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#22503 - 03/31/12 05:44 PM 3-30-12 Mountaineers' Route Day Hike
bobpickering Offline


Registered: 02/07/10
Posts: 351
Loc: Reno, Nevada
A couple of months ago, I noticed that I had climbed Mt. Whitney in ten different months, nine of them as day hikes. I decided I should try to tick off the other two months, and possibly finish doing all twelve as day hikes.

I got my February summit and day hike last month with RichardP, who has about four times as many Whitney summits as I do.

I already had a March summit, back in 1993, but I needed to day hike it. Richard was going on March 30, so we agreed to go together.

The drive up to Whitney Portal was trivial. The road had the usual "ROAD CLOSED" sign that everybody drives around, but the road was clear of snow and ice. It was easy to drive around all the rocks on the road, though I had to drop two wheels off onto the shoulder at one point.

We met Karen (that's not how she spells it, but I forgot the correct spelling) at the trailhead and started up at 6:15 AM, just after it was light enough to stow our headlamps. We took the "Rockwell Shortcut" up the north side of the North Fork. There were patches of snow, but the E-ledges were completely dry. There was considerable firm snow just below Lower Boy Scout Lake, but I didn't need gaiters until we crossed the stream at LBSL.

The hike from LBSL to Iceberg Lake was hard work, but uneventful. We didn't bring snowshoes, and there weren't many places where they would have been worth the trouble to put them on. We used crampons for one short section just before Iceberg Lake, but I bypassed that section without crampons on the way down.

The couloir had a fair amount of deep snow. 95% of it was too soft to need crampons, and it's too steep for snowshoes. Parts of the couloir were melted out, a few sections were a little icy, and most of it had good snow coverage. I climbed all the way to the notch with bare boots and ski poles while most other climbers I saw used crampons at least part of the way.

Karen got a "stomach cramp" at about 13,000 feet and turned around about 500 feet higher. She had been breathing down my neck until that point. I don't think anyone besides Richard and me made it to the notch.

The Final 400 was mostly dry on the left and center, but there were still patches of snow. We left our crampons, ice axes, ski poles, and some other extra stuff at the notch. Some of the snow was easy to bypass, but a few patches forced us into some rather sketchy moves. Richard and I hit the summit at 1:30, took a break, and headed down.

The snow made descending the final 400 a little tricky, but the rest of the descent was straightforward. I used crampons and an axe for part of the couloir. The snow was softer than on the way up, and snowshoes would have been helpful below Iceberg Lake. However, nobody punched through too badly, and we didn't regret going without snowshoes.

Karen is a relative newbie, so I asked her to lead the way down the E-ledges, just for practice. She did just fine, missing the easiest route only once. We were back at the cars at 6:30, having had a great day.

I've said a lot about conditions and what equipment we used because I know that's probably what readers will want to know. Be aware that conditions change fast this time of year, so your experience may vary.

The road crews have started work on the portal road. When we drove down Friday night, there was a big rock, a second sign, and some chains across the road at the "ROAD CLOSED" sign. It was much harder to squeeze by. A grader had been doing a lot of work between the signs and the first switchback. It may be tough to drive to the Portal, especially if you're on the road during daylight hours when they are actually working on it. The local authorities have tended to look the other way when climbers sneak around the sign. Please don't do anything to make them change that policy.


Edited by bobpickering (03/31/12 10:33 PM)
Edit Reason: typo

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#22510 - 03/31/12 09:06 PM Re: 3-30-12 Mountaineers' Route Day Hike [Re: bobpickering]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7583
Loc: Fresno, CA
Thanks for posting the report, Bob. I snagged a view of your spot track here. People can click on it for the full-sized image.



> Please don't do anything to make them change that policy.

Great advice!

Richard P posted a trip report on wpsmb with quite a few pictures. (Weekend 19 Up The Mountaineer's Route - 03.30.12)

Here's one of Bob P at the summit hut -- notice the door is missing, and all the blown-in snow inside.

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#22531 - 04/01/12 11:07 AM Re: 3-30-12 Mountaineers' Route Day Hike [Re: Steve C]
2600fromatari Offline


Registered: 10/18/10
Posts: 452
Loc: San Diego
Great pictures there. Must have been a tough slog if it took 12 hours for you speed meisters.

Nice boots BTW. Don't think I've ever seen anyone wear plastic boots up there.

