I left the Mono Meadows trailhead at 7:00 AM. Arriving at the base of the west “chute”, I took a short nap. From here I took only my climbing shoes, 60m rope and five single length slings. Reaching the Saddle in about 40 minutes I took another short break, recited the 23rd Psalm and 10 minutes latter stood on top of the dome It was 11:45 AM. This was a very rewarding adventure and I stood looking about for someone to share it with. As a lonely single engine plane flew by I secretly hoped they saw me soloing the route. By this time my lack of sleep, the 9092-ft summit and the long drive up from San Luis Obispo that morning started catching up with me so I snapped a few pictures and headed down. This is where the real adventure began.
The first rap station is a slabby boulder 4 ft around laying on top of some other boulders. Clearly this group of stones have slid down from over head, the lull in the sliding appears to be temporary. It had four or five long slings wrapped around it but that did little to quell my fears. I searched about for a few minutes for something better and eventually went for a small horn just beneath the afore mentioned rock - it was solid as long and the direction of pull was downward and not outward. I rapped to the end of my rope and was about 15 feet short of a huge horizontal crack that you can stand up in. I unroped and pulled one end of the rope down into the crack with me. There was a good piton placement in the bottom this jumbo crack and I felt much better here. I rapped over the edge of the dihedral and went for the lowest of the three anchors in the middle of the route. The last rap was better still and I was quickly back at the saddle. Probably about 35 - 40 minutes of rope work. Bottom line: the rappels were way scarier than the breezy solo going up.
I down climbed the chute drank all the water my nauseated belly would tolerate and packed up. All I could think about was a Big Gulp full of Coke. I got back to Illiloutte creek and took a swim. It was awesome - about 75 degrees and the water wasn’t too cold. As I laid there on a rock in the creek I heard my first humans of the day. Two guys backpacking in to climb SK. I had lost my food bag in the bushwhacking and all I had left were three Jolly Ranchers - a small stash for the three mile uphill walk back to the car. I arrived back at the parking lot at 5:20 PM. I made a mad dash for the snack bar at glacier point but had to settle for two 16 oz Cokes from the gift shop. FYI the snack bar is open until 4:00PM and the gift shop until 6:00 PM. I sat on a rock starring at Mt. Starr King, drinking my soda and listening to all the tourists ooh and ahh while their ice cream dripped on their shirts...
Note On Rappels: Someone more experienced than I needs to set up a better rappel scenario. From what I understand this is a popular beginners climb, and even though it is “back country” if the route is getting mileage from neophytes on a regular basis it should be as solid as possible (I guess experienced climbers like bomber rap anchors too). Bottom-line – be careful use YOUR best judgment. Just because you find a sling around it doesn’t make it bomber.
Note On Difficulty: It’s all feet - there are only a couple of short (8 – 10 feet) sections of class 5 that are without hand holds and these are low angle with great friction. The other class 5 is cruising a big corner and a cool flake. It’s old school 5.0 new school 5.4
Note On Approach: I took a direct route cross-country leaving the trail southwest of the Summit. There is some intense waist deep brush here. I thrashed about in it for a long time coming and going. It seems that the entire western flank is guarded with this stuff. Hint, stay in the trees as much as possible the brush isn’t as thick beneath the pines and Wear Pants! Also climbing the class 3 chute makes this a great rock climb of nearly 1000 feet, I consider it part of the route.