Dow leading the 2nd Pitch
We climbed two routes at the Whale: Bony Fingers and Aplomb.
Together they made for a decent day. Bony Fingers now has a direct start rated on MP.com at 5.11bR. But the original route goes at 5.10c. We found the protection on the 5.10c to be just fine despite opinions to the contrary.
The finger splitter is long and sustained by Eastern Sierra standards with tons of knobs allowing for stems to keep the grade moderate. When the angle finally does ease up the crack starts to disappear and the gear becomes more challenging.
We took double 60m ropes for the rap and thus had to add a short pitch at the end. The simul climbing off of the first belay would be 5.9+ and along with rope drag, we chose not to simul climb the last 30'. If you took a 70m lead rope and extended the first pitch belay from the recommended stop, the route could be done in two pitches but the 2nd pitch will give rope drag no matter the pro or extension due to the slightly lower angle. There is also a mid-rap anchor on the west face that an 80m single rope will make for sure in two raps vs a double rope rap.
Park at the dirt road on the north directly across from the group camp site for Whitney Portal. Hike east on the road through the gate and at the first switch back left, continue straight on a well-worn trail. Once you identify the Whale up on your left (photo), look for cairns directing you up a large talus slope directly below the feature. Bony Fingers’ finger splitter (on the left) is obvious and so is Aplomb's roof (just to the right of Bony Fingers). The first pitch has two starts. The 5.10c starts below two bolts that trend right. The direct bolted start is 5.11b.
Route Description350’+/-, 3 Pitches, 5.10c
1st Pitch- 100’- 5.10c/
The 5.10c is relative to the slab moves through the first bolt. Moving back left through the 2nd bolt is mellow climbing. Start in the crack and place gear at will (5.10-). The knobby face gives you rests and obviously makes the crack easier than if it were just a straight in-wall splitter. A large black knob makes for an obvious gear belay in the finger crack.
2nd Pitch- 200’- 5.9+/
Continue up the splitter. For the first few meters it did not seem any easier than the 5.10- climbing below. Eventually the angle starts to ease. But the size of the crack remains constant for the most part, so it is easy to place all your finger pieces in short order. I tried to lead the finish in one pitch with double 60m ropes, but the simul climbing that it would have taken to finish was suspect in that I was out of gear on a tiny to closed seams and my 2nd would be simul climbing the crux of the pitch for the 30’ I needed to finish. My belay was right at 200’ on two brassies. I recommend a gear belay lower down on better gear if leading with a 60m rope.
3rd Pitch- 30’- 5.8/
Continue straight up the thin seam to the rap anchor on the upper wall.
We used double 60m ropes for one rap to the ground, but there is an intermediate station out right that an 80m single would for sure reach and a 70m rope might. It is a quick scramble back down to the base in climbing shoes.
Single from micro cams to C4#2. Double from micro through #.75. Triple #.3
. A full set of offset cams is helpful on this feature in general. Half a dozen small brassies/nuts. Mostly draws, a few shoulder length slings. The route gets good morning shade.