Posted on June 11th, 2013 No comments
One of the highlights of a very busy spring season in the Sierra here at SMI was hosting six climbs on Mt. Whitney designed to raise money and awareness for Big City Mountaineers. Big City Mountaineers is a very well respected organization with the mission is to transform the lives of under-served urban youth through wilderness mentoring expeditions that instill critical life skills. They partner with community-based youth organizations and caring adult volunteers who act as mentors in the field to help young people realize their potential. Their curriculum improves integrity, self-esteem, responsibility, decision-making abilities and communication skills in close to 1000 youth annually. BCM has a proven track record of improving young peoples’ lives with:
• Increased likeliness to stay in school
• Reduction in violence
• Reduction in drug use
Since the inception of SMI we have had a goal of guiding at least two climbs each year that help out a cause. On most years we exceed this number by 3x or more. In planning this year’s climbs with Big City Mountaineer’s the editor in chief of Backpacker magazine Jon Dorn invited readers to come join a Mt. Whitney climb to raise money for Big City Mountaineers. Each participant was required to raise a minimum of $4000. They could either get sponsorship by friends and family or write a check. The response was overwhelming. What started as one climb ended up being six groups of energetic climbers eager to climb Mt. Whitney and raise money and awareness for BCM.
Participants were given a training program to undertake many months in advance in preparation for this 4-day trip to the highest point in the contiguous United States. Each person maintained a regular schedule of hiking up and down hills carrying a 40+ pound pack to simulate the weight they would be carrying on the mountain. They also did exercises to assure their legs and cardiovascular system was conditioned. During the climb SMI guides offered lots of techniques for acclimating to the high altitude and also spent time at camp teaching and reviewing mountaineering skills including using an ice axe, and climbing with crampons while roped in with other climbers. The first day of the climb had groups ascending from the trail head at Whitney Portal (8365′/2550m) to Lower Boy Scout Lake (10,350′/3155m). On day 2 the groups packed up and moved higher to at camp at 12,000′/3658m putting them in position for a summit bid the following morning. On day 3 the teams rose early for the summit push. They were treated to spectacular sunrises as the morning sun cast its orange glow on the East Face of Mt. Whitney and teams learned why the Sierra is nicknamed the Range of Light.
Climbing the Mountaineers Route requires climbers to ascend a snow filled chute ranging from 25-35 degrees steep to a “notch” at approximately 14,000′/4267m. From here the angle steepens and climbers use their hands in places to scramble up some rocky sections with the security of a rope. This section of the route tops out onto the summit plateau of Mt. Whitney and it’s a short distance to the highest point in the lower 48 states.
Groups took time to admire the spectacular view while taking pictures and snacking before retracing their path back to camp. On Day 4 they packed up and returned to the trail head and down to Lone Pine where celebrations of their climbs took place.
While climbing a spectacular and classic route in the Sierra participants helped raise over $260,000 to help underprivileged youth experience the magic of the wilderness while learning critical life skills. They’ve also spread a lot of good will that reaches farther than any of use will ever see. Thanks to everybody who took part in this historic event!
Photo galleries from these climbs can be viewed here: http://www.kurtwedbergphotography.com/Sierra-Trips/2013-Sierra-Trips
Posted on June 10th, 2012 1 comment
After reporting from Mt. Everest for the past couple of months it is with great pleasure to be sharing news about our climbs going on in the Sierra right here in our back yard!
The Sierra received a below average snowfall this past winter/spring. As a result the snow melt is ahead of schedule. Right now at the beginning of June when most climbs would normally require ice axe and crampons to travel over snow, we are instead traveling over dry trails, dirt, and rocks. Conditions more normally associated with the summer months of July and August are already prevalent here in the Sierra. For our summertime kit we have exchanged our heavier crampon compatible boots for lighter summertime footwear and put away in our gear closet some of our winter/spring gear including avalanche transceivers, snowshoes, winter temperature rated sleeping bags, and puffy down parkas.
