Trip: CA/OR road trippin'- Whitney, Russell, and Thielsen - East Buttress- Whitney, East Ridge- Russell, Standard scramble on Thielsen Trip Date: 06/28/2023 Trip Report:
Since @Trent and @cfire were going to be gallivanting around Europe in July, we had to move our annual climbing trip up to June (John joined as well early on, but @cfire had to drop out unfortunately). Normally, June isn't the month to be climbing in the Cascades and so we picked the High Sierra many months ago, not realizing that they were going to accumulate the biggest snowpack in many decades. This would complicate things somewhat (more on that later), but the weather was solid, and so south we went.....and went. It is a long drive to Whitney Portal from the Skagit! We broke it up over two days, communing with the mosquitos in OR the first night, camping at Whitney Portal to start acclimating the second night (decent sites that are first come, first served at the TH, $20. camp closest to the river to avoid be woken by late arrivals).
The next day found us sorting gear and hefting our loads to begin the slog to Upper Boy Scout Lake. Our plan was to hike up to UBSL the first night, resting in the afternoon of our arrival. Day 2 would be the scramble of the East Ridge of Russell (an excellent Cl. 3 route per Peter Croft, and I had no business jumping on Fishhook Arete so convinced Steve and John to set their sights lower) to further our acclimation efforts. Day 3 would be the East Buttress of Whitney, followed by a descent of the Mountaineer's Route, packing up camp and heading to the car.
And that's what we did.
I would like to spin some yarn about the pain of the approach, tricky routefinding, vicious wildlife, etc. but it pretty much went off without a hitch. We had a bit of avy debris/carnage to contend with low down on the climber's trail and a lot of snow up high, but it was pretty much a standard Cascadian approach, with a little bit of altitude thrown in. I think it took us about 3.5 hours or so to UBSL. And there we lounged for the rest of the day.
The next day was clear (I think they are always clear in the Sierra) and we set off on a leisurely ramble up the East Ridge of Russell. It was extra leisurely since we had to stop and pant every few hundred feet. 14k was still 14k, but the grand views, good rock, excellent company, and zero crowds made for a pleasant day. Highly recommended!
Then it was back to camp to ready for the main event.
The East Buttress of Whitney! It definitely lived up to the hype, perhaps one of the finest alpine rock routes I've climbed. Eight engaging pitches, almost no loose rock, and no crowds (just one other guided party of 3). Plus an interesting descent in the Mountaineer's route (at least when snow and ice covered). Again, highly recomended! I'd also recommend two fine partners like @Trent and John who led two blocks to get us past the difficulties. I just sat back, took pictures, belayed, and enjoyed the view. Super fun!
And just like that, in 3 days we were out of the Whitney area looking for a day trip on our way back to WA (we spent another night at the Whitney Portal TH campground). Lone Pine Peak (very close by) looked to be too big of a day for us after Whitney, Tuolumne was blocked by snow (Tioga pass closed) and so....what to do? I threw out Mount Thielsen in OR. We saw its impossibly steep choss horn and there was something poetic about the contrast between High Sierra granite and OR volcanics. Thielsen it would be.
And so we drove up to Diamond Lake and gave a pint of blood.
And wondered how Thielsen hadn't fallen over yet.
But truly Thielsen turned out to much more enjoyable than expected (ignoring the mosquitos, bring DEET). Good trail and solid rock on the final 80' bit to the summit (exposed legit 4th class, you may want a rope to rap it but we scrambled up and down without mishap). Perfect weather too, and the summit to ourselves! What's not to like?
And then, 11 hours after standing on the summit of Thielsen, we were home.
SuperTopo High Sierra Guide and Croft's The Good, the Great, and the Awesome has it all specified. We used a single rack to 3, crampons, ice axe, and helmet on Whitney. Crampons, axe and helmet on Russell, Helmet on Thielsen. Approach Notes:
Git in yer car and drive!