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Planning first Sierra Trip (Tyndall->Whitney, July 2010)

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Planning first Sierra Trip (Tyndall->Whitney, July 2010)

Postby SeanSullivan » Sun Dec 06, 2009 10:03 pm

I've been out of action for a few weeks with a knee injury, so I've been trying to get my mountain fix by thinking about what trips I can do next summer. I've never been to the Sierras before, so I drew up this map of a possible multi-day adventure...

Tyndall to Whitney
Basically it would be:

Day 1: Get up to Shepherd Pass, hike up Polychrome Peak if I felt like it.
Day 2: Tyndall (Northwest Ridge or North Rib), (+ maybe Versteeg from North)
Day 3: Williamson (West Face), Trojan (from NW), Barnard, Wallace Lake
Day 4: Tunnabora, Carillon (or possibly Russell East Ridge), Iceberg Lake
Day 5: Whitney (up MR, down Whitney Trail)

Anyone with more experience know what might be the technical crux of such a trip?

It seems like I would be subject to the Shepherd Pass entry quota and Trail Crest exit quota, but not the Whitney Lottery, is this correct? I could do this in a Sunday-Thursday or Monday-Friday period to reduce the chances of having permit problems. Is acquiring a permit for this trip problematic (assuming I sign up as early as possible, which seems to be 6 months in advance).

I figure I could bail off the Crest to the west and hike south on the John Muir trail if I was having problems for some reason, then cross the Crest at Mt Muir and exit via Whitney Portal as intended.

If I end up going with people who are afraid of any sort of exposure, is a trip like this possible? I feel like I could leave out Tyndall and Williamson... and then do something like Polychrome, Barnard, and then around Russell to the SW rather than the NE, and do Whitney from Hitchcock Lakes?

General difficulties with travelling at 13000' and camping at 12000' lakes in the Sierras?

Thanks for any advice.

edit: I suppose I should describe my experience a bit. I'm 23, started hiking frequently 2 years ago. I did just over 100,000' elevation gain this year, basically starting in May after finishing grad school. Moved from Boston to Seattle in June. Biggest day was 5800' elevation gain this year, with a few others over 5000'. I'm primarily a hiker, but have enjoyed what little class 2-3 scrambling I've done so far in the Cascades. I'm taking Basic Alpine Climbing with the Seattle Mountaineers starting in January, so I should be more skilled next summer (would probably do Baker and Rainier before this trip, although the type of terrain is obviously totally different). Confident with map/compass or GPS.
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Postby MCGusto » Sun Dec 06, 2009 11:58 pm

If this winter is anywhere as big as people are predicting, plan for plenty of snow up high in July. That could be a looooooooooong trip if everything is covered in snow.

Gusto
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Postby SeanSullivan » Mon Dec 07, 2009 12:06 am

MCGusto wrote:If this winter is anywhere as big as people are predicting, plan for plenty of snow up high in July. That could be a looooooooooong trip if everything is covered in snow.

Gusto


Thanks. I was looking at some pictures of people on the Williamson West Face (I guess before July 15) and it seemed like any remaining snow wouldn't be an issue, but surely it can vary. I know early July is pretty snowy up here in Washington.
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Postby KathyW » Mon Dec 07, 2009 12:09 am

Unless rules change before then, you'll have to do the trip before July 15th due to the Bighorn Sheep Closure Areas. If you do it after July 15th, you'll have to skip going into Williamson Bowl. Do Russell if you can - you'll enjoy it.
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Postby MoapaPk » Mon Dec 07, 2009 1:27 am

SeanSullivan wrote:
MCGusto wrote:If this winter is anywhere as big as people are predicting, plan for plenty of snow up high in July. That could be a looooooooooong trip if everything is covered in snow.

Gusto


Thanks. I was looking at some pictures of people on the Williamson West Face (I guess before July 15) and it seemed like any remaining snow wouldn't be an issue, but surely it can vary. I know early July is pretty snowy up here in Washington.


Look at these pics and these these of late June-early July of 2009, a modest snow year.

