Snow conditions on Mt. Whitney have been shaping up to be some of the best we have seen in a couple years. After returning from a successful climb last week that capped off a very memorable 5-day Mountaineering Skills Seminar we were excited to return with a new group of people. SMI guides Kurt Wedberg and Sara Berghoff and long time good friend George Dunn from International Mountain Guides met a group of 9 eager and excited climbers in Lone Pine on the morning of March 25. After having breakfast and sorting out group loads we headed up the Whitney Portal Road to begin our 4-day climb. The climbers we hosted were: Nick Binson, John Delury, David Griffith, Steven Lane, Jim Sannebeck, Ryan Sommers, Michel Suignard, Taylor Tran, and Correna Wood.
Our walk during the winter/spring always begins on the Whitney Portal Road to the summer trailhead. Currrently this walk begins at about 6800 feet. The summer trailhead begins at 8350 feet. Soon we were on a trail that became increasingly snowy. Turning up the North Fork at 9000 feet we ascended the last 1300 feet to Lower Boyscout Lake. The team dug tent platforms in the snow and got settled. Hot drinks and a Thai dinner then led to the team retiring for the evening. On day 2 we moved to our high camp at 12,000 feet. The snow conditions were firm and made for excellent walking with crampons on. The team moved efficiently to our camp where we got settled. In the afternoon we reviewed some techniques team members would need to know for our ascent on the following day.
Day 3 saw the team rise early and begin our ascent wearing headlamps. We continued to be blessed with excellent snow conditions up to Iceberg Lake. Here we removed out headlamps and enjoyed a beautiful sunrise as team members learned why the Sierra is nicknamed the Range of Light. Continuing higher we entered the Mountaineers Chute where the slope angle increases to 35 degrees. Staying roped together the team employed efficient cramponing techniques while continuing to breath harder in the rarified air as they made their way up the chute on perfect spring snow conditions as the views around become increasingly more spectacular. After topping out at a notch at 14,000 feet Kurt anchored in 3 pitches (rope lengths) of fixed line and the team began the steepest climbing on the route. Shortly thereafter the team was congratulating each other on a great climb.
Here are a few highlights. The rest of the pictures are here: http://kurtwedbergphotography.com/Sierra-Trips/2010-Sierra-Trips/Mt-Whitney-March-25-28-2010/11656446_h5yBC#821984930_gJtBz
The team ascending the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek on day 1.
The view of Mt. Whitney from our camp at Lower Boyscout Lake.
Day 2 ascending towards high camp with perfect snow conditions.
Enjoying the view of the Alabama Hills in the Owens Valley during a rest break
Nearing our high camp Mt Whitney (right) comes into view
Our high camp at 12,000 feet
Donning crampons and gearing up for a pre dawn start for our summit bid
Sunrise from 13,000 feet on Mt. Whitney
Michel, Taylor, and Jim enjoying the excellent cramponing conditions on the Mountaineers Chute
Sara, Cory, and Steven high in the Mountaineer’s Chute
George, John, Ryan, and Nick nearing the top of the Mountaineers Chute
Looking up at the final 400 feet where Kurt would set the fixed lines
The team nearing the summit on the final pitch of fixed line
Congratulations to a great team!!
The guides from left to right: Kurt Wedberg, Sara Berghoff, George Dunn