Difference between revisions of "Winter Mountaineering Trip 2010"

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Latest revision as of 12:15, 21 August 2016

See the Trip Report page on the old website.

You may be looking for Winter Mountaineering Trip 2011, Winter Mountaineering Trip 2009, the Winter Mountaineering Trip 2008, or the Winter Mountaineering Trip 2007 (see Category:Club Winter Mountaineering Trips).

Overview (pre-trip info)

  • Most new information is on the Google Groups "AlpineClubTrip2010" site; you MUST sign up for the google groups email list if you wish to come on the trips. The trip dates, etc. are on this website.
  • The mandatory organizational meeting is Thursday, Feb 4th 2010 at 8 PM at the Caltech Y. Email srbecker with questions (most questions will be answered at the meeting); no need to RSVP.
  • If you are not subscribed to the alpine club email list, you may wish to read the introductory email sent Thur Jan 28 2010 that gives a brief explanation of the trip.
  • The Mt. Baldy practice trips are set for Fri-Sat Feb 12-13 and Sat-Sun Feb 20-21. For directions and maps to Baldy, please see Baldy Mountaineering 2006 and Mount Baldy.

Post-trip info

Mt. Baldy practice trips

Lukasz down-climbing a chute on Mt. Baldy, Feb 2010

The Fri-Sat Feb 12-13 trip was a success! We had 24 people in total, and covered basic crampon use (though the snow was too soft) and self-arrest, as well as proper watermelon eating technique. Pictures from participants are below.

Participants: Stephen, Kim, BG, Marc, Nicole, Nate, Pratyush, Cindy, Veronica, Lutz, Jose, Samantha, Hamik, Martin, Kedron, Garrett, Dan (Betea), Bill, Mike, Miki, Ken, Han, Jean-Loup, Tamara, Greg, Sawyer

Here are previews of the picasa albums:
{{#widget:Picasa |user=hamikmukelyan |album=5438183669626695953 |width=200 | height=173 |captions=0 |autoplay=1 }} {{#widget:Picasa |user=MartinYoshiPeek |album=5438251562545322577 |width=200 | height=173 |captions=0 |autoplay=1 }} {{#widget:Picasa |user=mlsilva |album=5438297274463075313 |width=200 | height=173 |captions=0 |autoplay=1 }} {{#widget:Picasa |user=stephen.beckr |album=5437974786557037009 |width=200 | height=173 |captions=0 |autoplay=1 }} {{#widget:Picasa |user=KenOslund |album=5456332579592440417 |width=200 | height=173 |captions=0 |autoplay=1 }} {{#widget:Picasa |user=vero.anderson |album=5438208768830449745 |width=200 | height=173 |captions=0 |autoplay=1 }}

The Sat-Sun Feb 20-21 trip was also great. We had 13 participants, plus a few other alpine club members in the area. The snow was much harder than the week before, so the crampon practice was good. The highlights were rappelling off of a buried gatorade bottle.

Participants: Stephen, Patrick, Sarah, Shriharsh, Dan (Feldman), Joe, Greg, Elizabeth, Chris, Lukasz, Sarah, Gene, Katie, Pratyush

{{#widget:Picasa |user=stephen.beckr |album=5441115950410631297 |width=200 | height=173 |captions=0 |autoplay=1 }}

Mt. Whitney trip

Summit. L-R standing: Chris, Hamik, Greg, Marc, Pratyush, BG, Bill, Nisheeth, Karl, Kedron, Dan; sitting: Stephen, Shriharsh, Dan, Patrick. Sun, March 21 2010.

The Whitney Trip is down from the mountain. We had 3 people leave the trailhead on Thursday morning (and do some extra mountains), 7 people leave on Friday morning, and 11 people leave Saturday morning. The Thur and Fri morning groups had 100% summit rate (excluding Justus); in total, we got 15 people to the top early Sunday (March 21) morning. We got in a bit of ice climbing at the ice falls near Upper Boy Scout Lake. The weather was very good, except for some strong winds Sunday morning. Night time lows were not measured accurately, but they were below 15 F.

