Winter Mountaineering Trip 2012

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Lauren hula hoops at 14,500'
Ice Climbing on Day 2 of the Mount Whitney Trip
Erik Climbs on Boy Scout Falls
Arnar at the summit of Mount Whitney
Near the top of the Mountaineer's Route

Each year, the club organizes several mountaineering trips. These include training trips to a local peak, an ascent of Mt. Whitney's Mountaineer's Route, and an advanced objective (Lone Pine Peak this year). For information on next year's trip, see Winter Mountaineering Trip 2013 !

Mount San Gorgonio Training Trips

This year, for desire of actual snow, we held our practice trips at San Gorgonio Mountain, using the 10 mile one-way South Fork Trail. We camped overnight in the snow and practiced skills. Attending one of these trips is mandatory to come on the Mount Whitney trip. We:

  • Practiced making 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
  • Experienced the wonders of snow camping and melting snow
  • Practiced using basic avalanche-rescue gear
  • Practiced hiking at night with a full pack (typically upwards of 45 lbs)
  • Overcame our fear of Ronnie James Dio and other snow-monsters

18-19 February

  • 10 of us summitted San Gorgonio (11,500', highest peak in SoCal) on Feb 19 ~1030, via the 26mile r.t. Dry Lake/South Fork trail in what we would call full winter conditions. The summit had up to 50mile per hours gusts, and before that we held our practice sessions in strong winds and fair amount of blowing snow, and climbed/broke trail in occasionally knee deep snow, making for a true alpine experience. The leaders were impressed by the 10 who summitted, as they showed perseverance, optimism, willingness to suffer and general preparedness. This trip was harder than our previous practice trips.
  • Feb 18
    • 1 PM: leave Pasadena
    • 4 PM: start hiking from 6800'. Snowshoes very useful in last hour or so
    • 8.30-10 PM: reach Dry Lake (9000',6 miles), set camp in benign conditions. Realize 1 hiker out of 20 is missing.
    • 11 PM: Search team goes, returns later empty handed.
  • Feb 19
    • 3.30 AM: wake up
    • 4.50 AM: 13 people leave for summit, 1 stays at camp (frozen jeans), 5 leave in different directions to search for missing hiker (found safe at 10 AM)
    • 7 AM-9AM: training session 1 at 10300'. 3 participants head back to camp
    • 10.20-11.30 AM: summit! very windy and chilly
    • 2-3.30 PM: back to camp. Training session 2
    • 6 PM: everyone out and safe.

25-26 February

San Gorgonio summit, second practice trip, 2012

This was a strong group, and conditions were very friendly. 27/27 people reached the top of San Gorgonio (11,500') before noon, and everyone was back at the cars before 4. The weather was perfect and there was minimal postholing, but this still managed to be a practice trip which was significantly harder in some respects than our normal ones to Baldy.

  • Participants (27): Pratyush, Patrick ,Hamik, Doug, Vito, Brian, Robb W, Michelle K, Casey, Feras H, Kevin, Gene, Arnar, Chris B, Nathaniel T, Lauren, Will R, Pato, Karan, Danica, Cary, Vince K, Jeff Lewis, Chao, Aron, Dero, Tucker

We left the trailhead around 4pm and reached camp about 3 hours later. We woke at 3:30 am and left camp a little after 5. We progressed quickly up the snowshoe track from the previous week and stopped at a steepish part of the chute to practice self-arrest, snow anchors, rappelling, and prussiking. From there the group quickly climbed to the summit, where we gathered by about 11. The descent was quick but the snow quickly softened, leading to some post-holing before returning to camp. Chris and Tucker skied down from the top of the snow. After Chris lead some practice with avalanche beacons and probes, the group returned to the cars and were all accounted for by 4.


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Mount Whitney Trip, April 6-8

Near the top of the Mountaineer's Route
Nearing Iceberg Lake, with Lone Pine Peak in the background

Each winter we climb Mount Whitney by the mountaineer's route over three days. This year was our biggest group yet!


Due to the low snow year and late date of the trip, we were able to easily drive to Whitney portal, where we slept on Thursday night.

