Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Mt. Whitney Loop, Mountaineers Route To Main Trail


May 8, 2102: Had a few days off and wanted to do a Sierra spring climb. Went over a bunch of ideas; Mt. Dade, Mt. Agassiz, Mt. Mallory but decided to day hike the Mountaineers Route on Mt. Whitney. Thought about an overnighter up to Iceberg Lake, but changed my mind to a day hike last minute. 

Headed to Whitney Portal Monday afternoon to get one nights rest before the climb. Got to the Portal and found it mostly void of people. I met one guy who was traveling cross country on his motorcycle and wanted to climb Mt. Whitney as his California stop, my kind of guy. Had my Subway dinner and bedded down at 1900 hours. I fell asleep fairly quickly. I was woken up abruptly an hour later by fierce winds. The flapping of the tent made for a restless night of sleep, at least I was getting that mountain oxygen into my system. The alarm sounds at 0300 and I gingerly packed up my gear, had a monster and pop tart for breakfast and was off on the trail. I scouted out the route to Lower Boy Scout Lake two weeks prior so doing it the headlamp this early morning was stress free. I made it to the lower lake at 0530. Last year when I did the Mountaineers Route it was all snow from here to the summit, well that was last year. The snow makes route finding a breeze, just straight up. I tried to pick out the best route to Upper Boy Scout Lake, but ended up to high up on the talus field. Instead of correcting my course I decided to visit the blue icefall that comes down from Girl Scout Lake. So magnificent blue, glad I checked it out. Problem now was getting back on route. Do I want to backtrack or bushwhack through some willows. I opted for the later and made it incident free. 

Made it to Upper Boy Scout Lake in good time and more importantly, I felt good. Two weeks prior I day hiked Whitney and was blasted by a headache at 14,000'. Though I was only at 11,300' so far, I felt good. The climb now was over slabs to the base of the cliff leading up to Iceberg Lake. Still no need for crampons. I decided to take the waterfall route up to Iceberg Lake. I had planned on getting water from the edge of the lake, but no luck, it was frozen solid, I even walked out on it a few feet and tried making a hole with my ice axe, nothing. So now it was plan B for water: make slushy snow water with my existing water and hoped it melted. Bummer. I had some lunch and geared up for the climb. Ice Axe, Crampons, Sunscreen, Helmet....Lets go. 

I decided to take the main chute from the beginning as opposed to the southern alternate start. The main chute looked like the better snow climb down low and I was right. The snow was beat up pretty bad from previous ascents and glissades from past climbers. It hasn't snowed in weeks so the snow was a mix of giant steps and icy glissade tracks. The snow was very firm which made the climb relatively fast. Three quarters up the chute I had to remove my crampons as the snow ended and the loose rock began. I tried to stay to the right of the chute where there is solid rock. Before too long I made it to the top of the chute and saw the grand Sierra view. Mt. Russell, Mt. Williamson, Mt. Barnard, Mt. Brewer to name a few. A few more feet west brought me to the final four hundred. It was a mix of rock and ice, pretty standard. The first few moves are the most difficult then a steady class three. I made steady progress a couple of hundred feet up before putting on crampons to finish off the remainder of the climb. It was a very icy snow and I was careful of my foot placements, always thinking about the consequences of a fall here. 

I topped out on Mt. Whitney for the eightieth time and for only the second time I had the summit all to myself. It was breezy and really cold so I hunkered down amongst the rocks for shelter and had some lunch. Great feeling to have finished the Mountaineers Route. I put out my Spot message to Judy letting her know I was safe and sound on the summit. I soaked in the views, I will never tire of the views. I always feel so small in the world and realize there is a far more powerful entity at work while in the mountains and the summit of Whitney without a soul around for miles really hits the spot. 

I had decided earlier to take the Main Trail back to Portal, a grand Whitney loop. I set off the for the five hour descent at 1230. Everything went as expected, the slope down from Trail Crest to Trail Camp was too icy to glissade so I plunge stepped it. And I am happy to report no Grouse sightings, even though I did hear them. Made it back to my truck safe and sound at 1730, a quick 13.5 hour hike. Great Day on Mt. Whitney.....till next time :) 

Stats: 14.2 Miles and 6500' of elevation gain

Sunrise

Alpine Glow

Waterfall Ice

First View Of Mt. Whitney

Feeling Good

Mt. Whitney

All Geared Up To Climb The Couloir

Looking Up About Halfway

Looking Back Down

View From The Notch

On The Summit, It Was Cold, But Worth It

Looking At Iceberg Lake, Where I Started The Couloir


Mt. Langley & Pinnacle Ridge

The Kaweahs

Coming Down The Main Trail

First Tree I Have Seen In Hours

Topo Map Of My Route

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