(Note: this report details a week's worth of outings, and only day 3 is devoted to the Nameless Pyramid climb.)
Participants: Carl Mautner and Daniel Krasner
Dates: March 20-28, 2003
Location: Lee Vining, Bishop, Kearsarge Pass Area (Nameless Pyramid, Mount Gould), Joshua Tree National Park
Day -1/0: We began to get all our gear together on Thursday March 20th. All was going well except that I smashed a couple of toes by dropping an ice tool on my foot - don't drink and pack. Anyway, by late evening Carl and I were about finished, but I ended up being rather preoccupied all night and went to sleep at about 5:30 am. The next day was rather frantic: running around on a few hours of sleep buying biners, webbing, etc. and trying to track down a dry rope I ordered (a great b-day gift from the Russian gang) that the UPS had delivered but decided not to leave at the door and instead take for an extended tour around Berkeley. With all the delays and hassles we left town at around 9pm, going up 80 to 50, through South Lake Tahoe, and heading down 395. By about 2am I was beginning to have mild hallucinations from lack of sleep and Carl was in no shape drive either, so we pulled over onto a dirt road off of 395, threw all the gear in the front seats, and crashed in the back of the Jeep.
Day 1: We woke up about 6:30 am and in about 1.5 hours were in Lee Vining. Shortly after 9am we stumbled to the ice walls only to find out that every route was taken. Luckily I saw Michele, someone I met randomly two days before, and she was happy to let us do a route on her rope. At this point my toes weren't too happy and it looked like it was going to be a long wait to get any more climbs in so Carl and I decided to take off and head down to Bishop to do some bouldering. About 30 miles from Bishop we got pulled over; the cop said something about my going well over 90mph, but I wouldn't know since the speedometer in the Jeep only goes up to 85mph. He wrote me a ticket for 10 over the limit and sent us on our way, so with an ice limb down and a ticket in hand
everything was going basically according to plan as we rolled into Bishop. There we had lunch, bought some food, and went into Wilson's East Side Sports to receive confirmation that the forecast was looking promising. Bouldering at Buttermilks was great: the day was beautiful, the temperature was perfect, and there is nothing like watching the sunset light up Owen's Valley with the Sierra Peaks shooting up 10,000 feet in the background. We bouldered until sundown, packed the gear we needed for the Sierras, and headed to Onion Valley Road. The drive up OVR was not too exciting; it was easy to avoid the debris and snow, and the road took us about 150 yards from the trailhead. We quickly went to sleep in the back of the Jeep, for an early morning start.
Day 2: We woke up around 6am and by 7am were snowshoeing up the Kearsarge Pass Trail. Shortly before 11am we arrived at camp above Heart Lake; we set up camp, had lunch, and since there was plenty of daylight left decided to venture out to see if we could climb Nameless Pyramid, which is a peak just south of Kearsarge Pass, located between the Pass and Snow Crown Peak. The planned route was up the North-East Ridge, which according to Secour's High Sierra book is supposed to be class 3. About an hour later we were at the base of the climb. Looking up at the N-E Ridge a class 3 route was in no way obvious, and in addition there were some ominous looking clouds coming in. I figured we should give it a try, but Carl convinced me that with a white-out likely within a few hours it was probably not a good idea. It was a good thing someone was thinking... By the time we got to the tent it was snowing, the wind was beginning to pickup, and the peaks had completely disappeared in the clouds. We spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out in the tent, talking, resting, and planning ridiculous adventures. As it was getting dark we had dinner and went to sleep in hopes that the next day's weather would be more formidable.
