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.
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.