After a superb summer season in alpine terrain, we found ourselves hungry to snag one more alpine rock route before the fall snows. We scoured through the various mountain ranges close to Salt Lake City and zeroed in on Mount Whitney. We hoped the late season would make wilderness permits more accessible, while avoiding the early morning line for a same-day permits. We were fortunate to find available permits, so we made our reservations and hit the road.
Lush trail in the North Fork of Lone Pine. It was a perfect afternoon for hiking.
The ledges. We were fortunate to arrive and help a desperate hiker find the proper descent route. He had just thrown his backpack off the ledges in dangerous location, while hunting for the proper route down. He was off route in some exposed terrain.
Lower Scout Lake with fall colors.
Hiking toward Upper Scout Lake.
Dusk at Upper Scout Lake. A stunning, comfortable location to camp.
East Buttress Route
We left camp around 5:30 a.m. and caught the first light of dawn on the profile of Mount Whitney.
East Buttress as seen from Iceberg Lake. The clouds were moving from the southeast, which allowed us to watch for threatening weather. There were dark cells over the desert, so we kept close watch.
Pitch 1. The rock is as good as advertised.
Looking down pitch 1. The morning warming up in the sunlight.
Atop pitch 2. Looking across the face of Whitney.
Pitch 3. Although sunshine was abundant over Whitney, the clouds were beginning to close in around us.
Climbing up pitch 4. Exciting exposure.
Quite cold, but the climbing was superb.
Looking down pitch 4 & 5. Small patches of snow still remained from a storm the prior week.
Pitch 5 & 6. A bit tricky in places to avoid the ice in the cracks and behind the flakes.
Belaying on the East Buttress with heavy clouds looming.
Pitch 8. This was a cold pitch, but the clouds magically began to brake apart giving us hope for some sunshine.
Astounding alpine terrain in the High Sierra. Mount Russell in the background.
After pitch 8, we packed the gear to scramble the last few hundred feet.
Mostly 4th class terrain with scree ledges to the summit.
The summit, and not a soul in sight. Apparently this solitude can be rare on the top of the lower 48.
Summit Panorama (click to view the large image).
The temperature was substantially warmer in the summit hut. Nice place to refuel.
For the descent, we used the Mountaineer's Route. The upper half was dusted in snow and verglas. A bit sketchy.
Afternoon sun on the Mountaineer's Route descent.
Bottom half of the Mountaineer's Route.
Tired, but happy. At this point, all I could think about was a hot meal at camp.
The Day After
The next morning, we had plans to climb Mount Russell. Those plans quickly faded with a large approaching storm.
We took it easy all morning, until Mother Nature forced us to move out.
Graupel snow as a parting gift.
Fire in the sky, near Death Valley. It's crazy to consider on the summit of Whitney we were freezing, while driving through Death Valley it was 106 degrees. All in 24 hours.
Right on. I agree, it is worth it. I used to bring my 5d, but unfortunately kept leaving it in the pack! Now I use a Canon s95- amazing images but I do miss the bigger sensor. Your photos are stunning my friend. Keep it up and enjoy Autumn!
To make the camera more accessible I use a LowePro LTZ 1 camera bag. The bag has connections for a LowePro chest harness. You can buy the harness, or just use two carabiners and attach the camera bag to the shoulder straps on your backpack. It works really well for ski descents, hiking, etc. For climbing, I just use a locking biner and put the camera bag on my climbing harness.