On June 1, 2001, Joe LeMay and I climbed the Complete North Ridge from the car parked at Day Parking Area of the Lone Pine Campground. We found this to be challenging, aesthetic and classic line. The route is 7,100' high and some 4 miles long. We took 17.5 hours from our car to the summit. The description in the 2nd Edition of Secor's book is a bit confusing, so I would like to offer my alternative:
THE COMPLETE NORTH RIDGE FROM THE DESERT FLOOR: V, 5.7
The climb starts at the Day Parking area of the Lone Pine Campground at 5,700'. From the far end of the Campground, the signed trail to Whitney Portal starts at 5,900'. Follow the trail till 6,900'. Leave the trail and head up onto the lower North Ridge. The lower part of the ridge is steep, difficult scrambling on scree.Bypass boulders and obstacles mostly on left(E).Above 9,300';pass through a notch to the West side of the ridge. Climb series of ledges on the right (W) side well bellow the ridge crest. Scramble up 1,000'. After some 4,500' have been gained, the large notch of the Meysan Lakes route (III,5.4) is reached. Above the notch, several hundred feet of steepening slabs (up to 4th class) lead up to the First Tower. Rope up. From the notch, go down and left some 40', climb 5th class crack slanting left. Climb 4th class pitch toward the huge, sharp flake above. Go left and down, follow ledges to gully system, which leads back up toward the crest of the ridge (3rd,4th). The ridge soon brings you to the Second Tower. From the notch, move right 50'. Climb 5th class steep face/ramp to 5.7 layback with old, fixed ring pin. Belay at a platform on the right. Move 10' right, climb awkward (5.7?) offwidth.
Continue up for two pitches to top of the tower. Traverse along the crest of the tower. Descend to the notch. Third Tower. From the notch, move left and down into large gully (20'), climb 5th class crack/steep face to a ledge on the left side of the arete. Two more 4th class pitches up and right bring you to the crest again. Traverse along the crest. Downclimb south side of tower to notch and final summit pitches.Summit Pitches.Twenty feet left of the notch, climb up 6-8 pitches of 4th and easy 5th directly to the summit register.
Please note: To reach the notch of all the towers, downclimb 4th class terrain, no rappelling is required.
Equipment: One (or two) 8.1mm rope(s), 5 medium wires, 5 medium Hexes, 7 slings, rock shoes, harness, helmet, water, a few granola bars,bivi gear. Go as light as possible!
This beta is spot on! We followed it religiously and it did not let us down, except that we could not find that 5.7 OW (probably a good thing :)
We even found the rusty pin that we happily clipped. That lieback did feel 5.7ish, especially with heavy packs.
It's really funny that the page owner posted both of Smrz's and LeMay's route descriptions. These two climb together (as they mention above) but their route descriptions are INCONSISTENT! I very much appreciate you two posting route descriptions - I'm not a great routefinder - and I don't want to criticize. But if you could clarify, it would really help out folks like me.
Smrz: "go around a huge, sharp flake... [to get to the...] second tower"
LeMay: "climb up to a huge, sharp flake ... [to get to the]... third tower." Can you please clarify: (1) Are you both talking about this same flake or slot or slot at the side of a fin https://www.summitpost.org/through-the-slot/315440/c-155834 ?
(2) Can you please clarify: Is this between the first and second, or second and third towers?
I’ve now climbed the N Ridge from Meysan Lakes, two additional times and have an easier route that avoids several sections. There seem to be other variations but this one was very easy. Did it car-to-car in 14 hours with two novices.
From Meysan Lakes drainage, cross the stream and follow the ledges up and north to a ridge. Now traverse across a gulley to another ridge, then across another gulley to another ridge. You will now see the entire lower part of the true north ridge. Ascend up just left of the ridge for several hundred feet. Near the top, there will be 4th class slabs. Go to the top of the first tower. Downclimb into the notch
From the notch, go down and left some 40'. Rope up. (Second Tower.) Climb 5th class crack slanting left for a pitch toward the huge, sharp flake above. Before the flake, go left (east) around buttresses following ledges into a gully that leads to a notch in the ridge. (Third Tower.) 200 ft. before the notch, follow 3rd class ledges with some short 5 class moves up to the top of the tower. Downclimb into the notch on the west side.
(Summit Pitches.) Rope up. There are two options. 1. Traverse right on loose ledges, then up just right of the crest of the ridge for ~5 pitches. 2. Climb up to the top of the notch then twenty feet east and down from the notch. Immediately climb a short 5.7 hand/finger crack, then `5 pitches of 4th and easy 5th just right of the crest of the ridge directly to the summit register.
There are 2 fixed pins on the section below the 5.7 lieback.
There are a few easy things to consider to make sure you take the right descent:
1. If you have to downscramble ANYTHING 3rd class, you are descending too soon.
2. If you are gaining elevation again as you traverse the summit plateau, you have gone too far.
3. If you can mostly scree ski the route and it isn't even close to class 3, then you are taking the right chute.
Having these 3 points spelled out for me would have saved many hours of exploring all of the chutes NOT to take down! Pt. #2 was apparent to me, but 1 & 3 would have saved a lot of grief.
This past weekend I climbed the complete north ridge route of Lone Pine Peak. Absolutely incredible! I did lose a few things though haha If you are climbing the entire north ridge route anytime soon, you might find a nice pocket knife around 8100 feet.
