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Mid-winter Sierra climbs: how foolish?

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Re: Mid-winter Sierra climbs: how foolish?

Postby PrestonRhea » Tue Oct 25, 2011 6:21 am

Both Morrison and Mt. Laurel are fun in the winter and you can't beat the approach.

This past winter I climbed Morrison twice; first by the NW Ridge and secondly by the Death Couloir. I found the NW Ridge to be straightforward and relatively free of any avy danger. Primarily the descent and approach were the most prone to avalanches. The Death Couloir was fantastic, but it won't be "in" in the time frame given.

I did Laurel quite a few times last winter and found it to be very enjoyable (thus the numerous times). I would say the NE Trough is the best route on the peak: long, a few interesting sections, and aesthetic. The NE Gully wasn't terribly exciting, kind of a slog. Either can avalanche though, so be careful and check conditions. I climbed the NE Gully after an avalanche cleaved off and ran from the top of the gully to the very bottom.

I would say to be smart, get avy gear, learn to use it, go with partners, and tell people where you are going. That being said, last winter I did all of the routes mentioned solo. I was just careful to check avy conditions and I turned around a couple times before finally completing the routes due to sketchy conditions.
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Re: Mid-winter Sierra climbs: how foolish?

Postby kevin trieu » Tue Oct 25, 2011 4:22 pm

i think most if not all of the CA 14'ers can be done between Dec-Jan. Whitney via MR, Williamson via Bair/George Creek, White Mountain (via West Ridge), were "fun" for me in those times. i did them in slowshoes and never immediately after a dump. i wait for a few days of sunshine for things to "settle."
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Re: Mid-winter Sierra climbs: how foolish?

Postby asmrz » Tue Oct 25, 2011 5:43 pm

Let's talk in general. The early snow dumps in the Sierra are NOT followed by high temperatures so the snow does not consolidate well. In December and January you find mostly deep, unconsolidated snow that makes traveling extremely tiring and after a recent dump, almost impossible.

About mid February, temps start to inch up, snow consolidates better and snowshoe/ski travel starts to improve. It is much easier to hike/climb in the Sierra in the later stages of winter, December being (generaly) the worst and January not much better.

But given that, ridges would be far easier than valleys and paying attention to soft snow avalanches (especially after a dump) is paramount.
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Re: Mid-winter Sierra climbs: how foolish?

Postby Blair » Tue Oct 25, 2011 11:10 pm

"Or should I just stop now, spend a small fortune on AT/avy gear, learn to use it correctly (I did alpine ski for over ten years a long time ago, so I'm not starting at zero here), find some partners, ski where I want to go, and be done with it?"


YES GO DO THAT you wont regret it

BTW @ Preston-whats the beta for the death couli bro? Ping me, lets talk, its been a while. Would love to hear about that
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Re: Mid-winter Sierra climbs: how foolish?

Postby asmrz » Wed Oct 26, 2011 12:20 am

The shortest approaches are at and around the Whitney area. Lone Pine Peak, regular East Face route or either of the three ridges or Winter Route and even SF. Olancha regular route. Langley via Tuttle Creek (if low snow year), Russell East Ridge (low snow year) Whitney MR, Gould, University, a ton of stuff from Third Lake (Palisades), Humphreys Basin from Buttermilks. The best thing is to do something you have been on in summer. Also any peaks that are next to major passes, because the trails are at least partially free of snow (lower down). Just add at least one more day (I would take 4 total) to attempt anything, the approaches take much longer in winter.
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Re: Mid-winter Sierra climbs: how foolish?

Postby esmith » Wed Oct 26, 2011 10:07 am

asmrz wrote:Let's talk in general. The early snow dumps in the Sierra are NOT followed by high temperatures so the snow does not consolidate well. In December and January you find mostly deep, unconsolidated snow that makes traveling extremely tiring and after a recent dump, almost impossible.


Unless you're doing it early in December and it's a dry year, in which case there may not be any snow at all.
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Re: Mid-winter Sierra climbs: how foolish?

Postby kevin trieu » Wed Oct 26, 2011 10:22 am

3Deserts wrote:Kevin, I was reading a TR earlier this morning about your Christmas Williamson trip. I started thinking Williamson wouldn't be a bad candidate, given that the approach is just as long even without snow. Why would you recommend Bairs/George over Shepherd?

I hadn't given Whitney MR much thought. I just keep hearing about how the end of the road with snow makes the hike in potentially a LOT longer. That's what I'm trying to avoid, unless it's a route that isn't any shorter even if it's dry (i.e., Williamson, Morrison).

I've also started thinking about Split, as the TH is low enough that it wouldn't make that much difference in terms of distance covered between winter and summer. However, I don't like the look of it in terms of avalanche danger.

Not sure the distance from the road closure sign is to Whitney TH but I don't remember it being that far. If you don't want to take the road, take the trail up from Lone Pine Campground.

Bair (north & south fork)/George creek is more direct. Taking George Creek, you have the options of doing Carl Heller & Bernard & Trojan if Williamson doesn't look good.

