Posted on March 29th, 2010 1 comment
Snow conditions on Mt. Whitney have been shaping up to be some of the best we have seen in a couple years. After returning from a successful climb last week that capped off a very memorable 5-day Mountaineering Skills Seminar we were excited to return with a new group of people. SMI guides Kurt Wedberg and Sara Berghoff and long time good friend George Dunn from International Mountain Guides met a group of 9 eager and excited climbers in Lone Pine on the morning of March 25. After having breakfast and sorting out group loads we headed up the Whitney Portal Road to begin our 4-day climb. The climbers we hosted were: Nick Binson, John Delury, David Griffith, Steven Lane, Jim Sannebeck, Ryan Sommers, Michel Suignard, Taylor Tran, and Correna Wood.
Our walk during the winter/spring always begins on the Whitney Portal Road to the summer trailhead. Currrently this walk begins at about 6800 feet. The summer trailhead begins at 8350 feet. Soon we were on a trail that became increasingly snowy. Turning up the North Fork at 9000 feet we ascended the last 1300 feet to Lower Boyscout Lake. The team dug tent platforms in the snow and got settled. Hot drinks and a Thai dinner then led to the team retiring for the evening. On day 2 we moved to our high camp at 12,000 feet. The snow conditions were firm and made for excellent walking with crampons on. The team moved efficiently to our camp where we got settled. In the afternoon we reviewed some techniques team members would need to know for our ascent on the following day.
Day 3 saw the team rise early and begin our ascent wearing headlamps. We continued to be blessed with excellent snow conditions up to Iceberg Lake. Here we removed out headlamps and enjoyed a beautiful sunrise as team members learned why the Sierra is nicknamed the Range of Light. Continuing higher we entered the Mountaineers Chute where the slope angle increases to 35 degrees. Staying roped together the team employed efficient cramponing techniques while continuing to breath harder in the rarified air as they made their way up the chute on perfect spring snow conditions as the views around become increasingly more spectacular. After topping out at a notch at 14,000 feet Kurt anchored in 3 pitches (rope lengths) of fixed line and the team began the steepest climbing on the route. Shortly thereafter the team was congratulating each other on a great climb.
Here are a few highlights. The rest of the pictures are here: http://kurtwedbergphotography.com/Sierra-Trips/2010-Sierra-Trips/Mt-Whitney-March-25-28-2010/11656446_h5yBC#821984930_gJtBz
The team ascending the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek on day 1.
The view of Mt. Whitney from our camp at Lower Boyscout Lake.
Day 2 ascending towards high camp with perfect snow conditions.
Enjoying the view of the Alabama Hills in the Owens Valley during a rest break
Nearing our high camp Mt Whitney (right) comes into view
Our high camp at 12,000 feet
Donning crampons and gearing up for a pre dawn start for our summit bid
Sunrise from 13,000 feet on Mt. Whitney
Michel, Taylor, and Jim enjoying the excellent cramponing conditions on the Mountaineers Chute
Sara, Cory, and Steven high in the Mountaineer’s Chute
George, John, Ryan, and Nick nearing the top of the Mountaineers Chute
Looking up at the final 400 feet where Kurt would set the fixed lines
The team nearing the summit on the final pitch of fixed line
Congratulations to a great team!!
The guides from left to right: Kurt Wedberg, Sara Berghoff, George Dunn
Posted on March 22nd, 2010 No comments
On March 17 Brett Watson and Ryan Wordell joined Kurt for a private Mountaineering Skills Seminar. These seminars are designed to introduce people to the world of mountaineering. Over a 5-day period we cover as many topics as possible covering a range of different skills that can be used on climbs in the Sierra and on high peaks world wide. We decided to conduct the trip in the Mt. Whitney region where snow conditions have been shaping up nicely all season. There is also a large ice flow that consistently forms below nearby Thor Peak. After training on a variety of skills we capped off the week with an ascent of Mt. Whitney’s Mountaineers Route where we put into practice many skills learned over the previous few days.
A few pictures are below. The rest of the pictures can be found here:
Brett and Ryan demonstrating excellent ice axe self arrests
Brett learning ice climbing techniques
Ryan showing proper belaying skills
Ryan taking his first try at ascending fixed lines using prussik slings
Brett looking like a pro on his first rappel
Kurt testing a snow anchor built by Brett and Ryan. It held successfully!
The boys geared up and ready for a pre dawn start on summit day
Mt. Whitney in morning alpenglow from Iceberg Lake. The Mountaineer’s Route is a chute on the right side of the mountain.
Ascending the Mountaineers Route on Mt. Whitney
Brett and Ryan using efficient cramponing technique up the steep final 400 feet of Mt. Whitney’s Mountaineers Route
Ryan topping out on the final pitch of climbing on Mt. Whitney
Summit photo on Mt. Whitney, March 20, 2010
Posted on March 16th, 2010 No comments
The winter ice climbing season normally begins sometime in November as the temperatures consistently enough to allow ice to form in Lee Vining Canyon and June Lake. This year ice began forming in November and by December we had enough to begin climbing on it. As the season progressed the already good ice continued to improve. Conditions remained great in February and with cold temperatures continuing to prevail the season stretched right into the middle of March. bNow our focus is shifting to the springtime. We are busy guiding climbs on the Mt. Whitney’s Mountaineer’s Route, going backcountry skiing, and are getting out on the rock more often. Stay tuned for updates on some of these adventures.
Believe it or not California actually has ice climbing for most of the year though. As spring turns to summer the snowpack melts except in areas that don’t receive much sun. There are many gullies in the Sierra that contain permanent snow that turns to ice through many melt/freeze cycles. By later in July many of these gullies begin forming alpine ice that make for very enjoyable climbing. Some of the more popular climbs include North Peak, Mt. Dana, the V-Notch Couloir in the Palisades, the Mendel Couloir on Mt. Mendel, Checkered Demon, among others. We are taking sign ups now for these and other popular summer and fall climbs.
Here are a few pictures highlighting some of our last days of climbing for the winter season.
Rachel Hurlburt learning about the world of ice climbing for the first time!
Kurt Wedberg high on Lee Vining’s Bard Harrington Wall on March 9, 2010
SMI guide Sara Berghoff leading a pitch at June Lake
Leading a pitch of ice on Lee Vining’s Main Wall
SMI guide Trevor Anthes leading a pitch of thin ice on Lee Vining’s Bard Harrington Wall
Kurt Wedberg topping out on Lee Vining’s Main Wall as light snow begins to fall