Participants: Stephen, Kim, Dan (Feldman), BG, Pratyush, Nisheeth, Sarah, Lukasz, Kedron, Martin, Patrick, Bill, Dan (Betea), Marc, Shriharsh, Justus, Greg, Karl, Hamik, Jeandrew, Chris

{{#widget:Picasa |user=hamikmukelyan |album=5451515568374892049 |width=200 | height=173 |captions=0 |autoplay=1 }} {{#widget:Picasa |user=Stephen.Beckr |album=5451533481756332337 |width=200 | height=173 |captions=0 |autoplay=1 }} {{#widget:Picasa |user=112823792180964152710 |album=5454826059383109745 |width=200 | height=173 |captions=0 |autoplay=1 |authkey=Gv1sRgCMrKoMim1NXUpwE }}

{{#widget:ThumbnailLink |target=http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/Cf3ix7CNLd49gQW_BF6yMg?feat=embedwebsite |src=http://lh6.ggpht.com/_cmxOBq7EBLQ/S6e88IZuOcI/AAAAAAAARMc/4f0mxW8Dpno/s144/MtWhitney_18.jpg }} {{#widget:ThumbnailLink |target=http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/lrNjHSCpnNlL2awL3NQfhA?feat=embedwebsite |src=http://lh6.ggpht.com/_cmxOBq7EBLQ/S6e8_jf8XAI/AAAAAAAARMw/iK6vcWPyCAQ/s144/MtWhitney_28.jpg }} {{#widget:ThumbnailLink |target=http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/qA55FxfIqJFy0VTUrA7k3w?feat=embedwebsite |src=http://lh4.ggpht.com/_cmxOBq7EBLQ/S6e9BoA-PvI/AAAAAAAARM4/H14FcFCUQk4/s144/MtWhitney_36.jpg }}

Palisades trip

{{#widget:ThumbnailLink |target=http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/68kvcNcnFe8H8ZUQNSKLEw?feat=embedwebsite |src=http://lh6.ggpht.com/_cmxOBq7EBLQ/S7Gb4z9J8DI/AAAAAAAARS0/olQ7qnl8_-M/s400/Palisades%20056.jpg |caption=On the summit of North Palisade |align=right |width=400 }} {{#widget:ThumbnailLink |target=http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/qQmaLKG5DOrR_qo_6BVhxQ?feat=embedwebsite |src=http://lh6.ggpht.com/_cmxOBq7EBLQ/S7GZ3_fZpXI/AAAAAAAARRA/ezfx2ERgIWE/s144/Palisades%20008.jpg |caption=Gayley Camp |align=right |width=200 }} {{#widget:ThumbnailLink |target=http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/-BHjTecnc7VQ6t4a3AeV_g?feat=embedwebsite |src=http://lh6.ggpht.com/_cmxOBq7EBLQ/S7GZ-e8PoFI/AAAAAAAARRo/cL_uK4slwfQ/s144/Palisades%20024.jpg |caption=Waiting at U-Notch in the cold |align=right |width=200 }} {{#widget:ThumbnailLink |target=http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/_Mj2NEFXz1SA1rPIBwj_qw?feat=embedwebsite |src=http://lh5.ggpht.com/_cmxOBq7EBLQ/S7GaCrqdTQI/AAAAAAAARR0/EeH2U0FtD8Y/s144/Palisades%20030.jpg |caption=The 5th class section |align=right }} {{#widget:ThumbnailLink |target=http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/F4GuKDzD37jrxwNX4VkE-g?feat=embedwebsite |src=http://lh4.ggpht.com/_cmxOBq7EBLQ/S7GaJoUYbbI/AAAAAAAARSQ/h9QuiUcgYTo/s144/Palisades%20043.jpg |caption=The 3rd/4th class scramble to the summit |align=left }} {{#widget:ThumbnailLink |target=http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/wWjxdkK9xZx-qCMGMXv6bg?feat=embedwebsite |src=http://lh3.ggpht.com/_cmxOBq7EBLQ/S7GcAyYOr3I/AAAAAAAARTY/6bR51IvSorM/s144/Palisades%077.jpg |caption=The bergshrund that swallowed Pratyush |align=right }}

