Been a long time since I've posted so here are some links to what I've been up to:An attempt to get all the California 14,000' mountains over the 4th of July
(pics only, I'm still working on the write-up).Kit Carson 24-hour adventure raceThe East Buttress of Mt. Whitney
(see below for some details on this one).
My buddy Steve asked me if I wanted to attempt the East Buttress of Mt. Whitney with him and a couple of friends over Labor Day, and, while I'd been on top of the highest point in the contiguous 48 on on two other occasions, I'd never done a technical climb up it, so I said sure! The route we were planning was a 5.6 (explanation here
) 10- pitch (about 1,000') that started at about 13,500 and finished at the summit (14,505').
We drove over on Friday night, camped at Tioga pass to sleep at altitude, and drove down 395 to Lone Pine the next day. We did a couple of warm-up routes in the Alabama Hills that evening, then drove up to Whitney Portal to sleep. Our 2:00a.m. wake-up came all too soon, and by a little before 3:00 we were hoofing it up the North Fork trail on our way to Iceberg Lake.
5,000 vertical feet later and after a little scrambling around looking for the base of the route and not finding it we started climbing around 7:30 a.m. I was paired with G-Funk, and Steve and Aaron were climbing together.
We made our way up a couple of pitches towards where we thought the route was (it turned out later that we were on the harder 5.7 variation) and eventually found it.
The climbing was mostly easy, but I get pretty freaked out by exposure and was glad that I wasn't leading. Despite that I did most of the route in my running shoes (the other guys were all wearing approach shoes) and only had to resort to rock shoes for a couple of pitches.
It was warm in the sun, but cold in the shade, and it got pretty chilly on some of the belay stations. Moving was good, so we tried not to stop for too long.
G-Funk was a great leader, placing his pro securely but in such a way that it was easy to get out; I didn't need to use the nut-tool once.
By the 9th pitch we were all ready for it to be over. We'd been climbing for almost 8 hours (and only gotten a few hours sleep the previous night), it was starting to snow (better than rain I guess) and we were all tired.
The last pitch was just a scramble over a boulder field and then we topped out to more snow (it wasn't sticking but it was still weird). A few minutes in the summit hut to warm up, then a brief search for the start of the Mountaineers Route (our way down) and we were moving again.
The route down SUCKED; steep, sandy, slippery, slide-on-your-butt class 3 stuff which was no fun at all. We met a couple who were on their way up at the bottom of the steepest part and were all a little puzzled as to what they were doing. The guy was in shorts and short sleeves and carrying a day-pack, and the woman he was with was in street clothes. We told them it was snowing on top and they nodded and smiled and kept going, the guy coaxing the woman up over the ledges. They were in for a long night.
We kept moving down the steep chute, my knees beginning to protest at the descent. Eventually we got to Iceberg lake and started making some decent progress. Sorta.
Steve and I were moving well, happy to have a trail ahead of us, but Aaron and G-Funk were slowing down. The long day and all the miles were starting to get to them. Steve and I would get ahead of them, then sit down and wait until they caught up, and we'd start moving again.
We got through the ledges as the last of the light was fading, then put on our headlamps and kept going.
G-Funk picked up the pace at the very bottom of the trail, right before it meets the main trail, and we were basically running when we hit the intersection.
I kept running because it felt GOOD, and Steve stayed with me for a bit, then he dropped back while I kept going, my heavy pack bouncing a bit as I ran.
A little while later I was back at the parking lot, just over 17.5 hours since we'd left.
The rest of the crew showed up a few minutes later and we threw the gear into the cars and drove back down to town for some much-deserved food and beer.
My altimeter showed 7,600' of vertical gain, and I'd guess we covered about 14 miles. That's what I call a good day!
(We went back up to Whitney Portal to sleep and escape the heat, and I was woken up around 3:00a.m. by a bear scampering through the trees where we slept. I sat bolt upright on my tarp and my sleepy brain decided that yelling 'hah' as loud as I could was the right thing to do, so I did. Then I lay back down, went to sleep, and didn't wake up until the sun was up.)