Whitney 5-peaks 6-25-06Whitney 5-peaks 6-25-06
Started at 4:30 from the Whitney trail head
Keeler Needle 3:10
Back to the Whitney trail head just after 7:30, Total of a little over 15 hours, whew!
Hiked up the snow-free but fast-flowing North Fork Creek to Upper Boy Scout Lake (UBSL), where I filled up with enough water to get up and over Carillon and Russell and back down to Iceberg Lake for the next refill. Just north-east of UBSL, headed up the long scree slog to gain access to the Russell-Carillon plateau & saddle. There was a little bit of snow on this slope, but not enough to cover much of the scree. From the saddle it’s a short mild scramble to Carillon (8:20am). Then retracted the steps back to the saddle to start up Russell’s East ridge.
The Russell East Ridge is a terrific route which offers great scrambling, magnificent views, and lots of exposure! There was only one nasty snow patch just before the lower east summit. I couldn’t cross it due to hip deep postholing, so I had to go round it by get up on the ridgeline. Then crossed up and over the east summit and got to the true west summit at 10am. Enjoyed the beautiful views and mild weather. A light wind was blowing sounds from Mt Whitney towards Russell such that I could hear people talking on the mountaineers route. Descended the south chimney route which is marked by a rock duck in-between the west and east summits. This short class 3 chimney leads to the long scree slope that runs down to the base of Russell and plateau that links to the Russell-Whitney col. Once over the col it’s about 500’ down to Iceberg Lake and the only water source available at this time.
At the edge of Iceberg Lake I was wondering how the campers get their water from the icy shores, because I couldn’t see any obvious hole or cut in the ice near the camps. As I was checking out the shore for water holes I stepped on the edge of the icy shore and my boot broke thru the ice and went directly into the icy waters. I’m lucky I didn’t go in any further than my knee; stupid, stupid, stupid Then I had to ring out my wet socks and try to dry them in the sun. Anyhow my boot hole in the ice made for a nice place to collect some water.
After a lengthy lunch it was time to march up the mountaineer’s route (MR). Surprisingly, I didn’t see anyone else going up or coming down until I got to the notch, where a roped group was descending the upper slopes. The snow in the main gully (below the notch) is soft and didn’t require crampons (at that time), but the snow on the upper slope (above the notch) as very firm and crusty and required crampons and axe.
Got to Whitney summit at 2:20 with nobody in sight, which is surprising since I counted about ~35 signatures in the register for June 25. Did some surveying of the chimney on the hut vs. the summit marker with a bubble level (another story) and then took off to Keeler Needle
I’m not sure if Keeler Needle is considered a real peak or not, but since I climbed it, signed the register and was getting pretty tried I counted it as number #4 (3:10). Coming off of Keeler, I could hear the roar of 2 sailplanes circling Whitney and riding air currents off the Sierra crest, very impressive!
Hiked down the main trail to the Muir pull-off and dropped off the pack, took the camera and scramble to the summit (4:00). Although rather short and there is not much exposure on the scramble up the summit blocks, I always thought the climbing on Muir was technically harder than most other class 3 routes. Maybe it’s the route I normally take on the right side.
Once at Trail Crest (4:45), I thought the snowy slope below Trail Crest in the late afternoon looked rather intimidating with the long dark shadows falling over it. Since the tracks from previous glissades leave these rather firm snowy toboggan chutes on the upper slopes, I hiked down the traverse path across the slope until I could find a safe patch of snow. As it turned out it was prefect glissade conditions resulting in a very controlled glissade and after a short hike from the bottom of the slope I was down at Trail camp in a matter of minutes (or so it seemed).
Just as I got to Trail Camp a large group of campers was heading down and a couple of sad eyed marmots starting hitting me up for some grub. After a quick snack and water refill it was off down the trail again. Finally got to the trail head just after 7:30pm. For another great day in the sierras.
Here’ some photos;