Groups left at their leisure on Friday morning and made their way up to Lower Boy Scout lake. Again due to the low snowpack, this was the first year in recent memory that the club trip has used the Ebersbacher ledges! Temperatures were gloriously warm, and camp at Lower Boy Scout Lake was a merry affair, with ukulele songs, frisbees, and even some swimming! One group continued to Upper Boy Scout Lake to spend the night.

Saturday saw the hike from Lower Boy Scout Lake to Iceberg Lake. The hike was quite pleasant this year, as what snow there was was nicely compacted and perfect for cramponing (or even booting in most places!). Greg S and Patrick set up a couple of topropes on boy scout falls - this was Greg's first ice lead and Patrick's first ice screw anchor! Several people got their first taste of ice climbing, and then headed up to camp at Iceberg lake. The last of the group reached camp near sunset. This year, amazingly, several tents were set up on dry ground!

Please add info about summit day here! Patrick 18:12, 24 April 2012 (PDT)

28 people summitted. Many shenanigans on top, including hula hoops, kites, ukuleles, Hamik's hot chocolate factory, watermelons, beer, tuxedos, clothing optional, and so on. Very little snow, reasonably warm nights, fun group!


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Veteran's Trip

Climbers at the summit of Lone Pine Peak

For those unsated by the Whitney trip, we organize a longer, harder, more technical mountaineering trip. This year, the Veteran's trip headed to the Winter Route on South Face of Lone Pine Peak. In contrast to previous veteran's trips on cold, snowy peaks with short technical stretches, this year's route featured many technical rock pitches and autonomous rope teams in balmy spring weather .

We met up at the Tuttle Creek Ashram on Friday night. Four teams climbed the Winter Route, with a fifth joining from the Direct South Face. A third party of five headed for Mount Le Conte.

Winter Route Teams

4 teams got a luxurious non-alpine start and headed out before 9 am. We filled water, on the order of 6L per person, at Tuttle Creek, the last sure refill spot for two days. After some awkward hiking through trees , some route-finding through the boulder field, and some whining after whacking his knee from Patrick (thanks Ana for dressing the wound!), we arrived at the base of the first gully.

After some scrambling, we split into rope teams to climb the first roped pitch(es) to gain the second gully. Since there are several routes to choose from at this point and we were able to save some time by climbing in parallel. The Lone Pine Rangers (Patrick and Josh) took the chimney variation. Team Fried Egg (Hamik, Ana, and David), The Fabulous Foolie Bears (Pratyush and Greg S. ), and Team Fabian and Bryan (Fabian and Bryan) took more direct routes (involving free soloing up a 10' high squeeze chimney), some arriving in the second gully without even having to place any gear!

We made our way up the second gully, which was flowing with water and had large patches of snow remaining. This made the class 3 moves a little spicier, as many now had to be executed on wet rocks in wet shoes. The approach to the pitch at the end of the gully involved some ~40 degree snow climbing . We had plenty of time to relax as all 4 teams scaled the last pitch, which featured a couple of chimney moves which were tricky with our large packs. This brought us to the Winter Route Notch, where we rappelled to our luxurious bivy ledge for the night. The last team arrived at around 8 pm.

We spent the night on various flat-ish sections, many anchoring to the rock to sleep. Team 2 (Joel and Roman) arrived at around 2 am from the Direct South Face Route.

Teams began lining up to climb the 4 pitches of the headwall on Sunday morning, with the first leaving just before 6 am. The first pitch of the headwall was an excellent 5.7 face climb, a nice contrast to the chimneys of the previous day. There was a delay at the second pitch as a pack, dropped from above but fortunately staying on the ledge, was hauled up. The second pitch was climbed with a couple of different variations, allowing for some parallel climbing. After some relaxing on a ledge, we executed a tension traverse (the A0 part of the climb) into the next chimney and climbed for two more pitches to the top. The view became impressive as the Corcoran-LeConte ridge and the massive face of Lone Pine Peak sprang into sight.

After regrouping at the top of the climb, we hiked and scrambled across the summit plateau, dropping packs and heading to the top. We quickly descended on soft sand, reclaimed our packs, and headed down the descent route, often sliding on loose sand and gravel. Hamik led us to the critical saddle, and from there we descended, with only minor route-finding problems, to the dirt road, down to the creek, and back to the lower parking lot. We met up at the Lone Pine Cafe for beers and burgers!


