Winter Mountaineering Trip 2011

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Using a prusik to ascend a fixed line on Mount Whitney's Mountaineer's Route
Hamik on the summit of Thunderbolt Peak

The winter mountaineering trips are the premier club trips of the year. We climbed Mount Whitney with a large group and Thunderbolt Peak and Mount Gayley on a second trip for veteran members. To prepare, we took two training trips to Mount Baldy.

Baldy Training Trips

These trips are mandatory to come on the Mount Whitney trip. We had more than 40 participants over two trips. Skills covered included:

  • Learn how to make basic snow anchors, how to put on and use crampons, how to self-belay and self-arrest with an ice axe, how to ascend fixed ropes, and rappelling (or abseiling as the fancy British call it)
  • Experience the wonders of snow camping and melting snow
  • Learn how to use basic avalanche-rescue gear
  • Practice hiking at night with a full pack (typically upwards of 45 lbs)
  • Overcome your fear of yetis and other snow-monsters

28-29 Jan

On the first of two training trips, we had 18 people in total and covered basic crampon use and self-arrest (on rather icy snow), snow anchors, rappels and fixed line ascending. We climbed via the steep Shit Chute. Pictures from participants are below.

  • Here are previews of the picasa albums:

{{#widget:Picasa |user=CaseyHandmer |album=5567849583172701345 |width=300 | height=250 |captions=0 |autoplay=1 }} {{#widget:Picasa |user=112823792180964152710 |album=5569603969101089249? |width=300 |height=250 |captions=1 |autoplay=1 }}

  • And a small video of us practicing self-arrest, thanks to Casey:


5-6 Feb

We had 28 people on this practice trip. With conditions similar to the previous weekend's (icy!), we had a good trip. People still took ~1 hour 45 minutes to get ready! We climbed in 2 groups, ascending both the Shit Chute and Figure 11 Chute. On the way up, we practiced self-arrest, anchors, rappelling and prussiking. We also practiced some basic beacon work after descending the bowl.

  • Here are some pictures from this trip:

{{#widget:Picasa |user=Shriharsh |album=5570794845813518913 |width=300 | height=250 |captions=0 |autoplay=1 }} {{#widget:Picasa |user=stephen.beckr |album=5571189982502010273 |width=300 | height=250 |captions=0 |autoplay=1 }}

<flickr>5425204119|frame|left|Click to see Zach's photos on Flickr</flickr>

Main Trips

Mount Whitney Trip

This happened 11-13 February, 2011. We had 22 climbers attempt the climb, and 21 made it to the top. Everyone made it back safe. We camped night 1 at Lower Boyscout Lake (10300') and night 2 at Iceberg Lake (12700'). Summit day began at 3 AM, while the last climber made it back to the trail head around 6 PM. Even with a 3 day trip (and thus relatively better acclimatization) we still had some altitude related issues. Some people also got a few pitches of beautiful blue ice on days 1 and 2.

Our group was in general strong and had a good mountain/back country sense.

Participants: PT, Nick, Stephen, Hamik, Loren, Gene, Patrick, Joel, Casey, Brandon, Peter, Odin, Jack, Bryan M., Kedron, Liz, Tucker, BG, Dan Feldman, Lauren, Clément, Aaron W


Stephen's album(68 pictures) Casey's album(110 pictures) Loren's album(53 pictures)
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{{#widget:Picasa user=caseyhandmer album=5574100871464060785 width=300 height=250 captions=1 autoplay=1


{{#widget:Picasa user=lorenswenson album=5574160460971372241 width=300 height=250 captions=1 autoplay=1


Bryan's album(100 pictures) Patrick's Album
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Veteran's Trip

{{#widget:ThumbnailLink |target= |src= |caption=On the summit (well, 7 feet below it) of Thunderbolt (2011's veteran's trip) |align=right |width=450 }} The veteran's trip returned from a three-day trip to The Palisades after summitting Mount Gayley (13,510') on April 30 and Thunderbolt Peak (14,003') on May 1.

5 (Patrick, PT, Odin, Bill and BG) of us slept at the Glacier Lodge TH (7,500') overnight on Thursday 28th April. The next morning we hiked up to Sam Mack Meadow (11100 ft). The plan was to head up 800 feet more to the campsite above, but from an avalanche perspective, the slopes in between seemed dubious in the late afternoon. The next morning 4 of us (Patrick, PT, Odin and BG) headed up to Mt. Gayley (13510 ft). We took a spicy variation to the Southwest ridge on the way up, opting to ascend the snowy flanks to join the ridge about halfway up. This led to some steep icy snow, some easy but scary mixed climbing and a combination of shouting and cursing in many languages including French and Hindi. We then downclimbed the class 3 ridge, which was much more enjoyable. Descending, we managed to refill our water bottles by hacking through the ice in the small lake above Sam Mack Meadow. Back at camp by 2.45 PM, we were greeted by 4 more climbers: Erik, Hamik, Kedron and Theo. Temperatures in the night dipped pretty low, and indeed the entire trip was characterized by very low temperatures - the first night some of us had boots frozen stiff and water bottles turn to ice bottles even inside the tent. The wind chill made it worse.

The next day we woke up 3.30 AMish and left camp by 4.30. By 6 AM, we were standing next to the bergschrund, viewing a most spectacular tequila sunrise on the horizon and thinking "will the schrund try to eat us again?". But the schrund was all full, so we strolled across it happily. Then began the long climb up the North Couloir, followed by class 3-4 scrambling (very reminiscent of the North Pal veteran's trip last year) to get to the notch between the so-called "Lightning Rod" and the main summit. We set a fixed line up a 5th class variation to the summit block, and the party followed on prussik belay (one person went unroped up the easier class 4+ chimney route). We reached the summit between 8-10 AM. Then ensued an excellent demonstration of Franco-Texan lassoing to set a top-rope at the summit block (5.9R or maybe X) which all 8 of us climbed. We left the summit at around 12.45 PM. We made a double-rope rappel back to the notch, downclimbed some ~50 degree snow and were back at camp by 3 PM or so. After packing up camp we started hike out by 4.30 PM, and everyone was out at the trailhead by 7 PM or so.

This was a fast, strong group the likes of which I have never seen on a club trip. No mulled wine like on the Whitney trip, but still great fun.

Pictures and more reports

Patrick's Photos BG and Odin's Photos Erik's Photos
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This is a more detailed trip report, with pictures mostly unceremoniously lifted from these Picasa albums.

Previous Winter Mountaineering Trips



Equipment info and such


Mount Baldy, 2011. PT devours the last person out of bed in the morning