What a great photo of such a motley crew! I've been waiting eagerly for that shot, Tom - thanks! Infinite thank yous to the incredibly hard-working (on and off trail) Mr. Burd, as once again, the Challenge was a highlight of my year! I bagged another 8 SPS peaks out of 16 total in the 10 days I was out climbing (taking into account both my warmup and my missed days). Cheers to all the participants - it was great to see lots of old friends and make some new ones!
The Miter is located at the head of Rock Creek Basin in the Whitney region, between Sky Blue and Iridescent Lakes. Though not very high by the surrounding standards, the easiest route is class 3 with some interesting route-finding. The easiest approach is via the Whitney Trail and over Arc Pass. We had it on the 2009 Challenge, but only three folks made it to the summit that year and I had to pass that due to an injury. So I brought it back again in 2011 for selfish reasons.
Laura was very kind to drive down to Lone Pine on Saturday to pick us up some permits to allow us to use the Whitney Trail. The permitless alternative was going to be the Meysan Lakes trail and over the saddle between Mallory and LeConte, one of the regions great slogs that none of us were looking forward to. I dutifully handed out wag bags at Whitney Portal in the early morning hour before 6am, and off we went.
I was about 15 minutes behind everyone else because I had to take the extra bags back to the car down the road, but it took more than two hours to catch up to the slowest of our group, which meant I was pretty near the slowest myself. I think my body was wearing down after the past 11 days. I had planned to tag Wotans Throne on my way up, but gave that up when it looked like I might not have the energy for the main course.
At Trail Meadow I left the Whitney Trail to follow the creek up to Consultation Lake. Adam, Tom G, and Luca had taken the trail higher and consequently had a bit of a detour and downclimb to get to the lake. I used crampons and axe from the lake to about 200ft below Arc Pass where the snow ended. Tom had no crampons and took the all-morraine route, a somewhat ugly affair. Adam and Luca took a middle route utilizing both terrain options. Reaching Arc Pass together, Tom and I descended the easy south side over gentle sand slopes down past an unnamed lake until we had a good view of The Miter.
I read the description we'd gotten from Doug Bear's TR, we identified the described features and made a traverse across slabs and talus to the main chute. Though it looks like a nice bit of rock from below, most of the ledges are filled with sand and gravel and other detritus of a deteriorating summit, and there was not much quality to the scrambling until the final 100ft or so. Tom and I took two different routes to the summit, convening again around 11am at the top. Though over 12,700ft in height, we were surrounded by the giants of the area, including Langley, Corcoran, LeConte, Mallory, McAdie, Newcomb, Pickering and Joe Devel. Ours was only the fourth party to the summit since the register was placed in 2007, one of those of course was the 2009 Challenge crew.
We found Adam very near the summit as we started down, Luca about 15 minutes behind him. They were the only others to make it to the Miter on Sunday. Tom left me at Arc Pass to head for McAdie. He had some more summiting to do to stay ahead of Bill P for the King of the Mountain honors.
Laura had started on her own around 2am to summit both McAdie and Mt. Marsh, and I came up her and James as they were traversing back around Consultation Lake. James reported that he had gotten to Arc Pass where he called it a day. Pat, who was with him most of the way, was last seen going up a class 3-4 chute leading to Mallory or possibly Irvine. Laura reported running into Sean somewhere between McAdie and Marsh, who was also doing the same two peaks. He was taking it easy today and would be back at Whitney Portal by 1:30pm.
Ephrat was heading for Mt. Whitney as was Bill P, though the latter would tag all the accepted bonus peaks between Whitney and Discovery Pinnacle, including Muir, Keeler Needle, and Crooks, and also Mt. Marsh for good measure. Tom B and Erin had taken the Meysan Lakes Trail to climb Lone Pine Peak. The last one off the trail was probably Tom G who existed around midnight. After McAdie he went on to tag most of the same peaks on the crest that Bill had gotten to, giving him a total of 29 peaks for the Challenge, one ahead of Bill. The next closest had only 17 peaks, so those two were the only ones in the running all week. Tom G and myself were the only two to climb all ten on this year's list, and because of his long hours on bonus peaks and Michael's untimely exit, I sort of slipped into an easy finish for the yellow jersey. At 53yrs, Jeff Moffat had the next best showing for the green jersey (over 50yrs), completing 8 Challenge peaks. Special mention to Adam Jantz and Bill Peters who also completed 10 Challenge peaks, including a few from previous years.
Many thanks to the 40 folks that showed up at various times through the ten days. It was great to see so many familiar faces and quite a few new ones, and a pleasure to be able to spend so much time in the Sierra with all of them!
Congratulations to all the participants this year: it was wonderful to catch up with all of you both on the trail and off. Nothing beats time spent in my backyard!
It felt a bit weird to be a little more of an outsider this year, but the knee has finally forced the issue. I was more than happy to help in whatever way I could. You guys are the best!
I was bummed about not tagging the Miter while atop Arc Pass, which was why I started so damn early on Sunday, but I was already in enough pain to know it was a long enough walk down to the portal. Sometimes, the beer-dar wins.
Who knows: 2012 could be the return of da Moose!
All the best, L
PS: Oh, and I know I left early, but there's almost nothing that beats that first glow of sunrise on the Whitney Crest...