After spending the night at the hot tubs and jerking around a bit too long the next morning, it was off to Lone Pine to try and acquire permits for the next day. Upon arrival to the visitors center at 10:58 AM, we had the lottery process loosely explained to us and it was time to draw. There were only 4 parties involved and we drew #8. Figuring that was the worst number out of 5,6,7 & 8, we kind of listened to the other guy getting the spiel about calling in and seeing if there were cancellations later that day all while the nice lady behind the desk was filling out our permit. Neither of us got exactly what had just happened (and we're very sorry for who it may not have worked out for) but we had permit in hand and back to Bishop we went for food buying and gear sorting.
We finished dinner at the pizza place in Lone Pine at about 9:30 Monday night and it was time to find a place to stay, and seeing how James had been climbing in TM for a week and I had driven from sea level the day before, the higher we could sleep the better. Figuring there was no way there were any open spots at the Portal CG, we started to drive back down the road after looking at the trail head and somehow decided to look down a short driveway with 5 spots on it. Low and behold there was 1 empty spot with the name for that night scratch off the list for that spot. We had a spot 100 yards from the trail head, the second major click of the trip. James was staying positive but I figured we were in for a big bite in the ass later in the trip. After staring at glowing eyes in the bushes for a while, it was time for bed, a last glass of Aussie red wine and just after midnight we were down.
The Walk In
We decided to beat the heat we would be on the trail at first light, best layed plans weren't going to happen but 7:30 wasn't too bad. The 3 to 6 hours to Iceberg Lake reports we were hearing sounded good and all but I was pretty much off the couch from sea level a day and a half earlier and we figured if we allotted the whole day it would be a pretty cush hike in. So I with my 47 lb pack and James with his 30 lb pack, up the trail we went. The North Fork canyon is steep but at a comfy snails pace we were scrambling up the ledges and were at lower Boyscout Lake in no time. After a lot of water and a bite to eat we headed for the slabs below upper Boyscout Lake. At this point it should be noted that staying down low to the lake puts you on a more direct trail to the slabs rather than going like we did, high to the left under a huge boulder in the talus field. This route will get you there but a fair amount of bushwacking is involved and it's a bit longer.
We stopped in the shade at the last trees just outside of upper BSL for more water and we were off on the last however many thousand feet to Iceberg lake.
We talked to a couple of climbers and 5 or 6 mountaineer routers on their way down and the word was that conditions were sweet and there was only 1 other party at Iceberg doing the MR the next day. It appeared we were going to have the East Butt all to ourselves with perfect weather. OK this was the 3rd click of the trip and I was sure that big bite in the ass was coming fast. Another hour past and we were standing in view of Iceberg Lake. We arrived at maybe 2:30 or 3:00 and spent the rest of the day hanging out and enjoying the scenery.
Again, the plan was to be on the route at first light, but after taking some fine pics at camp of the killer alpinglow, we ate, drank, packed and up the gully we went. From here on up it was pitch after pitch of slightly windy, perfectly clear weather and stellar granite. After making our own little adventure for a couple of short pitches at the top, we popped up to the summit right at the USGS markers and there was not a soul there, click #4 and I was sure we were way over due for the HUGE ass biting some how some way. Some pics of antics on the summit, a can of Barokes Premium Australian Wine ( I know it sounds strange, but we import the stuff, the "wine in a can", and it's pretty good stuff and easy to carry) and it was off to find the MR for the hourish class 3 slog back to camp.
The next day we had a nice sleep in, packed up and it was beer and burgers at lunchtime back at the Portal.
Overall, one of the best trips I've ever done and the big Bite In The Ass never came to pass, everything just clicked right and we had a ball.
One observation at the end of the trip, there is no way I would ever ascend the MR, the East Face or the East Butt is not only easier in my opinion but so much more fun and aesthetic.
I'll add some pics in (and a funny little video) as soon as I can figure that out.
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