But, if anyone is going to climb lone pine via the north ridge, at the base of the headwall lies my Iphone 6, that fell from 100 feet from the summit. I know, "why the hell did he bring his phone up there!" it takes great pictures haha
Anyway, if anyone does happen to go up there soon, and you do see it, and IF its somehow in tact, keep the phone, I just want the pictures. please email me firstname.lastname@example.org
Ill for sure be going up there again.
On the net there are several sets of route descriptions for Lone Pine Peak (LPP) North Ridge. There are also good pictures of a very distinct set of 3 towers. There are also very distinctive descriptions and landmarks for the important routefinding and technical challenges, a giant flake and a gully marked by a piton with a ring in it.
———> On our climb up, we never positively identified ANY landmark, not one. We could not find our way and aborted. On the way down, we saw literally a half a dozen examples of almost everything in pictures and guides (obvious summit erratic, crown-like decorations circling the tops of towers, distinctive notches, etc.) so such features are completely useless. Below we offer what we learned, which will help, but we still can’t offer a reasonable, to say nothing of clear, route description.
Our Climb and Issues:
In our research on Lone Pine Peak (LPP), we read that people started out from little Maysan Lake. As we walked on the trail we believed that we had passed one of the major landmarks on the climb, the approach notch. Therefore, we simply cut in toward the mountain from the trail, and camped.
———> Later we were to find that little Maysan lake is more than a mile too far, and this direction is completely and utterly misleading.
In the AM we went straight to the cliff, found a system of ledges that matched the route description, and gained the ridge.
——> Because we were so far above where we should have been, we missed the first landmark, the approach notch. This turned out to be critical (see below). In fact, the cut from trail in toward the ridge to find the correct approach is marked by a GIGANTIC light green “throne-like” boulder, about 3 stories high. There is a faint trail from there that goes to the correct route up to ledges that ends up in a distinctive notch between the cliff and a fin of rock (not the really impressive fin later, but distinctive enough. If you need to turn around and find the way down later, THIS IS CRITICAL.).
We gained the ridge and just kind of went “up-ish”.
———> MISTAKE! Had we looked back or had any concern for an escape route this way, we would have realized that from here there are SEVERAL RIDGES, not just one, with little plateaus between them, and it was extremely difficult to navigate back down, having no landmarks (having missed the approach notch).
We followed the route directions of when to go on the east and when to go on the west side of the ridge, it went OK, but we had very little confidence we identified the correct tower, i.e. that we knew which was tower #1, #2, etc. The climbing was very easy, almost all traverse, so we simul-climbed.
We went down into a notch where the route description says there is a real 5th class pitch. This led up to the most distinctive landmark, by far, anywhere on the route or in vicinity. A very large rock fin parallel to a fin-like ridge top that made a fairly large corridor between the two fins. There are numerous pictures of this on the web.
————> NOWHERE have I found a caption of the picture of this that tells you which F-*(@)$(*@)#(&-ing tower this is! The picture is even in supertopo, but again, not referenced to a tower number.
(On this site,
http://www.markpthomas.com/mountaineering/trip-reports/california/lone-pine-peak-complete-north-ridge (quite the epic up there)
the picture of the rock fin is labeled, “1st er 2nd tower :-) from non-er-1st tower. Clear?” This should give you a sense of how good all these apparently crystal clear directions really are. )
At this point, the route descriptions all talk about a huge flake. Um… Is a fin making a corridor a flake? @*#&$)@(*#&$)@(*&. I never figured that out. (Are you talking about https://www.summitpost.org/through-the-slot/315440/c-155834?) We did go below it, making our way down and around to the next notch. Here, the route description (Alois Smrz's) says take the lie-back 50 feet from the notch. Since the notch was < 8 feet wide, this measure should be very certain, if they meant from the center or end of notch, difference only 8 feet. In the event, there was one mini-gully (Lieback???) located seven Paces from the notch, and another at a distance of 17 paces. So with the choice of one about 25 feet away and another about 60 feet away, I chose the latter. The route description clearly says to look for a piton with a ring on it, or some people say pitons and rings plural. We found a piton with gray webbing on it. The route looked very unlikely, harder than 5.7 and unprotectable for some distance. There was nothing whatever to make me confident I found a lieback, to say nothing of the right lieback. It was late, we had no idea where we were, so we bailed and tried to reverse our route.
———> A number of people have gotten lost at this same point. I have to conclude that either we were completely on the wrong tower, or that the description is not useful. If I went back, I would climb with a bunch of people, and send them up a few different ways to look for the magic piton (s). The 25’ way did not look good.
——> So, we turned around- Didn't go so well! It was very difficult to return the same way without knowing you have to traverse a bit of a plateau between ridges, and you have to keep going down until you find the “approach notch”.
* On the way up the trail, confirm you find the giant green “throne-rock” to be sure you are starting at the right place.
* Try to get a compass heading as you lose sight of the approach notch, in case you have to bail on the route.
* Anyone who could positively identify the location of the distinctive fin-and-corridor, relative to towers 2 and 3 on the route picture, AND THEN tie that location to the other important locations, would do the community a huge service. …ANd is the fin the giant flake??? Or are they different???
* Anyone who could measure the distance to the famous lieback in paces from the notch would do a huge service; if you could post a picture of this lieback or somehow give a better description, so much the better.
* We had studied the descent from the summit extensively, because we read so many horror stories. You should too, but just remember you may not get that far. Look at the picture on the net that says, “desperate wanderings”.