Breaking Trail in Boottrack: Mt. Whitney MR/MT 4-11-09 | High Sierra Topix  

Breaking Trail in Boottrack: Mt. Whitney MR/MT 4-11-09

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Breaking Trail in Boottrack: Mt. Whitney MR/MT 4-11-09

Postby MooseTracks » Mon Apr 13, 2009 1:30 pm

Image


Tom was snoring.

It was just as well, since I don't usually sleep well the night before a big hike. But it seemed that the alarm went off at 0300 just after I had closed my eyes in my bunk at the Hostel. In just over 30 minutes, Tom, Jim, and I were headed to the Portal, where fresh snow sparkled in the full moonlight. There was a light covering on the lower trail below the North Fork turnoff, the air cool but a little humid from the storm of Friday. I didn't bother with my headlamp until we were in the north fork, when the moon hid behind the crystallized cliffs of Thor. The divots of the remaining boot track led along the south side of the gulley, with only a short section of willow wrestling or ice on the boulders getting in the way of progress. Cresting out above LBSL, the first light of dawn warmed the eastern sky, and a frosted Whitney soared above it all.

Jim took over trail breaking to Clyde Meadow, and we stepped into the first sun of the day just below the slabs. There was running water there, and we all tanked up for the long push. Mike and Richard joined us, having started somewhere around 0500, and we offered them the lead for a bit. Richard started it off, traversing around and into the gulley headed for Iceberg. I was forced to stop for about 3 minutes just above the traverse as blood rushed back into my fingers, bringing tears and intense pain that doubled me over. With warmth came the ability to move, and I trudged onward, pausing to look back at the northern cliffs and the wisps of clouds clinging to the rock.

Mike, Richard, and I took turns pushing up to Iceberg, following the track up the left side of the waterfall route. The routes approaching the chutes had been wiped clean by the storm, so I took a short lead up from Iceberg to the base of the left side before turning to Jim and asking for a rotation. Within 20ft he was up to his waist; Mike scampered back and forth, trying to find any decent snow. He then headed right, traversing the snow slope around the the right chute and proceded to switcher . Now, Mike prefers straight up, but the snow just wasn't permitting much frontpointing. Tom and Jim turned at the base of the chute, but I decided to hang with the guys as long as I could. Looking back to Iceberg Lake was annoying: a large group of people had congregated and was sitting and watching as Mike busted ass to set a path. I offered to give him a break, but then Richard took over. I was reminded of how hard this chute is for me every time I do it, how I usually punch through whatever steps are there. Fog chased us up the chute, dancing above the lake and between the rocks, but for some reason never quite overcoming us.

The notch was spectacular and cold. Fresh snow blanketed the Sierra , and clouds settled around the peaks to the west. Mike gazed up into the Final 400, covered in fresh powder, steps above obliterated save for the final stretch. We all took turns looking at the first few steps up as more and more people arrived, and one of the guys started digging around on the first ledge, trying to find solid hand and foot holds. Finally, a couple arrived, whom Richard and Mike had bypassed at LBSL, and basically plowed a path up the left side to the top. One minute we had been deliberating our turnaround, and the next we jumped on the train and scrambled on the slick rocks to the summit. There were more than a few choice moves on that side, lots of whimpering from me, especially on the final ledge traverse just below the top. Gusty winds and swirling snow blew us out of the chute, and the Hut at last was in view. At least eight of us piled into the Hut, taking pics , smiling, passing the flask around.

Mike led the descent across the backside , a minefield of soft snow, slick boulders, and agonizing slogging. The traverses were hairy, and I fought waves of nausea -- probably from dehydration and exhaustion -- as we slowly picked our way to Trail Crest. The fog breathed in and out of the crest, obscuring all views to the east, but the wind remained calm and the sun bright as it crept to the west. Three hours for the traverse, Mike leading almost all the way. Dropping into the snow slope, the temperature dropped precipitously, but the powder was soft as we plunge-stepped to Trail Camp. Someone had snowshoed to the base of the slope, so we picked up the trail and headed for home in the fading light. Richard got stuck with me, since my headlamp died, so we tromped together while Mike danced ahead, waiting for us at intervals in the darkness. I found one more batch of snow to posthole to my hip on the slabs below Bighorn Meadow, but from there we were all on autopilot. We piled into cars by 2230, Mike giving me a ride back to the Hostel.

I awoke on Sunday, still worn from a night of coughing and muscle aches, my brain never really turning off as I sorted through the events of the day. I met Richard and Mike for coffee, then returned to the Hostel to go to breakfast with Chris (SoCaGirl) and her kids. After a big Easter brunch at the Mt. Whitney Restaurant, we drove north to Onion Valley , where I introduced the kids to the wonders of snowshoeing. It was a gorgeous day: bright and warm, the new snow in contrast to the dark peaks and trees. The kids were into it for about an hour, before I found a nice spot in the shade by the creek for lunch. I was proud of them for doing as much as they did: wet socks, cold toes and fingers, and tripping over awkward shoes can be definite turn-offs! I was home in the late afternoon, finally able to enjoy the first brew after coming off the mountain.

This was, by far, my hardest test yet. Thanks to Tom and Jim for inviting me to begin with. Thanks to Mike for plowing most of the row. Thanks to Richard for lighting the way down.

Thanks to myself for never giving up.

Pics are here .

From the luckiest girl in the world: Climb Hard, Be Safe.

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

http://www.flickr.com/photos/moosepics621



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Re: Breaking Trail in Boottrack: Mt. Whitney MR/MT 4-11-09

Postby copeg » Mon Apr 13, 2009 3:42 pm

Awesome! :righton:
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Re: Breaking Trail in Boottrack: Mt. Whitney MR/MT 4-11-09

Postby Shawn » Mon Apr 13, 2009 8:49 pm

Damn. :notworthy:
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Re: Breaking Trail in Boottrack: Mt. Whitney MR/MT 4-11-09

Postby Ozark Flip » Tue Apr 14, 2009 6:44 am

Simply incredible! I don't often comment but always enjoy reading your reports.

Flip
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Re: Breaking Trail in Boottrack: Mt. Whitney MR/MT 4-11-09

Postby BSquared » Tue Apr 14, 2009 8:27 am

You are awesome, Moose. What particularly gets me is that you spent the day snowshoeing with the kids after that! Holy schmoley, I'd have been in bed for a week! :boring: (If I were capable of doing the trip at all, which I'm not!)

-B2
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Re: Breaking Trail in Boottrack: Mt. Whitney MR/MT 4-11-09

Postby kgw » Tue Apr 14, 2009 8:29 am

Simply stunning, Laura. . . =D>
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Re: Breaking Trail in Boottrack: Mt. Whitney MR/MT 4-11-09

Postby MooseTracks » Sun Apr 19, 2009 2:21 pm

Thanks, everyone! It was a great trip. Sorry I didn't respond sooner: I am not getting any response notifications from this board, so I'll check my settings.

Here's to many more adventures to come this year!

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

http://www.flickr.com/photos/moosepics621
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Re: Breaking Trail in Boottrack: Mt. Whitney MR/MT 4-11-09

Postby mokelumnekid » Sun Apr 19, 2009 8:52 pm

M:

Your spirit warms my Seattle Sierra heart. Thanks for the wonderful TR.
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