After close to 2 weeks of clear spring conditions the weather turned colder and stormy on the days preceding our latest climb. A recent storm had moved away on March 31 leaving behind a cold mass of air that brought a clear sky and crisp winter temperatures. With two more storms forecasted to move through our area during the scheduled dates of this trip we began on April 1 prepared for any conditions we would face. SMI guides Kurt Wedberg and Sara Berghoff plus long time good friend George Dunn from International Mountain Guides hosted a group of nine eager climbers, most of whom had never visited the Eastern Sierra before. The group included: Jean Dawkins, Cooper Klinges, Pat Loftus, Chuck Norman, Hako Olevie, Jeff Paddock, Rick Paddock, Norma Ryan, and Viki Tracey.
After eating breakfast and dividing group loads the team drove up to 6800 feet where we began walking up the Whitney Portal Rd. The road is most dry now except for avalanche debris that stops cars from driving any higher. The first hour was spent walking 3 miles to the beginning of the summer trailhead at 8350 feet. We hiked on the Main Mt. Whitney Trail for 40 minutes to the cut off to the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek. The trail was mostly dry but soon after turning onto the North Fork we hit snow and ice. The North Fork Cyn continues to hold lots of snow and the cold temperatures made for firm conditions that were easy to walk on. Arriving at Lower Bouscout Lake at 10,300 feet we flattened out platforms and set up tents. A nice Thai dinner with rice, chicken and fresh vegetables the team retired to their tents for the evening. On April 2 the team woke to sunny skies but weather began changing as everybody got ready to move to our high camp at 12,000 feet. The team moved well and after leaving at 9:45 am they arrived at high camp 3 hours later. As the afternoon wore on the weather turned windy and stormy. Dinner and hot drinks were served and consummed inside people’s tents. As we went to sleep that evening we were experiencing wind gusts in excess of 60 mph.
The wind continued through the night but at 5 am it abated and the clouds had cleared away. The team got up and began rallying for a summit attempt. After a hot breakfast and gearing up with crampons, ice axes and helmets we roped up and began our climb. Ascending first to Iceberg Lake the team then traversed up and right into the Mountaineer’s Chute. The recent storms had left snow that required breaking a new trail on the lower 1/3 of the route. As we moved higher the snow conditions became more firm and progress speeded up. The team moved well as the higher altitude required harder breathing while the views became increasingly spectacular. Arriving at the notch at 14,ooo feet Kurt anchored in 3 pitches of fixed lines leading to the summit of Mt. Whitney. As we ascended the fixed line it became evident that weather was changing again so efficient climbing was important so we could “sneak in” reaching the summit and descend before the impending storm hit. After congratulating ourselves on a great climb with challenging conditions it was time to head down. The team lowered down the 3 pitches of fixed line then descended down the Mountaineers Chute. By the time everybody reached Iceberg Lake Mt. Whitney was covered in clouds and the wind picked up. The team moved well getting back to camp. We were a group of satisfied but tired climbers as everyone got settled in their tents while the wind picked up again and snow began falling.
Here are a few photos. The entire photo gallery can be found here: http://kurtwedbergphotography.com/Sierra-Trips/2010-Sierra-Trips/Mt-Whitney-April-1-4-2010/11733643_pFvQ3#828147600_Ksmbk
The team from left to right: Hako Olevie, Jean Dawkins, Jeff Paddock, Rick Paddock, Chuck Parker, Kurt Wedberg, Cooper Klinges, Norma Ryan, Sara Berghoff, Viki Tracey, Pat Loftus, George Dunn
Pat and team ascending the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek on day 1
The scenery is pretty at every turn in the route. Here as the spring snow begins melting it reveals the Lone Pine Creek’s North Fork running underneath.
Hako enjoying the climbing in the North Fork shortly after crossing the creek over a solid snow bridge
The team enjoying hot drinks in the afternoon at camp before dinner.
Viki, Norma, and Sara
Moving to high camp on day 2
Summit morning has arrived! Donning crampons before the start of our ascent.
After a stormy night Mt. Whitney proudly displayed its East Face as the sun rose.
George, Jean, Jeff, and Pat ascending the Mountaineers Chute above Iceberg Lake.
Norma, Cooper, Viki, and Hako pause for a photo high in the Mountaineers Chute.
The team taking a break at the Notch at 14,000 feet while Kurt sets the fixed lines.
With the lines fixed the team ascends the final 3 pitches (rope lengths) of the route to the summit.
Jeff on the final pitch showing us how its done.
Congratulations team on a great climb!!!