The lack of entries in the blog should be an indicator for the reader about how busy Sierra Mountain Center has been this past month. All of us have been moving from one trip to the next with barely enough time to wash clothes, buy food, and give our families a kiss. I’m not complaining – its summer time after all!
My adventures started on 21 May, when Paul and I attempted the North Ridge of Lone Pine Peak. This III 5.4 climb is a fantastic early summer route, when lingering snow on the ridge provides us with water and allows us to bivouac 2/3rd of the way up on the first day. Unfortunately we woke up the next morning to a forecasted “partly cloudy, 10% chance of snow” that had already snowed three inches! Visibility was down to 100 feet, and it continued to snow, leaving us with no choice but to descend. What had taken us only five hours to climb the day before now took us 10 hours to retreat, as the blanket of snow made down climbing a test of nerve and the snow slabs obstacles that we had to negotiate around and rappel to avoid. A true epic!
Just a few days later on 24 May I met Edwin, Melissa, Ramses and Steve to attempt the Mountaineers Route on Mt. Whitney. We were under no illusion as we kicked through three inches of settled snow in the car park, and our impression of the conditions never improved as we hiked up to our camp at Upper Boy Scout Lake. It snowed off and on throughout the day, and visibility rarely lifted to more than a quarter of a mile. I was surprised to see that the Eberbacher Ledges were largely snow free, and we passed a descending team who had stayed at Upper Boy Scout Lake the night before. At UBS we built a great camp and settled in for the night, wondering if we could even leave camp in the morning. I woke up at 3:00am and looked out the tent: snowing and 100 feet visibility. And after waking up again at 3:30, 4:00, 4:30, and 5:00am to the same conditions I was resigned to cancel any attempt on the climb. The team woke up a little later at 7:30am and voted to head down to the Whitney Portal for Doug’s pancakes at the Portal Store.
The storm had lasted seven days, and put down enough snow that we were still dealing with the effects weeks later. Lew met me at Tom’s Place on 2 June for a climb of Bear Creek Spire. He was really looking for an alpine rock climb, and there was so much snow on the North East Ridge that you couldn’t tell it was supposed to be a great low 5th class granite outing. We opted for the North Arête instead, knowing that we’d find snow on every ledge the next day. And we did, with ice choking the cracks and forcing us to face climb a little more and suffer cold feet on the ledges. On the second pitch Lew decided that this wasn’t worth the suffering, and we rapped off the route and returned to the car.
Peter, Lance, and George joined Connie and I for another go at Whitney’s Mountaineers Route on 13 June. The weather couldn’t have been more different from my last trip, so warm and sunny that we hiked up in shorts and short sleeves to Upper Boy Scout Lake. We reached the summit on the 14th at 10:30am. According to Doug Thompson, local guidebook author, Whitney historian, and owner of the Whitney Portal Store, suggested that at 11 years old, Lance might have become the youngest person to climb the Mountaineers Route! Keep watching the blog for Connie’s perspective of this trip.
On 27 June I met Corey, Ray, Sean and SMC’s new intern Braden for a trip into Mt. Thompson and Mt. Gilbert. SP joined us later that evening in our camp. In the morning SP, Braden, Ray and Sean climbed the Harrington Couloir (III AI2) while Corey and I climbed the Moynier Couloir (III 5.6 AI3 mixed). The two teams met on the broad summit plateau and hiked over to the summit before rappelling back down the Harrington Couloir to camp. The next day Corey and I climbed the North Couloir on Mt. Gilbert (III 5.6 AI2 mixed) with Braden and Ray following close behind. We re-joined SP and Sean in camp and hiked out the same day. I’m going to egg Braden to write a trip report from his perspective too.
Finally, just a few days ago Ben and John met me at the Whitney Portal for another Mountaineers Route climb. Only thing is, we planned on doing it in two days instead of the typical three, making for a much more strenuous trip. We had to hike to Iceberg Lake the first day, where we bivied without tents, got a true alpine start the next morning and were on the summit by 7:40am! But then it was a long descent back down the route to camp, where we packed up and continued out to the trailhead for burgers and beers at Doug’s.
That’s my month. Like I said, a lot went on! Fresh snow skunked us for the end of May, but we’ve had warm (some say hot) and clear days ever since. Well, sort of clear – the 1200 fires in western California have blown so much smoke over into the Reno-Bishop corridor that some days we couldn’t see the White or Into Mountains from the other side of the valleys! As I left to go home Sunday evening the visibility improved dramatically. Here’s hoping for blue skies!
Chris Simmons is an Alpine, Rock, and Ski Guide for Sierra Mountain Center. More about his adventures can be found on his personal blog: Climb. Ski. Run. Sleep. Repeat.