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Direct South Face Team

Joel and Roman climbed the longer Direct South Face Route, joining the Winter Route team at the bivy late on Saturday night.


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Le Conte Team

Mount Le Conte and the Comb Ridge.
Typical scrambling near the summit of Mount Le Conte.
Arnar rappels off the chockstone.

Nick, Lauren, Arnar, BG, and Chris headed from the Ashram to Mount Le Conte. From this approach, the route to the summit is via the East Gully (aka "Laughing Dolphin"), a bonafide class 3 scramble with a spicy class 4 section at the narrowest part of the gully. We used a short belay to surmount that section, and continued to the summit. We found more snow than expected for this dry winter, but less than you'd usually probably find in the area.

Friday: we left Pasadena at 6pm and arrived at the turnaround at the top of Granite View Drive without any trouble (careful driving, but no scrapes or sketchiness) in Chris's Pontiac. The hike to the Ashram took less than 30 minutes, and we socialized and shared libations til late in the night. It is not possible to go to the Ashram and have a dull time.

Saturday: we woke up late and cruised up a prominent use-trail just north of Tuttle Creek toward Mt. Langley. The trick is to stay close to the creek until at least ~9000 feet (give or take 100). We stayed on the north side of the creek until 9600 feet, and found the nice stream crossing. After crossing over a few avalanche paths, a lunch break at ~10000 feet, and a quick bottle refill at the head of the main stream, we turned right at the fork in the valley at ~10700 feet. We all climbed different paths on the massive scree field to gain the "bowls" at ~11500-12000 feet, and all got approximately the same amount of dog-tired. We decided to camp in a nice sandy site at ~11500 which we called "the beach" since it already had a beer cooler installed under one of the rocks and was super cozy. If we had gone up to ~12000, we could have descended a little bit down to a lake for fresh water supply, but our site also had a huge pile of snow nearby and so it sufficed. Arnar had a beer emergency at ~11700 on a scouting mission, and we chugged to prevent spillage, which made for a fun return to camp... The sunset on Langley was amazing, and we slept under a brilliant blanket of stars.

Sunday: we woke at 5:30, and many other times throughout the night. We started from camp at 6:30 and made it to the bottom of the East Gully by 8am. Lauren was feeling dizzy and had been suffering since ~8000 feet, and finally decided that 12500 was too high to be feeling sub-par. She was treated to not only a fat marmot but also a close-up bear sighting on the way back to the Ashram! The 4 others climbed on perfectly softened snow and some scree (wet avalanche action had stripped some parts of the east face) using only 1 ice ax and no crampons. Earlier in the day this would have been harder. Some areas were prone to ice beneath the top layer of sastrugi, especially near the pinch.

We tried to bypass the hilariously true-to-name Laughing Dolphin on both sides, the right side turned out to match the description we had read. A large chockstone was wedged in the gully, and we surmounted it after a much debating the best option. Chris ate a can of spinach, donned rock shoes, and removed his pack, and a few awkward moves later, was relieved to be above the chockstone. The rest of us followed on belay, and with the right holds, could imagine that the route should be rated hard class 4, or easy class 5.

Once on top, we walked up steep snow for a few steps to the notch at the top of the gully. Breathtaking! The High Sierras were laid out as far as the eye could see, in all their glory. It was now 11:30 and we had wasted a lot of time on the rope logistics just below. We decided to stay as high as possible and only descended ~50 feet into the west facing chute, and found cairns along a high traverse over to the main route. We arrived above the Waterfall Pitch, and climbed the last class 3 sections to the summit. After a much needed lunch break, and professional-level photo session, we went back the way we came (for time consideration we skipped the traverse to Corcoran). Arnar took a (intentionally?) speedy rappel off the chockstone, but otherwise, we returned to the car uneventfully and were back in Lone Pine at 9pm. Carl's Junior provided us with burgers and milkshakes, and we even bumped into an old friend. Chris courageously drove the rest of the way home fueled by energy drinks and other energy drinks, and we were in bed by 2am.


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Leave No Trace

In the backcountry, and especially with groups as large as ours, it is very important to leave the mountain as we found it. Please read our Leave no trace page for more details on how to be careful about this, and ask us if you have questions.

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