides fixed the climbing ropes for the final thee rope lengths of steeper terrain. The first section included some rock scrambling, the second pitch was moderate snow and the third pitch was up to 55 degrees in steepness, but good step kicking in soft snow. The team all topped out by approximately 11:30 a.m. We all enjoyed the view up on top, rested and ate lunch, then were lowered by the guides back down to the notch. This was perhaps the busiest I have ever seen the route, it seems to be growing in popularity this time of year. As usual, the different climbing parties were friendly and worked together to minimize congestion. We did our part by assisting two individuals descend to the notch.
We had an easy descent of the main gulley and reached camp by about 4:30pm for a well deserved dinner and good nights sleep.
Conditions were as good as I have seen them on the route this year, snow conditions were generally excellent and the weather was perfect.
We passed climb IMG #2 during our descent. They are resting at high camp (Sunday March28) and will summit today.
I head back up again on our climb starting April 1 and can’t wait.
IMG Partner and Whitney Program Director George Dunn called in from High Camp on Whitney – all is well! The weather is good and the team is looking forward to a short break this afternoon before heading for the summit early tomorrow morning. Should have another report on Sunday when they get back down to Lone Pine.
Day 1: Ten virtual strangers met in the Mt. Whitney Cafe in Lone Pine, CA for breakfast on Friday… after some bacon and eggs we sorted our gear, repacked and made the 16 mile drive up the Whitney Portal Road. Once at the trailhead we loaded up our packs and started the climb… and getting to know each other.
The summer route is quite different than the conditions we were climbing in… On a typical day in the summer it’s not uncommon to find a couple hundred hikers to be making their way up Mt. Whitney… but on a cold Spring snow covered day we saw nobody. Snowshoes are almost standard for the Sierras this time of year but luckily we were able to go without… Four hours and we were at camp (Lower Boy Scout Lake 10,000ft). We set up our tents and Bernd and Chris fired up the stoves for some “hots” or hot drinks. After we settled-in, we enjoyed some spicy noodles in a peanut sauce for dinner. An hour or two of getting to know each other quickly faded as the temperature dropped.
Day 2: After a cold night’s sleep, a warm cup of cocoa lifts anybody’s spirits! Day two has begun. It isn’t a big day 10,000ft to 12,000ft, but it’s a great way to gain some more altitude and continue acclimatizing. We pulled into our second camp (Upper Boy Scout Lake) around 2:00pm – plenty of time to set up the tents, get settled, and relax. The weather was perfect! The sun drops behind the ridge at about 5:00 so we had an early dinner of tortellini’s and a quick summit meeting to discuss the plan of attack the following morning.
Day 3: Summit Day. Up at 3:30am, “hots” and breakfast at 4:00 and walking at about 4:30 – a pretty efficient team! The first part of the climb was standard snow travel – some traversing and some switchbacks… Once we reached our first break it was time to rope-up. After an hour or so of some steep climbing up the gully we reached our first big objective of the day: The Notch. We took a good break at The Notch while the Chris, Bernd and George established the fixed lines from The Notch to the summit. The last 200 meters is steep enough to use ascenders on the fixed lines to safely reach the summit…on this route…this time of year
The Summit: 10 for 10 on top! Not a breath of wind, warm and sunny! Absolutely spectacular. After an hour or so of sharing stories and taking pictures we made our way back to camp for some time in the sun and a nice hot dinner. We slept well!
Day 4: 6:30am – an early start to get back to Lone Pine for a beer and some pzza. By noon we were in Lone Pine with 3 large pizzas and a pitcher of beer (Sierra Nevada of course) in front of us…by 12:30 they were gone. Ten strangers now friends.
Guides: George Dunn, Bernd Zeugswetter, Chris Werner
Climbers: Catherine, Jeff, Paul, Sam, Scott, Tim and me tagging along.