- Tent, Sleeping Bags, Sleeping Pad, Crampons, Ice Axes, Trekking Poles, Mountaineering Boots, Gaiters, Sunglasses, Nalgene Bottles, Primus Stove, Weatherproof Matches, Kettle, Freeze-Dried Food, High Protein Snacks (Clif Bars, Powerbars, Gels, Nuts, etc.), Winter Clothes (base layer, fleece layer, hard shell, down parka)
- Canon 1D Digital SLR Camera, 24-70mm f/2.8L Lens, 70-200mm f/2.8L Lens, Gitzo Mountaineer Tripod, Gitzo Magnesium Universal Ballhead with Quick Release Adapter, Galen Rowell Graduated Neutral Density Filters, Sony MiniDV Camcorder with High-Grade 0.6X Wide Angle Lens
Weather Conditions (Lone Pine, CA):
- Max Temp, 81 deg F; Min Temp, 36 deg F; Dew Point, 24 deg F; Precipitation, 0 in; Max Wind Speed, 15 mph
Day 0 - Thursday, March 18, 2004:
I picked up my friend, Renzo, at 9 p.m. Thursday night in
Day 1 – Friday, March 19, 2004:
After having some snacks (Clif Bars, Powerbars and nuts) and some Gatorade, we gathered our packs and, at 2 a.m., headed up the road to Whitney Portal and started on the main
It took us 3 hours from the start of the
After we broke out of the shade just above Lower Boy Scout Lake, we were getting the full brunt of the bright sunshine. We took our fleece layer off and just hiking in our base layer was pretty comfortable. Sunglasses and sunblock were mandatory with that sun and snow all around. I opened the side-zippers on my pants halfway to prevent oveheating but I still sweated profusely. However, the headband I brought this time prevented my sunglasses from getting all fouled up. The snow was still firm so the crampons worked like a charm. But, that luxury would eventually come to an end later in the day.
The valley leading towards Upper Boy Scout Lake gradually grew less in slope and we reached the lake in about 3 hours. Post-holing became more frequent but it was manageable. We consciously did not bring snowshoes to save weight. We noticed the icefall from the Moraine drainage along the way and made a note to bring some ice climbing equipment next time to give it a try. From Upper Boy Scout Lake, we pushed up through Clyde Meadows and reached the Moraine area which provided our first close up view of the Day and Keeler Needles and the East Face of Mount Whitney. Too bad all those people on the
Continuing through the Moraine valley, we encountered a series of ascending slopes which started to erode our strength. It was mid-day and the southeastern facing slope of the Moraine area had been absorbing sunshine for several hours turning it into mush. Post-holing became frequent and in a couple of instances, our leg would sink in to the hilt, cause us to take our pack off and dig ourselves out. Renzo was handling it fine, but I was starting to hit a physical wall.
We decided to camp amongst some boulders in the Moraine about 700 feet from the slope leading up to
I woke up and it was dark. I asked my buddy if he was awake and he said, “Yup.” I asked him if he was hungry and I got a “Most definitely!” as a reply. He and I were both starving! I took a look at my watch. It was 11:30 p.m. Having skipped sleep the previous night and hardly eating during the day really took a toll. After inhaling some Kathmandu Curry, nuts and dried fruit all downed with copious amounts of tea and Gatorade, I felt like a champ once again! (Mental note: Don’t skip sleep next time!)
Day 2 - Saturday, March 20, the Vernal Equinox:
At 1:00 a.m., I went back to sleep and woke up at 6:30 a.m. to get some photos of the sunrise illuminating the Needles and the East Face. If you can get up for that magical 5 minutes, I would really recommend it. It is absolutely breathtaking
We packed lighter for the summit and we set off on crampons at 7 a.m. towards
The morning snow in the Couloir was firm and made travel up the slope very stable. About halfway up the Couloir, the wind started picking up. We donned our windbreakers and the air got appreciably colder as we slipped into the shadow of the East Face. The snow was steep enough for loose rock and snow to keep tumbling down the Couloir, so we tried to keep falling debris to a minimum for the sake of anyone below.
After reaching the Notch, we finally were able to look West and two choices presented themselves. We could either traverse the North Face and ascend to the summit on the other side or go directly up the Chute to our immediate left. We knew the summit plateau was right there above us about 400 feet so we voted for the Chute. At the notch, a small bird kept flying around us and probably looking for a handout. I guess it has been fed by others and got used to connecting food and people. I took a picture of it and later identified it as a female Gray-Crowned Rosy Finch, a native of high alpine snowfields in
Three climbers on ropes were coming down the Chute so we waited a bit and passed them near their next to last pitch. We offered to stay there until they exited the bottom of the Chute to minimize stuff hitting them from above, but they urged us to just go ahead. Free climbing on crampons on the lower rocks in the Chute was a bit sketchy, but my holds held firm through the exposed sections. From there on, it was all firm snow to the top of the Chute, and I self-belayed with my ice ax for a little more insurance.
What a great feeling it is to exit the top of the Chute to find yourself staring at the Summit Hut about 200 easy yards away! We were alone at the summit and the time was 10:45 a.m. The register contained names from all over the