Mount Chamberlain, Mount Guyot, Mount Hale, Mount Hitchcock, Joe Devel Peak, Mount Muir, Mount Newcomb, Mount Pickering, Mount Russell, Tunnabora Peak, Mount Whitney, Mount Young

August 1989

By: Dale Van Dalsem


Rob Roy McDonald organized a week long pack trip over Cottonwood Pass to a base camp near Rock Creek Ranger Station in August 1989. I was privileged to be a part of this trip and made a few notes that may help future Whitney Clean-out aspirants.

Entry/Exit: Cottonwood Pass is certainly the way to go in, and probably out, also. A car shuttle, placing a car at Whitney Portal, would have made the exit from Guitar Lake one moderate day of hiking rather than two short days, but if one adds the car shuttle times, going out Cottonwood Pass may be less elapsed time from Guitar Lake than Whitney Portal! Cottonwood Pass is only 1,520' gain from Horseshoe Meadow parking to high point just west Chicken Spring Lake, then 2,000' drop to camp before the Rock Creek crossing, totaling 3,500' gain in and out. For Whitney Portal - Trail Crest- Guitar Lake , the numbers are 5,300' gain plus 2,200' drop for a total of 7,500' [?].

Horses Or Mules; are they desireable? Some of the eleven rode horseback one or both ways, and some of us hiked both ways. Most of us sent in one or two duffels/packs by mule. Horses were no faster; we arrived before the people on horseback. Most said they expended as much energy riding as they would have walking. The mules did enable us to pack in some luxuries, such as chairs, tables, lanterns, big stoves - and I sent in half a case of wine. Cost for one large duffelbag, in and out, was about $50 or $60, I think. Consensus: most would not use horses again to ride in or out; most would send in packs and duffels by mule; I wouldn't. For those with back problems, the mule pack-in was a godsend, however!

Day O: A five hour pack-in to camp between the Rock Creek Patrol Cabin and the bear box at the Rock Creek crossing. This cabin, strangely, is not shown on the 1988 Johnson Peak 7.5' topo, but is on the 1956 Kern Peak 15' topo. The cabin was staffed by a comely, sociable Park Service Rangerette nick-named "M", who joined our campfire a few nights, and took some heat from two of our more iconoclastic members.

Day 1: Rick Beatty, Sylvia Sur and I slogged directly to the summit of Joe Devel, hiked the class 2 ridge to Pickering, then the ridge to Newcomb and back to camp, about 11 hours. The ridge north from Pickering went class 2 with one class 3 move. Stick to the west side and look for ducks. However, when we reached the Newcomb massif, we encountered a rib that extends southwest almost to the flats near the lake in the cirque and had to lose most of our gain to get down and around the rib, not shown on the Mount whitney 7.5' topo.

Day 2: Beatty and I hiked to upper Crabtree Meadow then to camp at lower Crabtree Lake, a wise choice; upper Crabtree Lake did not appear to have viable campsites the following morning. We knocked off Guyot on the way, a 9-hour day or less. Start of the trail to Crabtree Lakes is difficult to find in upper Crabtree Meadow; we fmally just forged across the meadow.

Day3: We did Chamberlain via the 3,770 meter notch SOUTH-SOUTHWEST of upper Crabtree Lake, loose class 2 with perhaps a touch of easy class 3. Fearsome lightning storm caught us as we bouldered the talus blocks around upper Crabtree Lake on our way to slog up Hitchcock. We then packed up the John Muir Trail to Guitar Lake, where we camped near the inlet stream.

Day 4: Beatty and I did Young, Hale, Whitney and Muir AND we were back at Guitar Lake in 11 hours. First Young, then Hale, then drop down the chute at UTM 823488 and angle up to Arctic Lake and then almost to the Whitney - Russell saddle before going up the easternmost rib on Whitney's north face. Not a good route. Big, loose Ruth Armentrout boulders and lots of loose class 3, before hooking into the Mountaineer's Route for the upper third or fourth of the face. Best ascend the north face a rib or two further west! We did Muir in a snowstorm; it is class 3, but none but the most acrophobic should need a rope. A big duck on the Whitney trail marks the start of the route.

Day 5: Rick went back to base camp at Rock Creek while I bagged Russell and Tuna-boring. I hiked to the Whitney - Russell saddle, then high on the Russell side and contoured into the Russell - Carillon saddle (easy class 2 sidehilling), then past Lake Tulainyo for Tuna, then reverse to the R-C saddle and up Russell via the east ridge, class 2 and 3 with one move that might be termed class 4. Found a surprisingly easy route, barely class 3, off the south face of Russell: look down the notchjust a few (40') feet west of the east summit of Russell. A well worn staircase drops down into the talus fan of the largest south face chute. From the bottom, ascend this Large talus fan to the headwall, then left (west) up the stairs. Back to Guitar Lake after another 11 hour day. Third or fourth time up Whitney, but Rick needed it and I need Muir. Russell was a double grudge peak: stormed off on 3-6-82 after Carillon, and iced up 5- 14-89 while trudging back to camp in R-C saddle after getting Barnard and passing Tunnabora in snowstorm. Finally got 14 of 14 on Russell.

Day 6: Back to base camp at Rock Creek by early afternoon to help finish that half-case of wine - and out by noon on day 7. Thanks to Rick and Sylvia for hiking with me, and a special thanks to Rob Roy for organizing and coordinating this trip, which took a lot of planning and dozens of phone calls to everyone concerned. Get well, guy! -- Dale


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