Lone Pine Peak

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Located just outside of the town of Lone Pine, Lone Pine Peak is a favorite destination because of its accessibility, variety of quality routes, and incredible location in the Mount Whitney region of the Sierra.


Winter Route

The winter route on Lone Pine Peak

Winter Route is, according to the wisdom of local alpine guru Alois Smrz, the best introduction to winter mixed alpine climbing in California. One always has to qualify the words "mixed" and "ice" when they're used to describe the Sierra; as explained in the route conditions discussion, we get some vexatious conditions here which can be summed up as deep snow, lots of rock, very little ice. Goulottes and ice in general have been the alpine highways of choice for the last couple decades, but if one can ignore the dearth of ice, there are some fine winter routes to tick off in California, and this is one of the best.

As with all Tuttle Creek adventures, travel to Lone Pine, CA, and take a left onto Whitney Portal Rd at the only stop-light in town. Marvel at the colossal N, NE, and E ridges spilling off Lone Pine Peak, but remember to hang a left at Horseshoe Meadows Rd. Follow this past the campground until Granite View Dr; the campground host will risk life and limb by jumping in front of your car to tell you to slow the hell down if you hang a right too soon. Travel towards the mountains, and make a slight right onto a dirt road which is usually OK for low-clearance cars in the summer. There is an upper and a lower parking area; the upper one was reachable for a Toyota Corolla--i.e., shitty low-clearance car--in summer 2010. The upper one is almost always snowed in during winter, and it's only a twenty minute walk from the lower one, so it usually saves time to give up on driving at the lower lot.

Proceed along the road or trail for 30-45 minutes until the Ashram. Note what an awesome place it would be for a party, then either crash for the night in front of an admirable fireplace which must be fed with wood collected during the walk, or battle manzanita, sagebrush, and stinging thorns to a bivy under the south face. The battle isn't so bad by Sierra bushwacking standards in a good snow year, but the lure of that raging fire sure is...

From the Ashram, note the field of giant boulders across the valley. Walk diagonally up-valley towards the creek from the Ashram, aiming for the left (up-valley) side of the giant boulders to avoid the worst of the labyrinth. The first gully starts just after the boulder field. Go up this on the right side during a good, cold snow year to climb steep snow and maybe some ice to access the second gully without roping up. In most years, go up the left side and either climb a chimney which becomes a dihedral for two pitches, then rappel into the second gully, or climb a 15 ft chimney and some slabs for one long pitch or three short pitches to the second gully--no rappels required. In winter 2011, the author was able to skip these roped pitched by going FAR--maybe 200 or 300 ft--to the right starting from the middle of the first gully until another ledgy gully opened up. This gully may not be feasible without sufficient snow. He followed a gully system for 800-1000 vertical ft until a small notch, which he descended past the beginning of Winter Chimney into the second gully about a third of the way from its beginning.

Take the second gully until the ground becomes technical. Rope up or solo for one pitch until the Winter Route notch. Sling a flake and rappel 50 ft to a large ledge with a large tree, where camp can be made.

There are four headwall pitches. There is supposedly a fourth class way up the far left side of the headwall, if you're running short on time. The traditional headwall finish goes straight up from the large tree at the ledge, then traverses about twenty feet right on a ledge to the base of a groove which diagonals to the right. Climb this for about ten feet, then traverse left onto the face. As of winter 2011, there is a fixed knifeblade on this pitch. If it has snowed recently and this pitch can't be climbed in boots or rock shoes, it is delicate M5 dry-tooling over thin gear (knifeblades and microcams). It is 5.7 in summer, but the slabby nature of the pitch makes it challenging in crampons. Reach another large ledge, then either continue straight up 5.5 or go left past a large chockstone in a short gully to giant ledge number two.

Identify a steep, narrow, loose-looking gully above. It is difficult to access directly; traditionally, a 5.7 pitch is taken on its left, a belay is set about a hundred feet up, then the leader either 5.9 slab climbs or tension traverses into the gully, which is 5.4. After the gully, one pitch of 5.0 gains the sandy summit plateau. (there are many variations here, some more pleasant than the loose gully).


The descent is not trivial. When you reach the summit plateau (or after you summit), find the east ridge and follow it down until you reach a very broad gully. Take it directly down towards Tuttle Creek. About 500 vertical feet before you reach the creek, go UP and LEFT to a saddle in the lefthand ridge; it helps to identify this saddle from the dirt road. If you go straight down the gully and miss the saddle in the dark, you will enter the Mirkwood of the Sierra Nevada, replete with spiders and stinging nettle. Once through the saddle, run down sand or snow to a dirt road on the north side of the creek. When you are across from your car (or the lower parking lot, if you parked at the very end of the road), cross the creek (sometimes this is a very wet crossing).

Winter Chimney

North Ridge

{{#widget:ThumbnailLink |target=http://picasaweb.google.com/112823792180964152710/LonePinePeakNorthRidge02?authkey=Gv1sRgCLKahMu368jc5gE&feat=embedwebsite |src=http://lh5.ggpht.com/_TlWCUDLTcjM/TIWBraJSw4I/AAAAAAAAASI/Gt3sHtMQ4jg/s144/IMG_8588.JPG |height=150 |caption= Kedron on the North Ridge (see TR below) |align=right }} A classic Sierra Climb, and a good first ridge climb. Fantastic, fun rock, amazing scenery, and an easy approach - what more could you ask for?

See Hamik's pictures

NE Ridge

Direct South Face

Trip Reports

See Also