On June 6-8, 2012 SMI guides April Mayhew, Doug Nidiver, and Zach Schneider led a team of eight climbers to the summit of Mt. Whitney via the Mountaineer’s Route. With ideal weather and a solid group 100% of the team was successful in reaching the summit. The route requires climbing up the mountaineers chute located on the north side of Mt. Whitney. This chute, angled at 25-35 degrees consists of walking over a dirt trail mixed with some occasional scrambling over rocks that requires the use of hands and feet.
The team camped at Upper Boyscout Lake at 11,300′/3444m on June 6. After a nice dinner of Thai food the group went to sleep early in preparation for the summit bid early the following morning. Clear skies above and mild temperatures dominated the day making for ideal climbing conditions. Reaching the summit the group was blessed with beautiful views and comfortable enough temperatures to spend 45 minutes on the summit. It was then time to descend back to camp for another nice dinner. June 8 was devoted to packing up and returning to Whitney Portal where the cars were parked.
This group was put together by Todd Phillips who is a pastor at Lake Pointe Church in Rockwell, Texas. Todd is a veteran with SMI with his groups having been with us in the Sierra and internationally on Aconcagua. Team members raise money and awareness for one of their ongoing ministries of building water wells in the country of Liberia bringing clean water to a country that has a high rate of health issues related to the lack of clean water sources. For more information about Todd and their cause visit www.lakepointe.org.
A big congratulations for a successful climb to Daniel Bobst, Paul Fleming, Heath Hill, Andrew Hodges, Todd Phillips, Sam Sneau, Richard Stahr, and Brian Young. Well done!!
For a Spot device track of the climb here: http://www.trendhr.com/trendhr/index.php/news-a-articles/ceo-blog/442-wheres-d-dubya
Posted on July 17th, 2011 No comments
This is an attempt on Mt. Whitney’s Mountaineer’s Route as told by SMI guide Deb Leyh.
On July 15th I had the pleasure of meeting the Walter-Macbeth Clan. Team members included John, Amber, Andrew and myself (Guide Deb Leyh). The team is from Southern California, and an attempt of Whitney via the Mountaineer’s Route was the conclusion of a hiking vacation which took the family to Yosemite National Park and Devil’s Postpile. While the team were experienced day hikers, there would be many “firsts” on this trip. This would be the first backpack camping, first time above 11,000 feet, first exposure to crampons and ice axe, and first time on a climbers trail and 3rd Class rock!
Day 1 we hiked to Upper Boy Scout Lake (11,300 feet). We had great weather and nary a mosquito. I have never seen the stream crossings so high. All crossings to Lower Boy Scout Lake were passable, but some did require getting the feet wet. The team did a great job navigating the crossings and making their way up the exposed Ebersbacher Ledges. Above Lower Boy Scout Lake to Upper Boy Scout Lake is clear of snow. The water running on the slabs and waterfalls is incredible, and all this water has made a stunning wild flower bloom. We arrived at Upper Boy Scout Lake late afternoon and set-up camp and prepared for our summit attempt. After dinner – and a brief low down on WAG Bags (another ”first”) - we retired to our tents with a night lit by an almost full-moon.
Summit day we woke at 4am and after breakfast began making our way to Iceberg Lake at first light. As I mentioned, this was a trip of many “firsts”, and accordingly, it took its toll. Since we weren’t moving at a daylight summit pace, the team decided to reprioritize. I commend the team members for coming to this realization because it is all too easy to get “summit fever” and lose perspective. Instead of summiting, we decided to explore the terrain to Iceberg Lake, and then move camp to Lower Boy Scout Lake (10,300 feet) for a change of venue. The team did a great job breaking down camp efficiently and descending to Lower Boys Scout Lake. Alas the misquotes were back in full force!
On Day 3 we had a pleasant hike out. The weather remained great for the entire trip, and despite not summiting, everyone had a great attitude. It’s important to enjoy the process, and to appreciate and respect this great route. The team was faced with many “firsts”, and I am very proud of their effort. They gave it 110 percent. While making our way to the Whitney Portal Store for lunch, minds were definitely churning on possible strategies for a future Whitney attempt, and I have no doubt that with more training and a continued positive attitude, they will get their Whitney summit!