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#22533 - 04/01/12 01:39 PM Re: 3-30-12 Mountaineers' Route Day Hike [Re: 2600fromatari]
bobpickering Offline


Registered: 02/07/10
Posts: 351
Loc: Reno, Nevada
Plastic boots were the way to go in February. I tend to use them a lot because they are warm and fairly comfortable. They also fit my skis. My lighter step-in compatible boots aren't very warm and they aggravate an old Achilles injury.

Having said that, the plastic boots were overkill on Friday. They really sucked downclimbing the Final 400 and bushwhacking below the E-ledges. It was pretty warm. I'm a wimp about cold hands, and I went without gloves at least two thirds of the time.

I have some decent boots that would work with strap-on crampons, but my strap on crampons are older than most of the people on this board, and they are terrible.

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#22567 - 04/02/12 02:36 AM Re: 3-30-12 Mountaineers' Route Day Hike [Re: bobpickering]
Chicagosky Offline


Registered: 04/02/12
Posts: 4
Loc: IL
I am planning to attempt MR during the weekend of 4/6-4/8. Does one need mountaineering boots or will waterproof hiking boots be sufficient? Your insight is appreciated. Thanks

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#22571 - 04/02/12 10:52 AM Re: 3-30-12 Mountaineers' Route Day Hike [Re: Chicagosky]
bobpickering Offline


Registered: 02/07/10
Posts: 351
Loc: Reno, Nevada
"Waterproof" hiking boots usually aren't waterproof. You will be on snow more or less from LBSL to the notch and back. It looks like you're spending at least one night on the mountain, and you don't want to start for the summit with frozen wet boots. I would bring mountaineering boots and a reliable pair of crampons that fit. While I don't use crampons and an axe all the time, I always have them when I might need them.

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#22573 - 04/02/12 11:26 AM Re: 3-30-12 Mountaineers' Route Day Hike [Re: Chicagosky]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7583
Loc: Fresno, CA
I saw a note by Richard P that his leather/goretex boots got wet on their day hike, a disadvantage. But he also was pretty wary of Bob's plastic boots making the Final 400 ascent and descent more difficult on the rocks.

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#22599 - 04/03/12 08:05 AM Re: 3-30-12 Mountaineers' Route Day Hike [Re: Steve C]
bobpickering Offline


Registered: 02/07/10
Posts: 351
Loc: Reno, Nevada
I just remembered that I used plastic boots on all the California 14ers back in the 90's. (I was doing them all in the winter.) That included the chimney from the U-Notch to North Palisade, the "Milk Bottle" on Starlight, and the summit block on Thunderbolt.

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#22608 - 04/03/12 10:14 AM Re: 3-30-12 Mountaineers' Route Day Hike [Re: bobpickering]
Burchey
Unregistered


Originally Posted By: bobpickering
I just remembered that I used plastic boots on all the California 14ers back in the 90's. (I was doing them all in the winter.) That included the chimney from the U-Notch to North Palisade, the "Milk Bottle" on Starlight, and the summit block on Thunderbolt.


Hey Bob,

What was your method on the Palisade summit blocks in those things? I was glad to have my sticky approach shoes, can't imagine in my single leathers, much less plastics

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#22609 - 04/03/12 10:37 AM Re: 3-30-12 Mountaineers' Route Day Hike [Re: ]
bobpickering Offline


Registered: 02/07/10
Posts: 351
Loc: Reno, Nevada
Originally Posted By: Burchey
What was your method on the Palisade summit blocks in those things?

I cheated. It's much easier with a guide and a rope.

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#22610 - 04/03/12 10:42 AM Re: 3-30-12 Mountaineers' Route Day Hike [Re: bobpickering]
Burchey
Unregistered


Wouldn't call that cheating, and I'd imagine it would be unsafe any other way with big boots on.

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#22616 - 04/03/12 01:10 PM Re: 3-30-12 Mountaineers' Route Day Hike [Re: ]
bobpickering Offline


Registered: 02/07/10
Posts: 351
Loc: Reno, Nevada
When I did the 14ers in winter, I started a write-up and never finished it. This discussion got me working on it again, after 15 years. I'll post it later today.

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#22617 - 04/03/12 01:13 PM Re: 3-30-12 Mountaineers' Route Day Hike [Re: bobpickering]
Burchey
Unregistered


That would be awesome, Bob. Standing by.

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#22628 - 04/03/12 09:58 PM Re: 3-30-12 Mountaineers' Route Day Hike [Re: bobpickering]
Lzpup Offline


Registered: 03/08/12
Posts: 8
Loc: California
My wife and I chatted with one of your group @ LBSL on your way down. Great report and Way to Go!

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