Trip report for the East Buttress of Mount Whitney
San Diego to Big Bear (7000') spend the night.
Big Bear to Lone Pine four hours drive time. Arrive at 9:30am and hang out at the ranger station for the 11:00am lottery for back country permits. Lucky, more permits than hikers. Spend the night at Whitney Portal (8300'). Very windy, with light sprinkles all afternoon but the rain dries as it hits so nothing gets wet. Report of snow on the peak.
Forecast for today. Wind advisory, 30mph wind with gusts to 50mph. Calming tonight. We thought about pushing everything back a day but decide against changing plans. We hiked out of Whitney Portal at 7:30am. About a mile up the main trail to Whitney summit we take the North Fork trail, following the Mountaineers route. The lower part of the trail is well protected from the West wind so the wind was not an issue. Above Lower Boy Scout lake we came out of the trees and we were less protected. The forecast was accurate, it's very windy. We arrive at Iceburg Lake (12,600') at 12:30pm. We find a protected spot for the tent and set up camp. Winds about 20mph with gusts, temps in the 40's. As soon as the sun sets behind the mountain the temp drops in to the 30's Brrrrr. By 5:00pm we are in our bags with all of our cloths on.
We hear the footsteps of the first group heading to the East Buttress of Whitney pass by our camp at 5:30am. The weather has changed and we are in luck again. Calm, clear and cold. At 6:30am we head up the Talus slope to the start of the climb. There is light snow on route but mostly only in cracks and protected spots. The rock is cold so we start climbing in our approach shoes and gloves. The sun hits us as we are starting the third pitch and after that very nice conditions and light wind. The pitches tended to be very long and we brought walkie talkies to communicate, that was very helpful because my partner was often 60 meters away and out of sight, if the wind was blowing you just could not here the shouted commands. We caught up to the first party but never came very close. On one pitch I topped out right after the woman who was following in the first team had left the belay, we waved from about 50' away. That was the closest we came to anyone on the climb. Another group was several pitches below. We used the SuperTopo route description and gear list and that worked out very well. Nine pitches of moderate climbing on excellent rock brought us to the peak, right at the survey monuments (14,497') at 1:30pm. We headed down the Mountaineers Route, there was significant snow on the upper part of the route but it was not too hard to avoid it when you needed too. Then on down through the scree. We had a close call there, we were well down the canyon when someone kicked loose some rock above us, we heard them coming, bouncing down the canyon. Luckily both my partner and I found boulders to duck behind before the shelling began, I saw a bowling ball sized rock bounce off the boulder my partner was ducked down behind. We arrived at camp at 2:45. We set around a little and then decided we could make it out before dark. We headed back down the Mountaineers route to the car. We made it out to the car by 7:00. Pizza and a motel in Lone Pine. Up early and back in San Diego by 8:00am.
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