This week I was lucky enough to get to do our most popular trip in a two-day mega push with Luc Peltier.
SMC Trip coming down the ledges.
On our first day, climbing a little higher than usual, we made it to about 12,000 ft. At one of my favorite spots we set up camp: a set of rock ledges with snow melt for water and a great view of both the North Fork drainage and Mt. Whitney.
During the day the weather was warm, and the snow felt soft under our feet. Expecting a change in weather that evening and for the next day we weren’t surprised when the temperature started dropping with the sun. That night the mercury stooped into the single digits, wind blasted our tent, and snowfall accumulated into a couple of inches of cold fluffy powder.
Creek crossing on the way up.
Creek crossing on the way down.
Morning came much too early, at 3:30 a.m. I was up to start melting the ice block that was going to be hot water for our breakfast. Two hours later, after a slow cup of coffee, we headed out to see if we would get lucky in the inclement weather. The snow was now firm from the night’s freeze, and we made it to Iceberg Lake in less than an hour. Still not knowing if the precipitation and wind would stop us from making the summit, we started up the Mountaineers’ Gully with one solo climber ahead of us. The farther we climbed, the better the weather seemed to get. It was still cold and windy, but the snow had stopped and we were making good time. At the notch we had clear skies and there was no doubt now that we were going to make it.
Starting to look good for the climb up.
At the summit for the second time this season, we were again huddled inside the stone shelter to warm up and refuel. Going back down always feels fast after the long push up steep slopes. We were back in camp by 1 p.m. after leaving the summit at 10 a.m. By this time, snow had started to fall again, temperatures were cold and the wind had picked back up. We climbed inside the tent, lit the stove and waited to make soup and coffee to power us for the 4000-ft descent back to the cars. The hike out was relatively uneventful despite tired legs and the relentless snowfall that kept up all the way down to the portal.
Grateful to be back at the cars, we decided to support Doug and the Portal Store by grabbing a beer in a warm environment.
Getting a little power for the way down.
Nice work, Luc, on your two-day Mountaineers’ trip. Thanks for a fantastic time!
SP Parker is co-founder and owner of Sierra Mountain Center, and resides at the foot of the Sierra Nevada near Bishop, California. Having traveled around the world for big climbs and first ascents, he still guides notable summits and ski tours every year, and likely drinks more black tea than anyone in the Eastern Sierra. When he can, SP loves visiting New Zealand, his boyhood home, to see his family, friends, and some of his favorite mountains on Earth.