EDIT: I did without the axe and crampons in late June 2008, but the most enervating part was crossing the sun-cupped snow in Williamson Bowl around 11 AM on the return, after the sun had warmed and softened the surface.
Last edited by MoapaPk on Mon Dec 07, 2009 3:13 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby RickF » Mon Dec 07, 2009 2:01 am

Sean,

I was part of a team who summited Williamson & Tyndall in June of 2006. We crossed several snowfields on our multi-day trip. We took axes & crampons but on most of the days the snow was styrofoam condition-like, soft enough to kick steps but firm enough to avoid post-holing.

The overall route for your trip sounds like a great adventure but in my opinion, your itinerary is a little too ambitious, especially day four. I recommend giving yourself another day or two.
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Postby SeanSullivan » Mon Dec 07, 2009 4:40 am

Kathy,

Yeah Russell would be cool... I guess by that point in the trip I (we) would have a better understanding of our relationship with exposure and could decide whether to go for it. Am I right in thinking the East Ridge of Russell is scarier than any of the other routes I listed?

MoapaPk,

Thanks for the pics... I guess there could be more snow that I thought, but it doesn't look all that bad. I guess I would go as close to July 15 as possible.

Rick and Doug,

Hmm, maybe I'm biting off more than I can chew. To me, Day 3 seems the most daunting. I suppose I could bypass Williamson completely if I wasn't doing well. The distances and elevation gains dont seem particularly difficult, but that might just be me underestimating how long it takes to move in that terrain. I'm no trail runner, but I should be fit enough by that point in the season.

I guess it will depend on who I can find to come along with me and how confident I get on snow climbs as a result of my climbing course this spring. I'll be taking a week off work, so I guess I could call it a 7 day trip and just be happy with myself if it only takes 5.

I guess since no one mentioned permits, its not difficult to get one if I do it very far in advance?
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Postby KathyW » Mon Dec 07, 2009 1:56 pm

With Russell, it just depends on how comfortable you are with exposure. It looks more intimidating than it is - it's a nice solid ridge once you finish that awful slog up to the saddle.
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Postby MCGusto » Tue Dec 08, 2009 4:36 am

SeanSullivan wrote:
MCGusto wrote:If this winter is anywhere as big as people are predicting, plan for plenty of snow up high in July. That could be a looooooooooong trip if everything is covered in snow.

Gusto


Thanks. I was looking at some pictures of people on the Williamson West Face (I guess before July 15) and it seemed like any remaining snow wouldn't be an issue, but surely it can vary. I know early July is pretty snowy up here in Washington.


Picture from Williamson's West Chute Route - Late June of 2006
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Postby MoapaPk » Tue Dec 08, 2009 4:56 am

SeanSullivan wrote:
Thanks for the pics... I guess there could be more snow that I thought, but it doesn't look all that bad. I guess I would go as close to July 15 as possible.


I apologize if I seem too cautionary. It's just that some people don't realize how hard and slippery a few inches of Sierra summer snow can get, if the night has been cold, or if the snow is in the shadow of a cliff (like some snow on the west face chute of Williamson). On the other hand, deeply sun-cupped snow can be miserable to cross.

Have a good time, I'm sure you'll do OK -- just don't step on any snow slope until you have accessed the conditions.
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Postby KathyW » Tue Dec 08, 2009 1:50 pm

and here's the Class 2 chute that goes up Williamson from Williamson Bowl on July 2, 2005:

Image

More pictures of the Williamson area on a heavier snow year (2004/2005):

http://kathywing.smugmug.com/California-Hiking-Scrambling/Sierra-Nevada-Hiking/Mount-Williamson-14370-71-7305/1101326_JTLY4#51232290_kAuBg

Every year is different.
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Postby KathyW » Tue Dec 08, 2009 3:42 pm

Gary Schenk wrote:
KathyW wrote:and here's the Class 2 chute that goes up Williamson from Williamson Bowl on July 2, 2005:


Hey, my girlfriend and I were just a couple of days behind you. The conditions were great at that time, I thought. Except for the suncups on the way back, as Moapa says, they wiped me out.


Yes, beautiful conditions in 2005.
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Postby Michael Graupe » Tue Dec 08, 2009 6:10 pm

I also love the early summer in the Sierra. Lot of daylight and many of the miserable boulderfields and loose chutes are still under snow. The downsides are the mosquitos and sometimes difficult creek crossings lower down.
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