Jason was the “last man standing” for an Extended Mountain Camp from Sierra Mountain Center – the other two clients had canceled for one reason or another. So we met one early Sunday morning, with a climate dilema. Thunderstorms had been hitting us with clockwork precision every afternoon, making a lot of the taller alpine climbs normally dispatched on a trip like this a little harder. So we pulled together a plan, and our after-action report to SMC looked like this:
Sunday, 20090719. Morning: Climbed Running Lizards (II 5.7, 3 pitches), PSOM Wall, Pine Creek Canyon, Bishop. Afternoon: Packed up, drove past Big Pine to Glacier Lodge, and hiked into Third Lake, North Fork of Big Pine Creek. Rain, thunder, and lightning witnessed while hiking into Third Lake.
Monday, 20090720. Morning: Got up at 3:30am to climb Venusian Blind Arete (III/IV 5.7, 13 pitches), Temple Crag. Discovered that the recent storms had risen water levels extremely high, above the log/rock crossing, and that descending to the Second Lake crossing would take too much time. Climb canceled, return to camp, slept in. Moved camp to Sam Mack Meadow and found the user path to Sam Mack Lake and the South Face of Mt. Robinson. Rained again.
Tuesday, 20090721. Morning: Up at 4:00am to climb the South Face of Mt. Robinson (III 5.7, 9 pitches). Reached the summit under dark skies right before noon. Spent 45 minutes retrieving my camera from between two boulders by fishing with a nut tool. Ooops. Descended the SW Slope to Sam Mack Lake, where it started to rain.
Wednesday, 20090722. Moved camp to Palisade Lake, at the toe of the Palisade Glacier, and went over snow, ice, and glacier skills. It begins to rain at 7:30pm, and doesn’t let up until 7:00am the next day.
Thursday, 20090723. We had planned on climbing the NE Buttress Couloir (III 5.6, steep snow), but the constant rain put an end to that. After discussion, we decided that all the alpine objectives nearby were too tall, and to hike out today instead and go rock climbing tomorrow. We see huge rain clouds squat down over the area from Bishop that evening.
Friday, 20090724. Climbed Main Attraction (II 5.8, 3 pitches), Gong Show Wall, Rock Creek Canyon, Tom’s Place. Climbed a new (for me) third pitch that was much more classy than the dirty 5.7 finish, and also 5.8, making this climb go at 5.8 for three pitches! Really nice.
Mountain Camps usually place an emphasis on 4th class, low 5th, and snow/ice climbing; but the weather just wasn’t having it and those gods get the last word. Still, we got to do some great climbing – especially the South Face of Robinson – some learning still took place, and I look forward to climbing with Jason again in the future. Whooop!!!
Chris Simmons is an AMGA Certified Alpine Guide and an Alpine, Rock, and Ski Guide for SMC. More about his adventures can be found at his personal site, Climb.Ski.Run.Sleep.Repeat.