|A light dusting on the Sierra on Sunday morning|
We had already made the drive out, taken the time off, packed our bags and studied the route beta. Although we knew that there would be snow on the route, there was no way to know if it would be enough of an accumulation to keep us from the summit. We maintained our delusional optimism saying things like “It will probably just be a really light dusting” and “Maybe the high winds will blow most of it off, and the sun will melt the rest!” The forecast for Monday and the rest of the week was clear, no high winds, and no precip. Given this information we decided that it would be ridiculous to bail without at least “poking our head in”.
Within 5 minutes of developing our tentative plan and agreeing on it, Brian turned to me with a smile and said “Well, do you want to go do some rock climbing?”. We snagged a campsite at the Whitney Portal Campground and got our gear together for a little cragging. We cruised down to Alabama Hills, which is only about 10 miles from the Portal. We noticed the shimmer of rap anchors on a interesting looking feature in the distance and went to it like bugs to a lamp. Although we had never climbed together, it was obvious that both of us had the same level of enthusiasm about climbing. He offered to take the first lead and took off up this awesome looking 60 foot “Sharks Fin”. We didn’t really care which route it was, it just looked like a fun climb. Almost as soon as his feet touched the ground he said “Its actually… really good!”. I climbed it also and was impressed with the quality of the route.
|Brian at the base of Pirates on Horseback 5.10+ – The Shark Fin|
We scored the permit we wanted and were now committed to climb Whitney on Monday. We picked up a guidebook from the local climbing shop and headed back to Alabama Hills to get a few more pitches in before it was time to wind down for the day. We sought out 2 more sport climbs, both 5 star routes for the area. The climbing was absolutely fantastic! Anyone that is going to be climbing Mt. Whitney should just take an extra day and check out the classics in Alabama Hills.
|Brian consulting the approach beta|
|A little more than a light dusting|
|Brian making his way up the icy ledges|
|Checking out the route from Iceberg Lake|
|The final approach|
|Brian in the notch before the traverse|
|Brian in good spirits thanks to some dry rock|
|Following “The Fresh Air Traverse”|
We were beat up, tired and I was feeling the altitude, Brian volunteered to take us to the top and we finished in two more pitches. At about 8:30pm it was dark and cold, but we made it to the summit, no retreat, no aiding or pulling on gear. We started with a rope, a rack, our packs, and the shirts on our backs. Ground up climbing is by far what I’m most passionate about. The idea that two guys can each bring a 20lb backpack to the base of an 1800 foot face and climb to the top safely is really amazing to me. We left no gear or tat, and I even unstuck some fixed gear on the traverse.
Being committed to the climb from the first pitch was a really good experience. It was the “Upis Down” mentality that kept us pushing on and making decisions throughout the entire route. Although typically I like to know where and when I have the option to bail, on this climb, not really having that as a practical option kept our eyes on the summit. I’ve learned that keeping my eyes on the prize can provide a type of clarity because you aren’t wasting precious mental energy on contingencies that might never be utilized. The High Sierra is a beautiful place; I honestly cannot wait to get on the next route up there.
|We didn’t take a proper summit photo, but the marker with ice in the photo makes for a good consolation.|