Day3: We woke up at 5:30am to a beautiful summit day: the skies were clear, the wind was low, and as the early morning sun lit up the high Sierra we headed towards Nameless Pyramid. Inspecting the route again the ridge itself did not look particularly promising, so Carl and I figured we would need to belay about 80% of the climb. We roped up and headed up the ridge. We climbed the first part up to the notch, and even here there was no class 3 route available; it was obvious that the climb would be more technical than we imagined. After the notch the “real” climbing began. I lead the first half-pitch, which Carl said looked really scary, mainly since there was basically no way to put any pro in, and we switched off leads after that. A lot of the rock was completely iced over, but not enough for crampons to help, and there were a number of sections of very deep powder sitting on ice. Quickly realizing that we had to find a different descent route, but feeling determined, we pushed on. Fifteen half-pitches later, with almost all of them with class 5.6 moves and only three having one piece of pro, we were under the summit block. Snapping a nice photo and hearing the rewind mechanism I came to realize that I put in a 24 roll instead of a 36 and didn’t have any more film. With the mountain hearing a few things not worth writing down we traversed around the summit block. Now the summit block looks like a huge flake turned on its side, looking slightly like a pyramid. It is about 30-35 feet tall, with the sides completely smooth, and about 4.5 feet wide. The climb to the top is an unprotectable 5.6 friction slab, and we had mountaineering boots on. I volunteered to climb it, but Carl convinced me that he wanted to do it. I put an anchor around a crack at the bottom of the block and watched Carl slowly start to head up. I looked up at Carl climbing and the sigh of it made me sort of queezy, so I cowered behind the block and made sure to give him enough rope so as not to pull him off. About 1minute later I heard the sound of plastic and gore-tex sliding and an utterance of human misery that closely resembled that of a scream, but lacked the power to be classified as such. Ready for the worst, with many “pleasant” images running through my head, I looked up to find Carl barely hanging on with half of his body completely off the slab. Luckily he as able to pull himself onto the slab and I directed his slide down to where I could grab his feet and place them in the crack I was anchored on. After he got down the conversation went on something like this:
Carl: That was the single-most scariest thing I have ever done.
Me: So…. I think I want to give it a try; I can get up it.
Me: Do you think if I try it then I will die.
Carl: There is a significant chance of that.
Me: So you don’t think I should try it?
With a few more minutes of debate, we decided that having already done a really great climb, the few feet of elevation was not worth the tragedy that could follow. We traversed around the summit block and rapped off the north-west face. This cost us two slings, but with one rappel we were on the snow and traversed the ridge towards Kearsarge Pass. We stopped and had a late lunch, then headed over the pass towards camp. The last 40 minutes or so we had to route find in the dark, but our footprints were fairly clear so after a solid 12+ hour day we were back at camp. We had dinner and with memories of an incredible climb, truly my best ascent in the Sierras, in the background we fell asleep.
Day 4: We woke up around 6:30am and the conversation went something like this.
Me: Lets climb Mt. Gould.
And by 7:45am we were heading towards Kearsarge Pass, on another beautiful day in the Sierras. Feeling well acclimatized and confident we made good progress up the south ridge off of Kearsarge Pass. By 10:40am we were on the summit enjoying the views. I felt rather invincible and decided to walk out on a little ledge, above the west face drop, and climb onto the summit block. We spent about 20 minutes on the summit and started heading down. On the pass we met a guy heading out to ski some of the peaks; we wished him luck, returned back to camp, packed, and headed back to the car. By about 4pm we were driving down Onion Valley Road. After dinner in town, and few phone calls to relieved parents, we were on our way to Joshua Tree. We bought some food, drove into the park at about 11:30pm, found a campsite Hidden Valley Campgrounds and went to sleep.
Day 5 - 7: I woke up and found out that we camped right next Michele, a different Michele, whom I had met on summitpost.com. I talked to her for a while and then Carl and I went off to do some bouldering; here we met a guy from Tennessee who joined us for the rest of the day. After bouldering for a few hours we did to climb at Hidden Valley, but it was getting unbearably hot. Feeling like our feet were going to melt in the black-soled climbing shoes, we retreated into the shade to have lunch, and later proceeded to do a few more climbs and trying out some infamous problems like the “Gun-Smoke Traverse.” The next day my hands were completely torn up, so I hung out with Michele and some other climbers taking a day off while Carl bouldered in Hidden Valley. In the late afternoon we did a nice climb called “Double Dip.” Carl mentioned that he wanted to be in Berkeley on Saturday, so the next day we climbed a beautiful route called “The Swift” and started heading towards Berkeley. At around 11pm I dropped Carl off at home and headed down to Monterey to spend the next few days hanging out on some of the beautiful beaches that the Monterey Peninsula has to offer.
I would have to say that this was probably the best trip I have ever taken, and memories of it will remain with me forever. I would like to congratulate Carl on his first major ascents in the Sierras, not easy ones either, and being able to put up with me for such a long stretch of time and I look forward to many more climbs and ascents with him the future.