Mt. Williamson in Winter via the NE Ridge

It is not necessary to travel long distances to undertake a major climb and expedition. In our backyard is a climb that rivals any other in North America for it’s length and in winter is a major trip requiring planning, stamina and expeditionary techniques. Mt. Williamson is the second highest peak in California but rises from  the Owen’s Valley at 4,000 feet to its 14,375 foot summit, easily eclipsing Mt. Whitney in base-to-top relief. Our route, the Northeast Ridge, was first ascended in 1925 by Homer Irwin. The first winter ascent was made in 1954 by John Ohrenschall and Warren Harding. Since then many other climbers have made the winter attempt but few have succeeded. Harding had taken part in an earlier failed attempt on the peak and at that time the trip leader judged Harding to be a weak individual who would probably not amount to much as a climber. Harding went on to make the first ascent of El Capitan in Yosemite by the Nose route, as well as countless other Yosemite climbs, and came to be known for his endurance and stamina. Overall this route up Williamson involves over 8,000 feet of elevation gain over a distance of five miles, with exposed camps and several long sections of fourth class terrain.
To travelers along Highway 395 Mount Williamson dominates the view as one passes south of Independence. The northeast ridge is very prominent with two towers up high, just below the summit. We will carry everything needed for the ascent and in winter this can be quite a big load.

Notes

This trip is very condition dependent and we will make a call prior to the start of the trip as to its feasibility.
This is a major ascent so come prepared for hard work. Packs will be heavy and the snow may be deep. Avalanche hazard assessment will be essential.

There are no guarantees of success in winter and a big storm may well put all of our careful planning into disarray. Do not be summit oriented but go out with the goal of gaining skills and enjoying a very different climbing season.

We leave the dry desert at about 6,000 feet and climb a narrow, sandy ridge, working our way around towers and scrub to what passes for tree line on the route. We hope to put our first camp in around 10,000’ but of course this depends on conditions. Beyond this is a technical, but short ridge section that puts us in another large bowl. Here we hope to place our last camp and be positioned for a summit attempt on the fourth day, conditions willing. Above high camp we traverse another technical ridge section before crossing over the East Horn and then the West Horn before the broad summit plateau and the final ascent to the top of the peak. Descent will be back down the route.
Remember that conditions in the winter will dictate our camp locations and how the climb unfolds.

Program Prerequisites:

High level of physical condition and prior camping experience. You need not have camped  before under winter conditions, but you do need appropriate cold weather equipment and a positive mental attitude. Have your systems down so that once we get to camp you know how to get organized, into the tent quickly and out of the cold. Packs will be heavy and the snow may be deep. Prior mountaineering and rock climbing experience is essential.
There are no guarantees of success in winter and a big storm may well put all of our careful planning into disarray. Do not be summit oriented but go out with the goal of gaining skills and enjoying a very different climbing season.

Program Inclusions:

Price includes guiding, permits, all necessary group climbing gear, tents, kitchen gear and breakfasts, lunches and dinners (you bring hot/cold drinks and snack items). Scheduled dates include USFS trail fees. Private programs do not.
Local accommodation is not included.

Details, Itinerary, and Equipment List:

Details, itinerary, and equipment list

Map:

Williamson Map