Month: May 2010

Mt. Sill May 14-17, 2010

On May 14 Kurt Wedberg met Bill Simon and Dana Emberson for a climb of Mt. Sill. Clear warm sunny weather greeted us on this trip. We were also surprised that we never crossed paths with anybody save for a lone hiker 10 minutes from the parking lot on our way out on Monday. The trail is dry to Lon Chaney’s cabin then becomes increasingly patchy snow. Snow is more continuous from the trail fork for Black Lake.

On May 14 we hiked to Third Lake where we set up camp. First and Second Lake were still frozen and Third Lake is about half frozen. It’s outlet is completely covered. We were treated to a beautiful night camped in the trees near Third Lake. On May 15 we donned crampons and ice axes for our climb to high camp near the base of Mt. Gayley at 11,800 feet. We ascended the snow to the right of Temple Crag that offered us a spectacular backdrop to our climb. Snow conditions were excellent with a 6-9″ layer of new snow on top of an older consolidated snowpack. Setting up camp we had some time in the afternoon to relax and enjoy the spectacular views this area is famous for.

On May 16 we woke early and made a pre dawn start for Mt. Sill’s North Couloir. As we passed the base of Mt. Gayley and entered into the basin where the Palisade Glacier lies the snow conditions changed from nice cramponing on firm snow to an unconsolidated pack that would not support our body weight. Our progress slowed as the sun rose and cast an orange glow on many of the surrounding peaks including Polemonium, North Palisade, Starlight, Thunderbolt, Winchell, and Agassiz. This made for a truly exhilarating setting as we slowly made our way to Glacier Notch. Climbing up to Glacier Notch also proved challenging as we encountered a large deposit of faceted depth hoar that required us to retreat and find an alternate route to the notch. Once on Glacier Notch we basked in the sun that was obscured from us until this point. Ascending the North Couloir we again found excellent cramponing on 9-12″ of new snow over a more solid snowpack.

From here the route traverses back into the shade where a couple 3rd class rock pitches lead to the final ridge and the summit. Entering into the shade revealed more weak unconsolidated layers of snow and the decision was made to call this our high point for the climb.

This climb was serving as a training climb for Mt. Elbrus in July. This trip served our purposes well. We employed many mountaineering skills during the four days and our round trip time on summit day was 14 hours offering us the opportunity to test our stamina. This will all come in handy for Mt. Elbrus and many other peaks in the future.

Thanks Bill and Dana for a great four days. A few pictures are below. The rest of the pictures are here:

Dana, Bill, and Kurt saddled up and ready to start our trip.

Dana and Bill at frozen over Second Lake with Temple Crag in the background.

Camp at Third Lake

Bill getting water at Third Lake

Bill and Dana walking next to Third Lake

Bill and Dana at our high camp at 11,800 feet

Dana and Bill geared up and ready for summit day

Traversing the Palisade Glacier. Above left is Mt. Sill. Above right is the U Notch Couloir and North Palisade Peak.

Bill and Dana topping out on Glacier Notch

Bill and Dana high on the North Couloir of Mt. Sill

Dana and Bill enjoying the view at our high point of the climb.

Kurt, Bill, and Dana packed up and ready to descend. Thanks guys for a great trip!

Sierra Club Leader Training May 8, 2010

SMI has long been a big fan and supporter of Sierra Club outings. For 10 years now we have conducted training courses for various groups covering a wide range of topics from Snow Travel to Rock Climbing to Avalanche Training. This helps open up new possibilities for outdoor adventures for their members. On May 8 we conducted a training day for people who are in various stages of training to lead Sierra Club outings. We covered lots of skills for moving a climbing team efficiently and safely over steep snowy terrain. Methods for moving teams up, down, and traversing across snow slopes were covered.

It was a fun day spent outside with a great group of 16 motivated folks. Thanks to Nile Sorenson and Tina Bowman for helping to supervise the day and a big THANK YOU to everybody for participating in this training and we look forward to seeing you out in the mountains!

Below are a couple photos highlighting the day. The rest of the photos are here:

Group photo on the morning of May 8
Group photo on the morning of May 8, 2010.

Practicing rope travel techniques for ascending slopes.

SMI guide Zach Little teaching rope up methods.

Tina Bowman supervising rope team travel.

Nile supervising a rope team practicing traversing methods on snow.

Learning anchor station management on snow.

Kurt teaching belay methods.

Teams learning how to efficiently transition into lowering scenarios.

Thanks everybody for a great day!!

Mt. Whitney April 28 – May 1, 2010 – The Mountain is Always the Boss

On April 28 our second group from Summit For Someone showed up at Lone Pine for a Mt. Whitney climb raising money to help Big City Mountaineers take inner city urban teens on 7 and 8 day wilderness adventures this summer. Each of the seven participants on this trip raised a minimum of $3800 for the program. Each summer Big City Mountaineers gives under-resourced kids between ages 13-18 opportunities to experience the beauty of our wild lands and cultivate relationships with caring adult mentors. Summit For Someone is a fundraising effort for this program. People raise money for climbs that Summit for Someone books through SMI. The money raised goes towards funding these wilderness adventures for the teens. The program has been highly successful and SMI is proud to be associated with this highly respected and successful program.

