Sunday, July 13, 2008

East Face of Mt. Whitney July 11, 2008

Thursday Greg and I drove up to Whitney Portal to make an attempt on the East Face.  This would be Greg's first time on Whitney and my first time on the East Face, having Done the East Buttress with Zach a few years back.  We set our alarms for 2:00 am and slept in the parking lot at Whitney Portal.  With a long day of climbing ahead of us we wanted a nice head start on the day.  We had to gain about 4,500 feet of elevation over four and a half miles of cross country hiking before we even got to the climbing.  We also wanted to get to the summit soon after noon to avoid the risk of afternoon thunderstorms.
We hit the trail at 2:30 with headlamps hoping to get to Iceberg Lake and the start of the route by 6:30 or 7:00.We made pretty good time up the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek, noticing the air get thinner as we hiked.  I made one route finding mistake, getting suckered into the valley north of Upper Boy Scout Lake; and then took a spill on the talus moving too fast trying to make up for lost time.  We ended up at Iceberg Lake by about 7:30 - after two parties who had camped at Iceberg Lake had already started up the East Face.  Disappointed to have to climb behind other climbers we filled up our water bottles and started the last bit of hiking up to the roping-up spot above the First Tower.  At this point we were at about 12,500 feet above sea level and were definitely feeling it.  The first roped pitch is the Tower Traverse which is fairly easy but moderately exposed to the steep lower east face.  We then simul-climbed the next few pitches up The Washboard and Greg gave me a belay for the final pitch up and over before we met up with the log-jam of climbers about a third of the way up the route.  We abandoned hope for a speed record at this point!  We ended up waiting on the belay ledge for an hour or so to let the two other parties get moving, enjoying the view and taking a lot of pictures.  The ledge was plenty big to untie, relax and eat some food, but while sitting around at 13,500 Greg started getting a headache and feeling nauseous.  I felt o.k. but for a little headache, so when the other parties had climbed on we kept moving.  Greg took the next pitch - the classic and wildly exposed Fresh Air Traverse.  I took the next chimney pitch and then we caught up to the next party again.  By now Greg was feeling pretty ill, not wanting to eat and having run out of water.  I could tell he wasn't quite right when I climbed more than a pitch without hearing his usual wit.  We kept climbing.  At our position going up was about as fast as going down, and knowing that he would likely get worse going up was probably safer.  Greg kept up a really good pace and a really good attitude, so we were on the summit in a couple more hours.  The only other people on top were the climbers who summitted with us; there are usually droves of hikers up there, so it was quite nice to enjoy the views without the crowds.  We didn't dilly-dally too long as we still had to descend down the Mountaineer's Route and then hike back out to the car.  Stomping down the massive scree and snow slope was not a whole lot of fun but we eventually made it back to Iceberg Lake and filled up our very empty water bottles.  After a quick rest we hit the trail and began the descent back down to friendlier altitudes.  Half way down the trail or so Greg started chiming in with his usual sarcasm so I knew he'd be fine.  We met a few folks hiking up with their massive packs full of camping and climbing gear, and were pleased to have done our ascent in a day with just a rope, a rack and the shirts on our back.  We got to the parking lot just before 8:30 and then drove to Lone Pine for pizza and beer before making the drive home.
The East Face turned out to be a great experience for both of us.  We got to spend a full day up in the High Sierras getting in some good alpine climbing experience, we got to climb to the highest point in the lower 48 and,we learned a few things to watch out for next time.  Most importantly, we also made it back to our front doors relatively unscathed.  


Ferreira's said...

This is so cool, I am always curious about what you are climbing. I can now brag about you more specifically. Sorry we missed eachother while I was down, I'll catch ya next time. Or, if you are ever driving through Fresno to one of your climbs, give us a call and we can meet you. It's just an 1 1/2away.

ShepherdBoy said...

I'm pretty much going to read this every day.

after a couple times I should be able to read it without Dramamine

it will be cool to be down in Escondido and run into you more often.

garth2 said...

jerm rules
i like your new blog brother
i saw a guy driving by my house in an old muscle car, and his hood suddenly shot up and blocked his view. for some reason that made me think of you

Desiree said...

you should really update this shit