The Palisades trip is back as well after a tiring but very successful trip; we summited Mt. Gayley (13,510') and North Palisade (14,242'). Sean led the main group (8 people total, 6 in the main group: Sean, Lutz, Fu Hai, Dan, Kostya, Garrett, and 2 in a later group: Stephen and Pratyush) and left Pasadena Thursday evening, camping at the North Fork of Big Pine Creek trailhead that night. They hiked up to 3rd lake on Friday, where they set up camp (Garrett made a small snow cave for himself, which didn't work out so well) and tried to chop through the lake ice to get at the muddy water below. Saturday, they moved up the giant gully beneath the Temple Crag / Mt. Gayley ridge, and setup camp just after noon at Gayley Camp, overlooking the Palisade Glacier and the main ridge of the north Palisades. Stephen and Pratyush arrived an hour or two later, having driven up to the trailhead Friday night and hiked in Saturday morning.

After setting up camp and resting a bit, Sean, Stephen, Dan and Fu Hai spent two hours ascending Mt. Gayley on steep snow and 3rd class scrambling and mixed climbing, then returned to camp just as the sun set. No one had signed the summit register of Gayley since September, so this may have been the first ascent of the decade. Back at camp, everyone ate and rested, preparing for the big day on Sunday.

Sunday (March 28) began at 4 AM, and everyone was out of camp a little after 5, traversing the Palisade glacier for the first hour. The group hit the U-Notch couloir around 6:30, just as the sun was rising, and began the slow ascent of the couloir. The bergshrund had snow bridges over it on the right side, and with the cold temperatures, no one broke through. Stephen had crampon problems. In the upper couloir, the slope gradually steepened and the slope turned from deep snow to a thin covering of snow on top of soft alpine ice. Everyone did great soloing this part, especially since the last 100' were quite steep.

Once at the U-Notch, the group faced a decision: the 4th class Clyde Variation (in summer, this is easy, but the lower entrance is a bit tricky in winter especially with boots), or the 5th class Chimney Variation (2 pitches of 5th class, rated variously between 5.2 and 5.6). With 8 people, 2 pitches of 5th class are a major obstacle, but when Sean offered to lead the two 5th class pitches, the choice was sealed. Sean lead off about 8:20 AM, and the last person made the top of the pitches around 11 or 12, which meant many hours of waiting in the cold shade (at 10 AM, it was about 17 F). Nothing major went wrong, but small things began to happen: a few people fell while climbing (falling on the prussik cord), radio batteries died, and we decided that we did want crampons and ice axe for above, so all 8 crampons and ice axes were taken up in a backpack. The climb was a bit challenging, given our large plastic boots, lack of a belay (since we self-belayed with prussiks) and cold fingers (and a few of us still had backpacks).

At the top of the 5th class, the summit was in sight but the ridge looked impassable. However, being very careful about loose rock, it was possible to find a 3rd/4th class route across the exposed ridge. After a little less than an hour of scrambling, 6 of us were on top. Sean finished belaying the last person up the 5th class, and they began to traverse as well but decided against it in the interest of saving time for the group. It was already 2 or 3 PM.

Going down the 5th class took a long time as well. Luckily, we found that a single 50m rope was long enough, so everyone did a single rope rappel, and the last person did a double rope rappel on the two ropes. However, the ropes became stuck, so Stephen climbed back up halfway and managed to very gradually move the ropes. He lowered to an intermediate anchor, then pulled the ropes from the higher anchor and rappelled to the notch from the intermediate anchor. This drama added another hour, so it was after 4 PM when we began to leave the notch.

From the notch, we tied both ropes together for a 110m single strand rappel off a rock anchor. On average, it took 5 to 10 minutes for a person to rappel (this included passing the knot), so it was over an hour of rappelling. The final person undid the anchor, tossed down the rope and downclimbed.

The adventures were not quite over. In the heat of the day, the snow bridge of the bergshrund had weakend, and as Pratyush was trying to cross, it collapsed and he fell in to the crevasse, ending up a few feet below the lip and saving himself from plunging to the bottom by quickly digging his crampons into the snowy side. He yelled for help but no one was near. Luckily, his ice axe was still with him so he slowly climbed out, just as Sean and Stephen were approaching.