Under a pleasant day the team left from the trailhead at Whitney Portal. The first day of the trip is always a good opportunity to get comfortable with some of the participants gear and equipment that may be new since their last adventure. The team worked out adjustments on packs and fine tuned the fit on boots as they ascended to camp 1 at 10,350 feet. Arriving at Lower Boyscout Lake mid afternoon the team set up tents and settled into camp. There was time to enjoy the scenery on this clear day. A hearty meal was followed by the team retiring to their tents for a good nights sleep.

April 29 saw the weather change from completely clear at 8 AM to snowy by 10 AM. Weather changes quickly in the mountains sometimes and this was a great example. The team packed up and began climbing to camp 2. While the weather was never completely clear it didn’t turn into a full blown storm either. Clouds would come in and sprinkle a little snow then turn to partly cloudy skies. The team arrived at high camp at 12,000 feet mid afternoon with a 3″ blanket of fresh snow. After setting up camp SMI guide Chris Werner did some afternoon training with the team to review skills needed for summit day while Kurt cooked an Italian dinner. The weather remained a bit unsettled but by 7 PM Mt. Whitney came into view as the team retired to their tents in preparation for our summit bid in the morning.

On April 30 Chris and Kurt woke the team for a pre dawn start. Another 6″ of snow fell during the night at camp. Hot water was made and everybody ate breakfast before donning crampons and shouldering light summit packs. Weather was clear with occasional wind gusts. Chris kicked in a new trail as the sun rose from the east revealing another breathtaking morning in the Eastern Sierra as Mt. Whitney’s east face was cast in an orange glow. Arriving at Iceberg Lake at 12,600 feet team members adjusted clothing layers and put on sunscreen and sunglasses. Kurt took over cutting in a route in snow that was now over 12″ deep. As we entered the Mountaineers Chute snowdrifts became 2-3 feet deep. Moving slow and steady though the team continued to make good time up the 35 degree chute. As we ventured higher the wind gusts became stronger and more frequent. By the time we reached 13,700 feet the wind was a steady 20 – 40 mph. At the top of the Mountaineers Chute at 14,000 feet we were greeted by strong steady chilly winds. A rock outcropping provided a small bit of shelter for the team as they ate and drank while Chris and Kurt surveyed the last 400 feet of steeper snow and rock leading to the summit where we normally set up 3 pitches (rope lengths) of fixed line. In spite of the wind Chris and Kurt decided to try and set up the ropes and make an attempt at reaching the summit. Chris climbed the first pitch and a few minutes later found himself in winds hitting 70 mph. Realizing it wasn’t safe to be in winds that strong on such a cold day he radioed to Kurt and said he was coming back down.

The team took a group picture at the notch before descending down the Mountaineers Chute having made a valiant try at reaching the summit but finding the conditions on the mountain not quite in safe conditions to reach the summit. In spite of falling a little short the team still raised over $25,000 towards taking urban teens on wilderness trips. Everybody learned a lot and had an adventure with memories that will last a lifetime. As happens many times when teams return short of the summit everybody had the opportunity to learn from experience in ways that never present themselves on a climb with pleasant weather. Friendships were formed through the experiences we all had and all team members expressed a desire to return for another try.

On May 1 the team took their time descending back to the trailhead stopping many times to take pictures and to simply soak in the view. A special thanks to a great team and we look forward to climbing with you all here in the Sierra again on Mt. Whitney or perhaps on another classic Sierra peak!

Here are a few pictures. The rest of Kurt’s photo album can be found here:

Mt. Whitney from the Whitney Portal Road on a clear day.

Camp 1 at 10,350 feet

The team packed up and ready to start climbing to camp 2 as snow began to fall

At 10,700 feet with Lower Boyscout Lake below

Team members taking a break at 11,400 feet with clearing skies

Mt. Whitney from 11,800 feet with a fresh dusting a new snow on it

High camp at 12,000 feet

SMI guide Chris Werner (left) explaining some mountaineering techniques that will be employed on the summit attempt the next morning

From right to left: Mt. Whitney, Keeler Needle, and Day Needle glowing orange in the sunrise. When we are treated to mornings like these it is easy to see why lovers of this mountain range affectionately call the Sierra the Range of Light.

Taking a break near Iceberg Lake at 12,600 feet

Climbing up the Mountaineers Chute at approximately 13,000 feet

Spindrift blowing above indicated strong winds and gave us a preview of the conditions we would soon be facing

Approaching the Notch at 14,000 feet

SMI guide Chris Werner trying to climb the first pitch above the notch with wind gusts hitting 70 mph

Video of the winds above taken from a protected spot at the Notch

The team poses for a group picture at the Notch holding BCM flags. Thanks for the valiant effort from a great team: Gus Valentino, Garrett Herfkens, David Cerio, David Giacomin, Chuck Parker, Steve Wargo, and Mark Piretti