ApproachThis route climbs the long Northeast Ridge of Lone Pine Peak from the desert floor at 6,000'. The NE Ridge, is the Central of the three impressive ridges coming down from the summit toward the town of Lone Pine. From the town, make a left turn on the town's only light and follow the Whitney Portal Road. Make a left turn onto dirt road named "Olivas Ranch Road". Where the road splits, take the right hand road. Just a few feet after the split, another (rather indistinct) dirt road branches right and slightly up hill. Drive up the road as far as possible. The road ends in a turnaround. Barely visible path goes down to the creek bed and across it to the right side of it and up. The NE Ridge is the right hand skyline above you.
Route DescriptionHike up toward the ridge. Get on the ridge and follow it all the way to the summit. The ridge is over 6,900' high and over three miles long. Climb the first tower mostly on the North Side and the second tower on the South Side. The exit gully follows the "RIGHT" side of the upper NE Ridge. In the summer, the exit gully is a smooth glaciated trough which from a distance looks barely climbable. Once you get closer to it, a series of steep steps allow reasonable progress upward. After a while a broken rock and ledges lead left. You can see two large flakes or towers on the left side of the skyline. Follow the broken rock left and up to a place below these two formations. From there, about 400 feet of fourth class lead to the top of the route. When in doubt as to where the route goes, always follow a line of least resistance up gullies, ledges, ridges and faces. It should never get harder than about 5.5 or 5.6.
This route was first climbed by Phil Warrender and Gary Valle over two days in July 1982.
But in the summer, some might scramble up the ridge, unroped. Two average speed parties reported times of 11-14 hours climbing the ridge this way.
SP members Scotty Nelson (poorboy44) and Nate Ricklin (glahhg) completed what might be the 2nd winter ascent of this massive ridge in early March of 2008, some 14 years later. They also took three days. Nate reported that they climbed a more technical variation(approx. 5.7 over rock) to exit the upper ridge onto the summit plateau. This variation could actually make the exit safer when the exit couloir is snow loaded and avalanche prone.
05/08/2008- Nate Ricklin advised the following regarding the upper ridge exit:
"From the notch at the top of the Northeast ridge, climb straight up the headwall, loosely following a 12 inch wide dike from the bottom to halfway up the headwall. Where the dike veers left, go straight up, aiming for the left side of some big-looking overhangs. Pull the final overhang at a splitter finger-size crack. About 2.5 pitches, 5.7."
On March 14-17, 2009, Daniel Krasner (SP) and Victor Ortenberg made the (reported) 3rd Winter Ascent of the Ridge. Daniel reported that they took a standard alpine rack, 9mm-70m rope and climbed in plastic boots. Daniel wrote to me that not knowing the route or the descent really ate a lot of time and then eventually nerves, but it was a very good climb and one to do in winter.
On February 23,2012, the late Ben Horne (zoomloco on Summitpost) ran up the route solo in 7hrs 00min to the top of the ridge, took 19 minutes to get to the summit and descended via the East Ledges/Slopes to his car in RT of 11 hrs and 25 min, again, in 11 hours and 25 minutes Car to Car in winter!!
Descend via the regular East Ledges Route. The descent from the Summit Plateau (cc 12,000 feet) to the North Tuttle Creek dirt road (5,900 feet) takes 3-4 hours, and is never harder than class 2, if you hit it right. Walk the North Tuttle Creek dirt road back to your car (3 miles of desert hiking).
It might be very wise, to learn this East Ledges descent route before one attempts the NE Ridge in the winter. The descent from the summit plateau is not very complicated, but there are possibilities of making a mistake and down climbing various steep gullies and cliffs instead of the class 2 hike down the East Ledges. In the winter,a simple mistake like that, could make this portion of the climb the undisputed crux of it!
Recommended for those, who like to suffer. Great (and long) ALPINE route!
Essential GearGear for summer roped ascent: 3 medium Hexes, 4 wired cholks, 5 slings and 10 biners, harness, rock shoes, thin 30 meter rope, or 50 meter double, or maybe even single rope (depends on amount of soloing you are prepared to do) , water, food, bivi gear.
Winter roped ascent gear: 50 m rope, Set of wires, 4 medium Hexes, 2 larger SLCDs (equiv. to #3 and #3 1/2 Friends), slings, one short ice axe and one ice hammer (for the party), good leather boots (or plastic if you like that kind of stuff for rock climbing), gaiters, crampons, gloves plus extra pair, small stove and pot, water bottle, Goretex Bag (-5 F), light ground cover, sleeping pad, no cook food for 3 days, clothing, harness, helmet. Try to go as light as possible, less than 25 lbs each.