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LeClimb, LePeak, LeConte 6-7-08

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LeClimb, LePeak, LeConte 6-7-08

Postby MooseTracks » Mon Jun 09, 2008 9:48 am

Whoo, boy. Here we go again! :crazy:

Steve Larson shot me an e-mail early last week asking if I wanted to climb Mt. LeConte (13,960ft) at the head of Meysan Canyon. As he was the one who dragged me (kicking and screaming, of course) into Lee Vining Canyon last February for ice climbing, how could I say no? We met up Friday night at the Portal Store for a preparatory burger and beer, then relaxed around a nice campfire down in the campgrounds that evening.

Some notes from the day:
1.) We were a bit lazy to start (0530), but the coffee was outstanding. Sunrise glowing on Whitney was gorgeous from the lower feet of the Meysan Trail. We were able to hustle up the first 2200ft, taking short breaks, and reaching the cutoff to Grass Lake in around 2.25 hours or so. Clear trail except for some small patches of hardened snow, nothing of note.

2.) Water, water, everywhere. All the little drainages were running, and the river was roaring to our left. The snow chute to Candlelight is almost melted out completely, so it's probably easier to just head up to Grass Lake and take the ledges.

3.) Grass Lake is beautiful! What a spot to camp! There were grasses, flowers , mosses , and frogs singing our arrival. The views up to Lone Pine Peak , LeConte , Mallory, and Irvine were spectacular as we sat down in the bowl.

4.) Meysan Lake still has snow/ice in the center, but the edges are pretty much melted out. Plenty of running water here, and some spots free of snow/slush if you want to camp that high. It's really not that far from Grass Lake, though, and an easy walk up the slabs as you transition from treeline to alpine.

5.) The snow chute. Ahhh, the snow chute. All of a sudden both of us had the brakes applied as we climbed uphill. There was a small slide zone in the middle of the slope (easily avoided but we didn't). Someday I am going to realize that snow climbs and shorts really don't mix all that well, at least if I want to keep shaving my legs. Maybe leaving the snow gaiters back in the TOF to save weight wasn't such a grand idea. Anyway, it just kept going forever, despite our efforts to get off the postholing and onto rock . The upper section was mostly mush-n-gush, until about 100ft from the top of the plateau, where it firmed up a bit again.

6.) We were bad: we set a turn around time. But after the slog, we were both of the mindset that we didn't want all the effort to go to nothing, and Mallory just looked like a sand slog. So we assessed our options, which basically were to summit this beast (can you say summit fever??). But we also took a number of other factors into account: weather (none), sunlight (plenty), trail conditions (solid), strength of team (quite), motivation to get back to Portal for burger and beer (of course, but Pizza Factory might have to do and they have PITCHERS).

7.) Steve and I had planned on trying the North Face route, which would have been my first alpine climb. We got there too late, so descended around to the west to find the NW chute, which is mostly Class 2-3. Except for the waterfall: 20-30ft of some class with cracks between the rocks that Steve could fit his legs through. I said, Steve could fit his legs. Me, not so much. So after he setup a belay, I went into whimper mode. (10/10 here for a minute or two, I don't think I can do this, what the hell, I'm scared, blahblahblah...) Then, as Steve said, I "followed instructions" found the crack on the right to be completely within reach, and growled my way up! The rest of the chute was fine, we stayed roped JIC, and I managed to get my hips jammed between another crack (well, at least I wasn't going anywhere!).

8.) The summit ROCKED !! Not much room to play, but at 3:30 we weren't going to hang around long, anyway. What a view !

9.) We flew down, Steve lowered me down the waterfall, since learning to rappell that day would have taken too long. From there, it was a walk down the snow slope (ouchie icy postholing on bare legs, cursing not having my gaiters AGAIN and trying to avoid tan lines). There were a few guys camped at Grass Lake, so I made a beeline, and they had SCOTCH!! Gawd-bless them!! The shot gave me a shot of adrenaline so we practically ran the rest of the way home. Thanks, guys!!

10.) Got back to the campsite around 8:30, making for a 15 hour day. Woof. Pizza Factory was calling, so after a celebratory brew, we drove down and Steve drove home. Cori was there, so we agreed to meet the next morning for a solid attempt at Mt. Pancake , which we did, then lay out on the rocks in front of the store for a few hours. I strolled up to LP Lake for a leg stretch and nap on the beach, then back down for paperwork (blech!), burger, and home.

What a fantastic climb, thanks to Steve for inviting me and coaching me along on the technical stuff! I'll add captions later: have to get to work to recover from the weekend!

A few other moments from the weekend:





LeConte pics are here.

Lone Pine Lake pics are here.

From the luckiest girl in the world, climb hard, be safe!

-L :cool:
"Why do I climb? Quite simply because the mountains and I had to meet." - Colette Richard


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Re: LeClimb, LePeak, LeConte 6-7-08

Postby gcj » Fri Jun 13, 2008 10:39 pm

Nice trip, great pics! I'm an alumnus of Mount LeConte- class of '87. We went up via the N. Fork of Tuttle Creek. Lots of unpleasant bush-whacking and side-hilling above the Stone House. We finally reached a suitable spot for our camp, and then discovered, to our dismay, that the creek was bone dry!!! My friend was dehydrated and exhausted, so I went back down about 1200 vertical bush-whacking, side-hilling feet to a muddy spring, which was the last known water that we'd encountered, to fill our water containers... then back up to my waiting (and thirsty) companion.

The next day we picked our way through fields of boulders, thickets of willows, and finally up past timberline to some sparsely vegetated meadows and sand flats. (Thank goodness, there was water in the stream up there and plenty of snow!) The scree chute that lead to the plateau north of LeConte was, perhaps, one of the most miserable I've ever encountered. Steep, loose and, seemingly endless. Then, after all that, we couldn't locate the beginning of the 'waterfall route'. We almost gave up and retreated, but then decided to inch our way across the ledge on the north side of the mountain. Some scary class 3 let us gain the summit at last!

What a view! It was worth every one of our many aches, pains, scratches, bruises, muscle spasms, cramps and blisters!
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Re: LeClimb, LePeak, LeConte 6-7-08

Postby giantbrookie » Mon Jun 16, 2008 9:09 pm

Kudos on another great climb. Nice photos, too. They bring back some great memories of my best peak bagging year (1979). I'm sure glad there wasn't snow at the base of the cracks when I went up (September). It was hard enough with dry boots and rock. I vividly remember climbing that thing, then belaying my dad up. Descending it was thrilling--belaying my dad down then downclimbing (unroped) the darned thing as my dad called out holds like chess moves. I'll tell you what, though. Looking at the your photos and remembering how it was confirms one thing for me---I don't have nearly that much nerve today. Thanks for letting me vicariously relive my long-gone peak bagging heyday.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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