Since getting hooked on winter climbing doing Thor Peak (WPSMB group hike) and Boundary Peak (Doug Sr., GigaMike and M. Mouse), I've been taking training classes with SMI and training for a summit attempt via the MR. Our scheduled 4-day trip was Apr 10-13, with Kurt Wedburg and Sara Berghoff as our guides. With a storm forecasted for Sun -- Mon (Monday being our summit day), I was apprehensive in the days before, but decided at the end that no matter what happened, I was in good hands and would have a fun time and a great learning experience.
I spent Friday night at the Whitney Portal Hostel, and Norman came up Saturday morning to join us for breakfast at the Whitney Cafe. Met the rest of my group for the first time! There was the gang from San Diego: Joey (12), Britney (10), their father Joe (they are training for their upcoming Kilimanjaro climb in June!), and Wade (teacher of Britney and friend of Joe and family). And last but not least, Tater, a friend of Kurt's, from Atlanta, who's been to peaks above 19K with Kurt. Our guides were Kurt and Karsten, who replaced Sara (still recovering from a knee injury). Kurt's dad John was also at breakfast with us. He and Norman would help shuttle us to the trail head,
There was enough of a gap between the loader and the avalanche debris that we were able to squeeze through and got dropped off at the overflow parking area, just below the Whitney Portal Trail Head. Lucky us!
The plan was to hike up to LBSL on Saturday, then onto just below Iceberg Lake and set up high camp on Sunday. Attempt the summit on Monday, return to high camp for the night, then hike down on Tuesday. We were able to take the drainage straight up towards LBSL, but the snow was very thin in spots, especially at creek crossings. Wade actually fell through one of the snow bridges and injured his knee! Tater got hit with altitude sickness and was throwing up a lot at camp, so Kurt escorted them down before dinner in order not to lose daylight.
It was so cold that the food in my bowl was cold before I could finish it! It still tasted awesome, though! Thai food with rice, fresh veggies, tuna and peanuts in a spicy sauce! I had two servings!! Thanks for cooking, Karsten! Tater said food was the reason he came on these trips with Kurt,
It was so windy overnight that I was actually scared...
I wasn't cold at all, as I was inside a -20 down bag (yeah, I know, I'm a wimp!
) and the SMI tent (Mountain Hardware Trango 3.1) was awesome! I didn't sleep much, just listening to the wind and wondering if it would blow the tent over... Glad Karsten was there...
The next morning, it was still cold and windy, the group of skiers and snowboarders camping below us left to go back down early instead of pushing to the summit as planned. Kurt came back up to camp as we were having breakfast with worse than expected weather forecast: high winds with over two feet of snow expected. He gave us some options: we could push to high camp and see what happens (would be completely exposed), or stay and do Thor Peak (not sure about the wind), or go down and do avalanche training and maybe a local peak depending on weather. We chose the last option. Richard P. stopped by on his way down while we were breaking camp. He had passed us at LBSL the day before and camped above Clyde Meadows and said he couldn't sleep due to the high winds. He said he was in his bivy for a very long time... On the way down, we stayed high and came down on the E-ledges, because of the thinning snow coverage in the drainage.
As we got into the Whitney Cafe in Lone Pine, Kurt got a call from his dad telling him that winds gusting up to 170mph were expected on the crest and maybe we should come down. Kurt said we were in the restaurant, LOL...
We went to Mammoth Rock for crevasse rescue and avalanche transceiver training on Monday. Over two feet of snow had fallen overnight so it made for some fun snowshoeing! It snowed on and off pretty much all day we were out there, blizzardy at times. I was so cold that I jumped at any chance to shovel snow! GLAD we were down at 8500' instead of above 12000'! Kurt said today would have been a weather day on McKinley (we got a private slideshow on McKinley at Kurt's house the night before), We rounded the trip out with a morning of rock climbing at the Owens River Gorge Tuesday morning. Sara was able to join us! Karsten went skiing instead, which was what I totally would have done!
All in all, it was a very nice trip. Learned a great deal, met some very nice folks, and hopefully made some lasting friendships,
Thanks again, Kurt, Karsten and Sara!!!My photos here
I included some photos taken by Kurt to complete my own photo journal. His complete photos can be found at Kurt's photos of MR on 4-10 and 4-11
and Kurt's photos of our snow training