After that, the adventures were over, but we were 5,000' above the cars and 7 or 8 miles away. The weather (it had been perfectly still and sunny on Saturday) had been breezy all day, and was slowly turning worse, so packing up camp was done in a stiff wind. We left a little after 7 PM, and made great time down the large gulley, and hiked out as a group for the first 5 miles or so. Everyone was back to the cars around 11:30 AM, and back to Pasadena between 4 and 5 AM, making it a 25 hour day.

This was a very strong group and the leaders with impressed with the "mountain-sense" of everyone. Not all participants had done steep snow and rock like this without a rope, but nonetheless everyone was very calm and methodical on the steep sections that had fatal fall potential. North Palisade is often considered the most difficult 14er in California (excluding the final 20' on the summits of nearby Starlight and Thunderbolt, which are often aid climbed by peak baggers), so it is a desirable summit even in summer. In winter (note that our ascent was a week after the official end of winter), it probably sees 5 or fewer attempts every year and probably only 1 successful attempt; few people make it past the U-Notch. The summitpost page notes that in at least one winter, no one signed the summit register (which doesn't mean no one climbed it; for example, we didn't spend the time looking for the summit register under the snow).

Further info



Option 1: Mt. Whitney

Caltech climbers at Iceberg Lake on Mt. Whitney, Feb 2006

We approach via NF of Lone Pine Creek, ascent via Mountaineer's Route from high camp at Iceberg Lake at 12,500 ft


  • More glamourous since it's the highest.
  • Ice climbing on the approach.
  • Trip leaders have ascended this route several times in winter.
  • The climbing route is possibly more skiable than routes in Palisades
  • Avalanche danger is relatively low
  • Route gets progressively harder, so easy to turn around.


  • Some people already climbed it (in 2007, 2008 and 2009).

Option 2: Palisades area

Two Caltech climbers (Justus and Wayne) at the bottom of the U-Notch, with the Palisade glacier below

We approach via NF of Big Pine Creek, high camp at North Palisade Glacier. From here the options are: Mt. Sill via the NE couloir, Polemonium or N. Pal via U-Notch, or possibly Thunderbolt. In 2008, we did Mt. Sill via the NE couloir with mixed success, after a two day approach up the NF of Big Pine Creek.


  • Largest glacier in the Sierra
  • Many climbing route options
  • More beautiful view from the summit. The view from Sill is the "best in the Sierra" according to some.
  • This is the most rugged spot in the Sierra


  • Potentially worse avalanche terrain
  • Less chance of summiting



Some interesting tidbits from past years' trips

Highlights from 2009*:

  • Not one, but two bear attacks
  • A 1000' fall down an icy couloir on Mt Shasta
  • Snowcaves
  • Altitude sickness at Iceberg Lake camp
  • Compound femur fracture

(at least 50% of these above statements are true)

Some stats of the 2007 and 2008 trips:


  • Feb 27-28, overnight "practice trip" to Mt. Baldy.
  • March 11th, summit Mt. Whitney. We divided into two groups. One group took one night, and one group took two nights.
  • Stats:
    • Climbers: 15
    • Climbers at summit: 11 or so
    • Fatalities: 0
    • Whiners: 1 or 2
    • Number of ropes damaged by crampons: 1
    • Highest pack mass to body mass ratio achieved: .7


  • Feb 9-10, overnight "practice trip" to Mt. Baldy. 22 people!
  • Feb 15-16, alternate overnight "practice trip to Mt. Baldy. 15 people!
  • March 7-9, summit Mt. Whitney. Divided into two groups again.
    • Climbers: 14
    • Number of climbers who slept in a single snow cave: 7
    • Number of climbers at summit: 9 or so
    • Fatalities: 0
    • Near Fatalities: very few
  • March 21-23, trip to Palisades, divided into two groups. We summitted Mt. Sill, and the trip was designed to be a bit harder than the Whitney trip. Maybe it was a bit too hard:
    • Climbers: 11
    • Climbers at summit, excluding the leaders: 1
    • emergency bivouacs in snow cave by climbers separated from the group: 1
    • Fatalities: low to zero
    • Number of undergrads who wore a t-shirt when everyone else had on down-jackets: 1