Mount Whitney

6-Jun-98 (Mountaineers route)

By: Nile Sorenson, Randall Danta


This trip was originally scheduled for May 16-18, but was postponed due to weather. Rescheduling trips is always difficult with everyone so busy. Only four climbers met in the parking lot at Whitney Portal at 6:30 am Saturday morning. After a quick review of gear, discussion of the route, and comparing weights of packs, Ali Ammian, Don Croley, Randall Danta and I headed up the Whitney trail to the cutoff for the mountaineers route at the north fork of Lone Pine: Creek. There was some talk of the 2 stream crossings that would be necessary before reaching the Ebersbacher ledges in the drainage below Lower Boy Scout lake. The stream had plenty of water. Ali spotted a relatively easy crossing almost immediately. We crossed to the south side without incident, and back to the north side just below the famous Matterhorn shaped rock signifying the route onto the ledges. We scrambled up the ledges which were clear of snow and made it to Lower Boy Scout lake for a quick snack. The lake was nearly frozen over and snow was everywhere. Fortunately many steps alternating with glissade tracks had been left by previous groups all the way up to Upper Boy Scout Lake where we stopped for a refill and a break.

We then headed south toward Mt. Thor's west ridge and followed the drainage west which leads directly to the east face of the Needles and Whitney About 1/2 Mile before the buttress, there is a break in the cliffs on the right side giving way to a 100ft. class 3 pitch putting us on the Ice Berg Lake plateau. This route may not be as short as the direct approach at the west end of Upper Boy Scout Lake but it is definitely easier. We were camped at Ice Berg lake by 1:15'pm. The snow had been perfect - hardly a post hole to be found and it was nap time. For the next four hours, we watched several climbers descending the mountaineers route, and one lone climber struggle up. The weather was cooperating, a bit cloudy occasionally, but not to windy or cold. Everyone was feeling the altitude and hit the sack by 6:30 pin well before dark.

By 4:40 am, Don Croley was awake and wandering about taking care of business, All's stove was humming and Randall's stove was acting up. At 5:30 we were climbing the east chute, about 1400 ft of 30 to 35 degrees. We gave Ali the rope to slow him down. The snow was perfect. By 7:30 we were at the notch at 14,100 ft. grabbing a bite to eat; putting on harnesses, and looking at the sunny day over the westerm basins and peaks. We chose the upper chute immediately next to the notch to reach the summit. It is about 300 vertical ft of 45+ degree incline near the top. Things were a bit icy at the bottom, but there was good crampon snow above where it got steep. By 8:30am I was signing the register. We bad blown this mountain away with four strong climbers, good weather, perfect snow and occasional jokes from Randall.

We used the rope for one rap down the upper portion of the chute coming out then down climbed to the notch. After a bite to eat and high fives around, we headed to the long descent to Ice Berg lake. Don Croley and I glissaded all 1400 ft. It took us 15 minutes. Randall and Ali did not have their shell pants on so they were a. little more conservative, glissading about three fourths of the descent. We broke camp in an hour, got in a few more glissades, and were back at the cars by 2:00. I was eating dinner in Yorba Linda by six that night. Wow, what a trip. The weather had been great, the team had been outstanding, and the snow was perfect. It doesn't get any better than this.


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