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lavakadescending

lavaka

Hasn't voted

I think the user comment about "descending the route is foolish" is a bit much, but of course it depends on conditions. I ascended and descended Fourth of July weekend with no problems. The descent down the route gave my group time to have fun in the ice-falls, which we had skirted around quickly during the pre-dawn ascent.
Posted Aug 26, 2006 1:40 am

Steve LarsonRe: descending

Steve Larson

Hasn't voted

I've included your comments on the main page.
Posted Aug 30, 2006 3:18 am

lavakaRe: descending

lavaka

Hasn't voted

Thanks for including the comments. In general, I don't think you can make a recommendation about how to descend because it depends on the conditions. You're right when you say that snow bridges can weaken as it warms, but this is not always the case: the snow bridges may have been very sturdy, and you may be descending in morning (if you got an early start). If you descent your ascent route, you always have the advantage of recent first-hand knowledge of the route, and perhaps you left wands (a good idea on this route, especially in winter). Descending other routes can be safer, but not always. In winter, I would urge caution with desceding the Bolam Ridge, since routefinding is much more difficult and crevasses are much harder to see from above. Your suggestion to descend the Bolam Ridge might be valid advice in the summer during good weather, but in a white out it might get someone lost. Of course, everything is conditional; with a lightning storm, the Bolam Ridge might be better because it gets you down faster (or even descend Avalanche Gulch if your life is in danger). And when there is avalanche danger, that also affects decisions. So, my point is that making a definitive statement about how to descend isn't very useful.
Posted Sep 6, 2006 10:31 pm

Steve LarsonRe: descending

Steve Larson

Hasn't voted

One could theoretically argue against virtually any recommendation one might venture to make. Wanding the route doesn't make much sense to me no matter the season. Route finding on the Bolam or Hotlum-Bolum ridges is arguably easier than the Whitney, though none of these are particularly challenging, even in white out conditions. My only concern about finding my way down the Whitney in poor visibility is the chance that you'll miss the entrance gully from the summit plateau and unknowingly wind up on the opposite side of the mountain from your camp.
Posted Sep 7, 2006 5:59 am

lavakaRe: descending

lavaka

Hasn't voted

You have a point; the line must be drawn somewhere otherwise we'd never get any kind of advice at all. But I can imagine the routefinding on any route is quite challenging in a whiteout, and hence I'd prefer to go down a route I knew well. Wands are useful for marking crevasses so that you see them as you come down, as well as marking the exit gully from the summit plateau (it is a very broad gully though). Also, my impression is that you've ascended the H-B ridge, hence you'd be more likely to descend than I would, having only done the Whitney and Bolum glacier.
Posted Sep 7, 2006 4:44 pm

Steve LarsonRe: descending

Steve Larson

Hasn't voted

Well, you've raised a couple of issues here that should be considered a bit more carefully. The first is routefinding in a whiteout. Yes, it is difficult, even if you know the route well, as you may be in a position of not being able to see much of anything beyond your feet, let alone the wands that are somewhere out there marking your way home. I'm not arguing against the utility of wands in certain cases, but I'm not sure Shasta is one. If you bring wands you are bringing gear, presumably with the intent to use it. Like all gear, it's an element of your overall approach to risk management. So, by bringing wands are you declaring your intent to press on in deteriorating weather? Would it not make more sense to turn around when things got dodgy? Did you study the weather forecast before you left the car? Personally, I would not carry wands in a place like Shasta. Alaska, maybe, or another range where you are covering miles of relatively featureless snow and ice. On a mountain like Shasta I prefer to have a few simple route-finding rules memorized so I can find my way down even if I have to crawl on my hands and knees.

Another general issue is the descent. It is often not advisable to descend the way you went up. In our case, only one of the team had been on the H-B ridge all the way to the top. But we studied the mountain from camp the day before going up, examining terrain features and discussing options and possible fault scenarios. Even if no one in the group had been down the H-B we would have made the same decision. I personally would have made the same decision even if the visibility had been poor, since I already knew that there was little objective hazard on the H-B and Bolam glacier descents. The bergschrund crossing (not even present if you do the H-B right) was the only potential problem, but it was still well-bridged enough that I would not have been concerned.

One could go on at great length on the subjects of risk management, descent strategies, etc. But that's not really practical for a route page like this. In the end I just boil things down to a recommendation, if I have one, and let users of the page make their own decisions.
Posted Sep 7, 2006 6:01 pm

lavakaRe: descending

lavaka

Hasn't voted

I agree with much of what you say, and I agree that wands are less useful on Shasta than in the Alaska Range, but I don't agree that "by bringing wands you are declaring your intent to press on in deteriorating weather." One purpose of wands is that if the weather gets bad, you can find your way back down; they have nothing to do with pressing on. You might find the weather turning, begin your descent, and an hour later be in a whiteout. And you're right, they're not always necessary, but nor is a lot of gear. It's a subjective decision. And like many "benign" mountains, Shasta still should be taken seriously, especially since many parties take more than one day.

I don't doubt that your decision was a good one, and it sounds like you researched the descent well, which I hope other climbers will do as well. My decision was based on a very different scenario and it also turned out well. I don't object to you putting your recommendation on the site, but I was more reacting to the user comment about descending the glacier as being "foolish" which I thought was off-base.
Posted Sep 10, 2006 10:16 pm

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