Split you might not be able to make it to the Red Lake TH.

I also forgot about Langley via Tuttle Creek until Alois brought it up. The Palisades are good options also. You can do Sill & Gayley 2fer from Gayley camp.

The views of the Sierra in the background and the ancient bristlecone in the foreground on West Ridge of White Mountain is sublime. A good alternative to Sierra winter climbing.
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Re: Mid-winter Sierra climbs: how foolish?

Postby Vitaliy M. » Wed Oct 26, 2011 4:34 pm

You can't go wrong with Langley via Tuttle Creek in winter. NE couloir there looks amazing from Lone Pine, and is a beautiful place. I would suggest doing it in late winter or something as long as the snow settles and avy danger is not that high.
Approaching Whitney in winter for MR, you will add 2000ft and 4 miles i think to the approach if the road is closed. It is worth it though.

Mig, I believe OP is asking about non technical winter ascents. Not something that is a 5.10 and "This route has some long runouts, and requires a clear head and good routefinding." As described by the guy who did the FA. Great looking route though!
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Re: Mid-winter Sierra climbs: how foolish?

Postby Princess Buttercup » Wed Oct 26, 2011 6:29 pm

kevin trieu wrote:
3Deserts wrote:Kevin, I was reading a TR earlier this morning about your Christmas Williamson trip. I started thinking Williamson wouldn't be a bad candidate, given that the approach is just as long even without snow. Why would you recommend Bairs/George over Shepherd?

I hadn't given Whitney MR much thought. I just keep hearing about how the end of the road with snow makes the hike in potentially a LOT longer. That's what I'm trying to avoid, unless it's a route that isn't any shorter even if it's dry (i.e., Williamson, Morrison).

I've also started thinking about Split, as the TH is low enough that it wouldn't make that much difference in terms of distance covered between winter and summer. However, I don't like the look of it in terms of avalanche danger.

Not sure the distance from the road closure sign is to Whitney TH but I don't remember it being that far. If you don't want to take the road, take the trail up from Lone Pine Campground.

Bair (north & south fork)/George creek is more direct. Taking George Creek, you have the options of doing Carl Heller & Bernard & Trojan if Williamson doesn't look good.

Split you might not be able to make it to the Red Lake TH.

I also forgot about Langley via Tuttle Creek until Alois brought it up. The Palisades are good options also. You can do Sill & Gayley 2fer from Gayley camp.

The views of the Sierra in the background and the ancient bristlecone in the foreground on West Ridge of White Mountain is sublime. A good alternative to Sierra winter climbing.


It's about 3-4 miles from the turnout at the base of the WPR to the trailhead, but in a good snow year I think you can cut the big switcher by going pretty much straight up from the parking area. Make sure to lock/cover your valuables there: there was at least one nasty break-in there last winter.

Winter is fast becoming one of my favorite times to play, be it on slowshoes or skis. But no matter what, as you mention in the OP, learn to use it correctly. Partners abound, but on a lot of the moderate routes (Old Man's Bowl in front of Morrison comes to mind) you will usually find a good number of people out to play who are usually cool with talking/discussing, etc. I agree with the later season, too, in terms of getting started. I've already got my antlers up over possible conditions this winter, considering the early heavy snow, long consolidation/melt time, and what is going to fall on top of it.

+1000 on Tuttle Creek to Langley (on the list this winter to ski, as I snow-climbed it back in '09); the east ridge of Cardinal from the Taboose TH; ENE Couloir of Lone Pine Peak; and the West Ridge of White, although you could probably day-hike that... ;)

http://moosetracksca.wordpress.com/2010 ... e-3-27-10/

-L 8)
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Re: Mid-winter Sierra climbs: how foolish?

Postby rwedgy » Thu Oct 27, 2011 3:37 am

Even if the Whitney Portal road is closed lower down, still take a crack at it just to get a taste. Don't have "summit fever". Think of it as a training mission and aim for Iceberg or even lower. You will still have a great time and for sure learn a lot. Check out the ice climbing lower down. Have fun!!
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Re: Mid-winter Sierra climbs: how foolish?

Postby DukeJH » Thu Oct 27, 2011 8:15 pm

Hikers, climbers and winter mountaineers ... all different breeds.

Bring on the cold and white!
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Re: Mid-winter Sierra climbs: how foolish?

Postby granjero » Thu Oct 27, 2011 10:53 pm

3Deserts wrote:
MigTigman wrote:My bad! Thought he said he wanted to do some "Mid-Winter Sierra Climbs" (per the OP's Title) and not Mid Winter Sierra Hikes.


Sorry. You're right. What I meant to say was "Mid-winter Beverly Hills Bunny Slopes tricycle routes."

Can you help me out with that?


Well, I know Hugh Hefner has been known to bring in snow to his place (Charing Cross Rd, Holmby Hills yes I have been by it and I saw Crystal!!!!) around the holidays...

Image

Plenty of 'lumps' to climb in that arena! :D
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