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#49067 - 01/12/17 06:25 PM Totally Unprepared
bobpickering Online


Registered: 02/07/10
Posts: 274
Loc: Reno, Nevada
There arenít many good trip reports this time of year, so I thought this would be a good time to report what I saw in the summer of 2003.

I was camped at Iceberg Lake with a couple of friends when a rather attractive gal came hiking up from the south. She was wearing skimpy shorts, a top that wouldnít provide much warmth or sun protection, and a wide-brimmed, impractical-looking straw hat. She was carrying a tiny daypack. She was alone, she didnít seem to be planning to go for the summit or head back down, darkness was maybe two hours away, and she obviously wasnít prepared to spend the night.

We all scratched our heads, wondering what was up. A few minutes later, another gal showed up, similarly dressed and equally unprepared for spending the night above 12,500í. A few minutes after that, a third gal showed up. We were all puzzled because they didnít head up, they didnít head back down, and they didnít seem interested in setting up a camp.

Eventually, a guy showed up, carrying a large and obviously heavy pack. They selected a campsite, and everything began to make senseÖ until we saw what they did and didnít bring. They had a small two-person tent and two mattresses. I think there were only two sleeping bags. They quickly opened one of the flasks of alcohol the guy had lugged up from the portal.

They began walking around asking to borrow stuff like a filter and a stove, since they initially couldnít find the stuff they thought was in the guyís pack. They were really friendly, socializing, asking about the Mountaineersí Route, and offering to share their booze with other climbers camped at the lake. It turned out that the first two gals were on their way to Burning Man, and climbing Whitney was a spur of the moment decision they made in Lone Pine. The straw hat and a couple of jackets had come from a Lone Pine thrift store.

They filtered some water, heated some food, drank, and made a lot of noise. The partying and giggling continued after all four of them climbed into the two-person tent for the night.

By now, youíre probably thinking about how this story ends. Did the altitude and drinking precipitate a puke-fest? Did they wake up the next morning too hung over to attempt the summit? Did they go for the summit and fail? Did they spend way too many hours staggering up and back down?

None of the above. They were the first ones up the next morning. They climbed up the Mountaineersí Route and back down in three hours. They packed up their stuff and headed down, with the first two gals going to Burning Man for another week of partying, and the other two headed back to Los Angeles.

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#49069 - 01/12/17 09:44 PM Re: Totally Unprepared [Re: bobpickering]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 6875
Loc: Fresno, CA
Incredible! Obviously they were in great shape to endure all of that.

Thanks for sharing the story.

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#49089 - 01/17/17 08:40 AM Re: Totally Unprepared [Re: bobpickering]
NettieMarie Offline


Registered: 01/17/17
Posts: 1
Loc: PA
Hi, we are coming from Pennsylvania in May to hopefully hike Mt. Whitney May 27. We plan to rent crampons. Is an ice axe essential or can we get by with Trekking poles? I can't find a place to rent ice axes - we have trekking poles. Thank you for your help!

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#49090 - 01/17/17 09:36 AM Re: Totally Unprepared [Re: NettieMarie]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 6875
Loc: Fresno, CA
The trail at the 99 switchbacks will likely be inaccessible, so people will be climbing "the chute" (the steep snow slope just west of the switchbacks--not a chute). There will probably be some going without ice axes, but if the snow conditions are such that there is a hard icy crust, an ice axe (and knowledge/experience on how to self-arrest) could be a lifesaver.

If the snow is softer, hiking poles would be ok. Understand that in the later afternoon, soft snow hardens up when the sun leaves that slope and temps drop.

Under NO circumstances should you attempt to glissade (sit on your butt and slide) down that slope without an ice axe as a brake, OR while wearing crampons!!!

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#49091 - 01/17/17 09:45 AM Re: Totally Unprepared [Re: NettieMarie]
bobpickering Online


Registered: 02/07/10
Posts: 274
Loc: Reno, Nevada
Hi! In May, you should have crampons and an ice axe. You might make it up and back down without using your axe, but it just isnít smart to be there without one. Soft snow in the late morning can become dangerous ice on the way down in the shade later in the day. Learn to self-arrest before you go.

Living in Pennsylvania, you may not have a lot of experience at high altitude. Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) affects many people, some more than others. Do your homework on AMS, acclimatization, and Diamox.

Study Steveís ďOrientation NotesĒ if you havenít already done so. They contain a ton of useful information. Good Luck!

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#49098 - 01/17/17 10:25 PM Re: Totally Unprepared [Re: bobpickering]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 6875
Loc: Fresno, CA
I visited Glacier N.P. several years ago, and was able to rent an ice axe at a sporting goods/adventure store in West Glacier. My axe wouldn't fit in anyone's checked luggage!

I texted John from Elevation Climbing in Lone Pine -- they rent gear, crampons, but NOT ice axes. He felt there was too much liability. But he offered to give you a really good deal if you call him. I would definitely give that a try.

Also, visit this link: Links to important Whitney info and check the Ice Axe Use topics.

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