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chris

[TR] Mt. Langley 4274 m; 14,042 ft- SE Slope

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Climb: Mt. Langley 4274 m; 14,042 ft-Southeast Slope, Class 2

 

Date of Climb: 6/25/2005

 

Trip Report:

On 25-26 June I climbed Mt. Langley with D. and M. This would be D. first High Sierra summit and M.'s first time to 14,000 ft. We met and grabbed breakfast at the Bishop Grill (*-) before driving down to Lone Pine and on to the Horshoe Meadow Trailhead (10,040'). There is a trail on only the most recent maps that connects Horshoe Meadows to the Cottonwood Lakes - older USGS maps and all the guidebooks are incorrect when they insist you have to start where Cottonwood Creek crosses the road!

 

Three easy hours of hiking, with two substantial breaks, got us to the west side of Long Lake (11,100'). We relaxed for the afternoon and went to bed at dusk.

 

Our "alpine" start was at 5am on the 26th. Due to some last minute shenanigans, and without me providing pressure, it took us over an hour and a half to leave camp - we finally stepped out at 6:40am.

 

The crux of the climb was making it over New Army Pass (12,300'). I stuck to the trail for as long as I could, including cutting steps across a 100' wide snow slope for D. and M., but we finally came up to a final steep snowfield, aproximately 50' short of the pass. The slope was steep - 30 degree start, gradually picking up to 60+ degrees for the last five feet. We had crampons and ice axes, but D. experience was limited to glacier travel on moderate slopes and M. had no experience at all. So I carefully cut steps to another rock island, and worked to improve the steps from previous parties up over the lip. I then carefully spotted M., then D., up and over the final front-pointing.

 

From there it was pretty easy going. We dropped down to Army Pass (11,800'), and climbed up the lower slopes towards Langley. A cool moment of "ahhhhh" was had when we spotted a fox running across the mountainside at 12,000'. A short section of scrambling got us around the headwall at 13,000', and we finally reached the summit at 12:45pm. Photos were taken, lunch was eaten, ibuprofen was handed out to D. for his back and M. for her headache, and then we headed down.

 

Getting off of New Army Pass proved to be harder then getting on. The top three inches of snow had softened up considerably, and I wanted D. and M. to be able to see their feet as they downclimbed the lip. I tried to kick in a new boot pack to the right of the old, but discovered the snow was rock hard underneath those three inches of mash potatoes. I ended up traversing further to the right to a rock promontory, where 10 feet of Class 2 down-climbing and a 10 foot traverse accessed a lower angle snow slope directly above the trail. I was able to carefully direct and spot D. and M. one at a time through the rock section and then join them on the trail. Afte that walking back to camp was a piece of cake.

 

All that circus getting over the pass ate up a lot of time, though. We finally got back to camp at 6:15, and were packed up and ready to leave at 7pm. I was really expecting to be back at the cars in two hours, and became very concerned when we reached the half-way point on the trail 1:30 later. M.'s headache had hit her with a vengance, and it was actually making her nasueas (sic?). Nothing to do but keep descending the final 3.3 miles to the car. At 10pm, M. said, "Don't stop walking, 'cause I don't think I can start again." So I took her pack, threw it on top of mine, and kept moving. We finally reached the car at 10:30pm.

 

D. and M. were absolutely knackered, so I drove them back to their hotel in Bishop. I finally got to bed just before 1am. We met the next morning to sort out the gear and have breakfast at the Inyo Country Cafe (****, corner of Warren and Academy).

 

What would I do differently? I'd bring a short length of rope to get over the pass early season (I've never climbed this peak before 15 July before). It would have allowed me to provide a quick belay up and to simply lower D. and M. down to the trail during the descent, saving a lot of time. As for the hike out, we actually moved slower hiking out then we did hiking in! The next morning M. admitted to have been fighting off an illness for the past few days. Sounds like the exertion and altitude allowed the bug to gain an upper hand for a day.

 

It took us 6 hours up and 4:30 down. In normal conditions it takes about 5 hours up and 3 hours down. I also spoke to several other local guides who still use old Army Pass from Cottonwood Lake #4. They argue that its just as fast with a rope as the bypass is without, and if the weather is threatening it provides less time exposed to the risk of lightning. Something to consider.

 

If you're a strong endurance climber, consider doing this trip in a day! I'm sure that by the end of July the snow over New Army Pass will be completely melted out and it should be easy moving all the way to the summit.

 

Gear Notes:

We used:

Ice axes

Crampons

 

We should have had:

50' length of rope

 

Approach Notes:

Park at Horshow Meadows - the TH is well signed. All major intersections along the trail are well posted.

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