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New to rock climbing and taking on the Whaleback, Kings Cany

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New to rock climbing and taking on the Whaleback, Kings Cany

Postby lahai1dj » Mon Mar 12, 2012 7:30 pm

Hello,

This summer I am planning to hike to the Whaleback in southern Kings Canyon and scramble to the top. I have zero experience with rock climbing and I'd like to determine if this is an outrageous goal and should start with something more suitable for a beginner or if the climbing necessary for Whaleback isn't too technical and will be a manageable challenge.

Also, I'm leaning towards starting from Marvin Pass trailhead. If there is a benefit from starting at Road's End please let me know.
David

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Re: New to rock climbing and taking on the Whaleback, Kings Cany

Postby maverick » Mon Mar 12, 2012 8:54 pm

Here are two informative posts: http://www.summitpost.org/whaleback/563478
http://cascadeclimbers.com/forum/ubbthr ... ce_via_Clo
The second link shows pictures and some of the exposure that one encounters.
I have been up top once, and if you are not at home with class 2 routes, and at least
dabbled in class 3, as this route is, it can turn bad, especially if you are not good at
route finding, and end up on the cliffs.
Have you done any peak climbing? Have any cross country experience?
I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: New to rock climbing and taking on the Whaleback, Kings Cany

Postby Wandering Daisy » Tue Mar 13, 2012 8:11 am

Maverick is totally correct. There is a big difference between "rock" climbing in a gym, outdoor sport climbing, traditional rock climbing, alpine rock climbing, mountaineering, expedition mountaineering, and "hiking". A gym climber can climb very hard stuff because he concentrates on technique, but he knows squat about exposure (feels very different without the rope), route finding, dealing with weather, down-climbing (because they rapell off stuff), and risk assessment. For each other type of climbing (sort of in the order I listed) specific rock climbing skills become less critical and the associated skills more important. The way you approach each is very different. Comfort with exposure and route finding are absolutely critical for a peak like Whaleback. You also need enough experience to know what you can safely down-climb. A lot of rescues are due to people climbing up (it is easier) and then not being able to climb down. What happens if it rains. Can you climb as well on wet rock?

Bottom line, I would not call Whaleback a beginner's climb of its rating. For a beginner climb (rock scramble) you want something short, with a very obvious route, an easier "walk-off" descent, and fairly close to the trailhead or your camp. A long approach only complicates things.
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Re: New to rock climbing and taking on the Whaleback, Kings Cany

Postby KathyW » Thu Mar 15, 2012 6:45 am

Here's a good report on Whaleback:

http://www.climber.org/reports/1999/555.html

Whaleback has been on my list for a while. Maybe this summer I'll actually give it a try.

It looks to be just a scramble to me, but there is some Class 4. If you haven't done much scrambling in the mountains, start with Class 2 and easy Class 3 climbs before getting yourself onto Class 4. Also, careful route planning and finding is important because you can easily find yourself on more technical terrain than you were planning on climbing.
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Re: New to rock climbing and taking on the Whaleback, Kings Cany

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Mar 15, 2012 9:50 am

Beginners should also be aware that climber.org trips are done by SPS. The trips have skills requirements for leaders and participants. These folks are REALLY GOOD at alpine scrambling. They are very experienced and although THEY may not indicate any difficulty in a trip report, beginners will find the climbs much more difficult. On most SPS trips the leader is familiar with the route, many having been on the climb previously with another leader who learned from a previous, etc. There is a LOT of passed down knowledge in SPS. If you are serious about doing this kind of climbing, why not join the SPS section of the Sierra Club? You will get good training and opportunities for great trips with experienced climbers.
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Re: New to rock climbing and taking on the Whaleback, Kings Cany

Postby lahai1dj » Thu Mar 15, 2012 9:18 pm

Maverick, Wandering Daisy and Kathy,

Thanks for your input as it is invaluable. I can see that before attempting Whaleback I definitely should get some experience earlier in the season with easier climbs. Do you have any suggestions for good climbs that are mostly class 2 and 3?
David

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Re: New to rock climbing and taking on the Whaleback, Kings Cany

Postby Wandering Daisy » Fri Mar 16, 2012 8:36 am

Cathedral Peak, Yosemite (Tuolumne) is a good one. The approach is short, the class 4+ section is very short at top, the route is obvious, and there usually are others climbing it who could assist you if you got into trouble. Even if you could not make the summit block (it is a bit technical), you would get some scrambling in.

To get accostomed to slabs, while at Tuolumne you could go up and down the descent route on Stately Pleasure Dome. I have been with hot shot sport climbers who have freaked out on this class 2 route. Easy but very exposed.

NW slope on Agassiz, Cl 2 - introduce you to the typical complexities of the peaks in the Palisade area. Peter Croft calls this the "best walk-up peak in the Sierra".

South Ridge Mt Fisk. It is in Darwin Basin. The peak is a nice easy climb on an obvious ridge, class 2-3. Not a lot of exposure. The purpose of this trip would be to get experience in long approaches. Plus it is drop-dead gorgeous. Go in over Lamark Col. It will give you a little snow to deal with.

There are tons of good choices. A guidebook would help.
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Re: New to rock climbing and taking on the Whaleback, Kings Cany

Postby maverick » Fri Mar 16, 2012 8:51 am

Pick up Secor's book: http://www.amazon.com/High-Sierra-Peaks ... 0898869714
In it you'll find a load of class 2 and 3 routes all over the Sierra. Pick an area that will be
the easiest to access. See if you can also find a write up about the route, and the climb
online.
Would highly recommend that you get an experienced person to go with you the first few
times so you'll learn how to find the correct route, and how to negotiate difficult terrain.
I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: New to rock climbing and taking on the Whaleback, Kings Cany

Postby balzaccom » Sat Mar 17, 2012 9:00 am

"Cathedral Peak, Yosemite (Tuolumne) is a good one. The approach is short, the class 4+ section is very short at top, the route is obvious, and there usually are others climbing it who could assist you if you got into trouble. Even if you could not make the summit block (it is a bit technical), you would get some scrambling in."

Hmmm. I don't think that I would recommend this climb as a first effort. Admittedly, I did this nearly forty years ago, but from my memories, this is a bit more serious than a "first attempt."

The summit block has huge exposure, and while the route is obvious, and WD is correct there are often other people on the climb, it would be a HUGE mistake to expect them to help you get out of trouble.

We roped up to do this climb after we were about 3/4 of the way to the top, and dropped a water bottle that fell a good 500 feet down the hill. As we watched it rattled, bang, and thump down the granite, we agreed to a safety rope.
Last edited by balzaccom on Sat Mar 17, 2012 11:45 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: New to rock climbing and taking on the Whaleback, Kings Cany

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sat Mar 17, 2012 11:40 am

On second thought, you are probably right about Cathedral Peak. Getting off that summit block would be hard for a beginner. I was not implying that you "expect" other climbers to help, just that if you were to get into a fix, other climbers could help. Honestly it is difficult for a climber to recommend beginner climbs, because we do not remember what it was like to be a beginner!
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