Northeast Ridge from the desert floor, IV, 5.6

Northeast Ridge from the desert floor, IV, 5.6

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 36.56170°N / 118.224°W
Additional Information Route Type: Mountaineering
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Additional Information Time Required: One to two days
Additional Information Difficulty: If you rope up, this ridge is an overnighter, guaranteed!
Additional Information Rock Difficulty: 5.6 (YDS)
Sign the Climber's Log


This route climbs the long Northeast Ridge of Lone Pine Peak from the desert floor at 6,000'. The NE Ridge, is the CENTRAL of the three impressive ridges coming down from the summit toward the town of Lone Pine. From the town, make a left turn on the town's only light and follow the Whitney Portal Road. Make a left turn onto dirt road named "Olivas Ranch Road". Where the road splits, take the right hand road. Just  a few feet after the split, another (rather indistinct) dirt road branches right and slightly up hill. Drive up the road as far as possible. The road ends in a turnaround.  Barely visible path goes down to the creek bed and across it to the right side of it and up. The NE Ridge is the right hand skyline above you.

Route Description

Hike up toward the ridge. Get on the ridge and follow it all the way to the summit. The ridge is over 6,900' high and over three miles long. Climb the first tower mostly on the North Side and the second tower on the South Side. The exit gully follows the "RIGHT" side of the upper NE Ridge. In the summer, the exit gully is a smooth glaciated trough which from a distance looks barely climbable. Once you get closer to it, a series of steep steps allow reasonable progress upward. After a while a broken rock and ledges lead left. You can see two large flakes or towers on the left side of the skyline. Follow the broken rock left and up to a place below these two formations. From there, about 400 feet of fourth class lead to the top of the route.  When in doubt as to where the route goes, always follow a  line of least resistance up gullies, ledges, ridges and faces. It should never get harder than about 5.5 or 5.6. 

 The smooth exit gully becomes rather challenging exit in winter as the place is prone to avalanching. The 5.7 variation (listed below) is the safer way to exit in the winter!
This route was first climbed by Phil Warrender and Gary Valle over two days in July 1982. 
 But in the summer, some might scramble up the ridge, un-roped. Two average speed parties reported times of 11-14 hours climbing the ridge this way.
Miguel Carmona and I (Alois Smrz) soloed the ridge in 1984 in 13 hours CTC (3rd reported ascent) and only used the rope for one short rap off the top of the First Tower (which my wife Penelope and I avoided in 2013 and down climbed the steep, but reasonable step) . If you have to rope ANY of the pitches, this long, classic alpine arete will become an ENDLESS overnight trip.
In early March of 1994, Rich Henke and I climbed the ridge in winter. It took us three days in full winter conditions to climb the route and return to the desert floor.
SP members Scotty Nelson (poorboy44) and Nate Ricklin (glahhg) completed  another reported winter ascent of this massive ridge in early March of 2008, some 14 years later. They also took three days. Nate reported that they climbed a more technical variation(approx. 5.7 over rock) to exit the upper ridge onto the summit plateau. This variation could actually make the exit safer when the exit couloir is snow loaded and avalanche prone.
05/08/2008- Nate Ricklin advised the following regarding the upper ridge exit: "From the notch at the top of the Northeast ridge, climb straight up the headwall, loosely following a 12 inch wide dike from the bottom to halfway up the headwall. Where the dike veers left, go straight up, aiming for the left side of some big-looking overhangs. Pull the final overhang at a splitter finger-size crack. About 2.5 pitches, 5.7."
On March 14-17, 2009, Daniel Krasner (SP) and Victor Ortenberg made yet another (SP reported)  Winter Ascent of the Ridge. Daniel reported that they took a standard alpine rack, 9mm-70m rope and climbed in plastic boots. Daniel wrote to me that not knowing the route or the descent really ate a lot of time and then eventually nerves, but it was a very good climb and one to do in winter.
On February 23,2012, the late Ben Horne (zoomloco on Summitpost) ran up the route solo in 7hrs 00min to the top of the ridge, took 19 minutes to get to the summit and descended via the East Ledges/Slopes to his car in RT of 11 hrs and 25 min, again, in 11 hours and 25 minutes Car to Car in winter!!
Descend via the regular East Ledges Route. The descent from the Summit Plateau (cc 12,000 feet) to the North Tuttle Creek dirt road (5,900 feet) takes 3-4 hours, and is never harder than class 2, if you hit it right. Walk the North Tuttle Creek dirt road back to your car (3 miles of desert hiking). It might be very wise, to learn this East Ledges descent route before one attempts the NE Ridge in the winter. The descent from the summit plateau is not very complicated, but there are possibilities of making a mistake and down climbing various steep gullies and cliffs instead of the class 2 hike down the East Ledges. In the winter,a simple mistake like that, could make this portion of the climb the undisputed crux of it!
The following TR might offer some fun reading as well as an idea what a (small?) mistake in winter could result in
Recommended for those, who like to suffer. Great (and long) ALPINE route!
In the mid summer, the temperatures on this ridge can be quite high (up to 95+ degrees F). Bring enough water! Two or three quarts might be needed per person, if you do the route in a day. In early season, the summit plateau has (sometimes large) snowfield, but later in the season, the only available water is in the East Ledges descent gully. About a third way down the descent, one passes a large tower on your right (looking down). The side of the tower has a lot of lush, green ground cover. Yes, there is trickle of water there even in late August and in a very dry year ( 2013).  Don't miss it! 



Essential Gear

Gear for summer roped ascent: 3 medium Hexes, 4 wired cholks, 5 slings and 10 biners, harness, rock shoes,  7 millimeter, 30 meter rope, or 50 meter double, or maybe even single rope (depends on amount of soloing you are prepared to do) , water, food, bivi gear.
In August 2013, Penelope Smrz and I carried  30 meter, 7 mm rope that was quite adequate for the few (2 or 3) short roped sections. If you are prepared to solo most of the ridge, short, thin rope should be more than enough..
Winter roped ascent gear: 50 m rope, a few medium to large wires, 4 medium Hexes, 2 larger SLCDs (equiv. to #3 and #3 1/2 Friends), 10 biners, 2 knife blades (optional), slings, one short ice axe and one ice hammer (for the party), good winter boots,  light down jacket, light Gore-Tex top and bottoms, gaiters, crampons, gloves plus extra pair for the party, small stove and pot, water bottle each, Gore-Tex down Bag (-5 F), light ground cover, sleeping pad, no cook food for 3 days, harness, helmet. Try to go as light as possible, less than 25 lbs each.

Miscellaneous Info

If you have information about this route that doesn't pertain to any of the other sections, please add it here.