Mt Whitney April 24, 2010 – What a difference a day makes!

SMI has worked with Big City Mountaineers since the inception of their fundraising climbs they call Summit For Someone. Big City Mountaineers currently takes over 200 inner city urban teens on 7 and 8 day backpacking and canoeing trips each summer giving 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.

On April 21 we met our first Summit For Someone group with the goal of climbing Mt. Whitney. 5 eager climbers from Texas and North Carolina raised a minimum of $3800 each for this climb. After packing our gear and leaving the trailhead at 8350 feet we encountered great walking conditions all the way up the North Fork Canyon. Dirt soon became buried under snow that was firm and easy to kick steps into. The team arrived at Lower Boyscout Lake mid afternoon and settled into camp by setting up tents, unrolling pads and fluffing out sleeping bags. A nice Thai dinner was followed by the team going to bed for a well deserved night of sleep. During the night a storm moved in and by morning there was a 3″ blanket of fresh snow on the ground. We packed up with the goal of reaching high camp and began climbing up as snow continued to fall. By the time we had climbed 1000 feet there was 2-3 feet of new snow on the ground and small avalanches were starting to release off steeper terrain around us. The decision was made to turn around and descend to the cars.

As we always do at SMI when climbs end early we offered the group a two days of custom private mountaineering training with the guides. On April 23 the storm has moved east leaving clear skies and warming temperatures. The group elected to do some avalanche training. We went out to a local area near the town of Mammoth Lakes and spent the day digging and analyzing the snowpack by digging pits and identifying different layers. We then spent the afternoon doing rescue training using transceivers, probes and shovels. The day was fun and everybody came away with some valuable knowledge that can be used on future trips. As the day was winding down we discussed what to do on our last day. The question was raised about trying to climb Mt. Whitney in one day from the car. We discussed this option and the plan was put into place.

With the warm temperatures the snow had settled tremendously and the weather forecast was calling for another clear and pleasant day. We left the trailhead at 12:15 AM on April 24. Navigating by headlamps we moved together as a team steady and deliberate. The group did an excellent job of climbing efficiently and taking care of themselves at breaks. The team moved well and we found ourselves at Iceberg Lake as the sun rose from the east casting an orange glow on Mt. Whitney’s East Face and our route, the Mountaineers Route. Climbing our route, a snow chute angled at 35 degrees, the views became more spectacular as we were blessed with a completely clear and slightly breezy morning. We topped out at the Notch at 14,000 feet. Ahead of us was fellow SMI guide Chris Werner with two clients. We followed this group of three with Kurt setting in 3 pitches of fixed line leading to the summit of Mt. Whitney. 10 hours after leaving the trailhead the group topped out on the highest point in the contiguous United States. The excellent time and favorable weather allowed us to enjoy the scenery and our accomplishment while we took summit photos. The group then descended back the way we came reaching the cars in time to have a much deserved celebration dinner in Lone Pine.

This trip marks the first time SMI has guided a 1-day climb of Mt. Whitney’s Mountaineer’s Route in April. A big congratulations go out to the team: Andrea Hilderbrandk, Sean McGrath, Eric Pace, Rudy Rudisill, and Joey Uek!

Below are a few pictures highlighting the trip. The rest of the pictures can be viewed here:

The group at our first rest break on April 21.

The North Fork of Lone Pine Creek. Cooling temperatures made for pretty scenery at each creek crossing.

The team looking strong as we topped out of the canyon that hosts the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek. Lower Boyscout Lake and our camp were 10 minutes away.

Sean, Andrea, Rudy, and Sara arriving at camp.

Rudy, Andrea, and Eric using shovels to level out a tent platform.

Our view of Mt. Whitney from our camp at Lower Boyscout Lake on the evening of April 21.

Kurt checking on on folks before hitting the sack.

Morning at camp on April 22.

The team packed and ready to climb higher.

The team climbing at approximately 11,000 feet.

Joey, Eric, and Rudi in good spirits at 11,400 feet in spite of conditions preventing us from going higher.

Sara navigating the team on the descent.

An icy crossing at the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek.

Eric learning how to do a shovel compression test to examine how well layers of snow are bonding to each other.

The team practicing avalanche rescue using transceivers, probes and shovels to search for and dig up a buried duffel bag with a transceiver inside.

The team at the trailhead on April 24 at 12:15 AM ready to begin our 1-day ascent of Mt. Whitney.

Creek crossing on the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek. The team was already encountering more favorable conditions.

The first signs of the sun rising from the east at 4:30 am.

Mt. Whitey’s East Face and Mountaineers Route basking in the orange glow that accompanies sunrise in the Eastern Sierra.

The team looking strong at 13,600+ feet ascending the Mountaineers Route.

Sara, Joey, and Eric just below the Notch at 14,000 feet on Mt. Whitney’s Mountaineers Route.

The team ascending the first of 3 pitches (rope lengths) of fixed line above the Notch en route to the summit.

Joey Uek

Eric Pace

Andrea Hilderbrand

Rudy Rudisill

Sara Berghoff

Summit photo from left to right: Kurt Wedberg, Rudy Rudisill, Andrea Hilderbrand, Eric Pace, Joey Uek, Sara Berghoff

Congratulations to a great team!!!!

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