Winter 2001 - A Solo Adventure from Miter Basin
By: Matthias Selke
The story of this climb began during a rainy day during the winter of 2001. Upon looking at some internet photos of the Crabtree Pass area, I recognized the triple summit of Mt. McAdie in the background of one of the pictures. There appeared to be a chute on the west side of this peak leading all the way to the notch just south of the high point. The only previously reported route on the west side of this mountain is a class 4 buttress climbed in 1954 by Hervey Voge et al. Some more research online revealed that Steve Eckert (from the Bay Area PCS group) also noticed a chute on the west face of Mt. McAdie during an ascent of this peak via the regular route. The best approach for the west side of McAdie is a hike up Miter Basin, and a good look at the topo showed that one might climb Mt. Pickering and Joe Devil after descending from the west face of McAdie to the highest tams west of Miter Basin.
Exploring new routes is one of the fun parts of mountaineering, and thus one morning about six months later - July 18, 2001, to be exact - I drove to Lone Pine, had lunch, and was finally on the Cottonwood Pass trail by 2:30 pm. It's about 12 miles and 1,700' gain to the upper Rock Creek Lakes, the obvious basecamp for an excursion to Miter Basin, and one really does not need a full day for the backpack in. (My first SPS trip ever involved a backpack in to Rock Creek in the morning, and a climb of Guyot in the afternoon for a total of 26 miles for that day. The last stragglers made it back to the Rock Creek campsite after 11 pm. This had been advertised as an intro trip.) I made it to the beautiful meadow and pond along the upper Rock Creek trail (about 0.5 mile below the turnoff to Soldier Lake) by 7:30 pm. There's a well-established campsite with a bearbox at the lower end of the small lake.
Left at 6:30 am the next morning, and followed the right (east) side of the creek leading up into Miter Basin. There's a fairly good use trail leading past the first meadow up to the actual basin above timberline. Miter Basin alone is worth the trip. Mts. LeConte and Corcoran dominate the skyline. Cross-country travel is easy along the flat slabs, lovely meadows, and gentle streams. Hiked up northwest along easy slabs to Sky Blue Lake, where I met another lone hiker. To get to the next higher lake (the last one before Crabtree Pass), one has to first contour left (west) before turning right to the east. From this lake, it's a short easy hike over class 2 talus to the top of Crabtree Pass, which I reached by 11 am. Indeed, an obvious broad chute goes up the west face of Mt. McAdie from here. The top of the chute cannot be seen from the Pass, as the chute curves slightly about midway, and high buttresses block the view. Up this chute I went - it turned out to be a generic class 2 Sierra chute, with quite a bit of lose rock, and ci. 2-3 rock on either side of the chute which can be climbed instead of the lose crud in the middle. The chute goes up for over 1,000 ',and it does indeed connect - it ends up right at the notch of the regular route on McAdie. Midway up the chute, an obvious ci. 4 buttress goes up and slightly left toward the summit; this is probably the feature climbed by Hervey Voge et al. nearly 50 years ago. From the notch I followed the regular ci. 3 route:
Climbed straight up (cl. 3) toward the main summit for 50 ft. then traversed left (west) along narrow ledges until some easy ci. 3 blocks led straight up to the summit. Reached the summit by 1 pm, relaxed for 45 mm on top, and then decided to try to get down to Crabtree Pass and do Pickering and Joe Devel. From Crabtree Pass, I hiked to the tarns just west of Sky Blue Lake; this involved much tedious terrain with huge blocks and small cliffs. Then climbed up the talus slope to the saddle just east of Mt. Pickering, and finally walked up the east ridge to reach the summit of Pickering shortly after 5 pm. Was pretty tired at this point, and decided that it was too late to traverse to Joe Devel, as I did not want to descend an unknown route in the dark during a solo hike. Descended the southeast side of Pickering via the sandy plateau, and then down a chute to near Erin Lake, and reached camp just before darkness. Total gain for the day was about 5,200'. A strong party could undoubtedly have bagged Joe Devel as well.
The west face route of McAdie is certainly longer than the normal climb up from the Whitney Trail, but it avoids the ever-worsening Mt. Whitney permit bureaucracy, and it is a wonderful opportunity to visit Miter Basin. Technically, the west face chute on McAdie is the easiest route up this mountain, as it avoids the exposed downclimb into the notch of the regular route. Besides Pickering and Joe Devel, Mt. Corcoran and/or LeConte could also be climbed from Miter Basin.
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