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Whitney East Buttress 9-24-06
I climbed the East Buttress route (5.7) on Mt Whitney with Tony, and followed in the wake of speed team David and ET.
Around 4am we met Snow Nymph, Tomcat RC, and Devon at the Portal. Snow Nymph’s group was heading up to do the Mountaineer’s Route (MR) on Whitney. After a chat, we all started up the old Whitney trail which intersects the main trail near the north fork junction. We used headlamps up to round Lower Boy Scout Lake (LBSL). There was lots of ice on the rocky slabs below Clyde’s Meadow. Saw a beautiful sunrise at UBSL and a great alpenglow on the Sierra Crest as we headed up to Iceberg Lake.
Got to Iceberg Lake at 8am and had a snack, water refill, got the gear ready and suited up for the East Buttress Route. The day was looking very good as near perfect weather was on the agenda; sunny skies, mild temps, and no wind or clouds (although it was a bit cold in the shadows).
From Iceberg Lake we could see about 4 people on the 1st pitch and noticed another group of 2 heading up to the start of the East Buttress. I think 10 people got up the East Buttress and probably a half dozen ascended East Face route on this very busy day. Whitney was chirping with “belay on”, “climbing”, “off belay”,…. all day long.
From Iceberg Lake there’s still a pretty healthy scramble of ~600’ to the base of the East Buttress route. After the other party had cleared the 1st pitch belay station, it was David & ET turn and they quickly climbed up and out of sight and eventually passed the other party mid way up the route.
Then it was Tony and my turn. Tony lead all the tough stuff and I got to lead the easy stuff (pitch 6 and 9). My slow climbing, rope handling, belay station set ups, and getting ready for the next pitch, etc… were adding up as the clock ticked away and we chased the sun up the route. The rock gets pretty cold and my hands even colder once the shadows fall on the route.
At the top of pitch 9 we saw David and ET on the summit yelling down to us that they were going to head down and try to beat the sun down. We decided to pack up and just scramble up the last two pitches of class 4 to emerge right next to the summit (4:00), Woo Hoo! About 12 hours from the car, whew!
I wish I had taken more photos on the climb, but it’s hard to take photos while belaying or climbing (hhhmm??? helmet-cam). I did manage to take a semi-aerial photo of Snow Nymph’s group heading up the MR.
After a few photos and a quick snack on top, we headed down (4:30) the main trail with the idea that we could still tag Muir on the way down. But after we realized that we would probably get down around 9pm and still had the long drive home and work on Monday morning, we passed by the Muir rocky cairn to save it for another day.
We got to Trail Crest ~5:30 and headed down the switchbacks. There was very little water running at the springs at the bottom of the switchbacks and I was dry. So I motored pass Trail Camp (I don’t trust the water there after a busy weekend) and got a refill at Trailside Meadow. At the meadow we ran into Snow Nymph, Tomcat and Devon after their successful ascent of the MR.
We needed to use headlamps from just below Trailside Meadow and finally got back to the very dark Portal around 9:15 pm; for a total of ~17 hours car to car, whew!
Whitney’s East Buttress is a classic route which has a rich history and offers great climbing, magnificent views, and lots of exposure. Another great day in the Sierras with great company!
Here are some photos;
Whitney East Buttress
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