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[TR] Mt. Irvine, 13,850'- East Buttress, V 5.9 (or


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Climb: Mt. Irvine, 13,850'-East Buttress, V 5.9 (or IV 5.10a)


Date of Climb: 7/31/2005


Trip Report:

So after having burgers at the Whitney Portal store (see my Whitney Portal Wall trip report from 30 July), S. and I headed back over to the truck, reracked, and packed up. We were heading in to Meysan Lake to climb the East Buttress of Mt. Irvine. This route was orginally climbed in 1971 and given a grade of V 5.9. In the week prior, we had only heard of one other local climber having done the route, and he had told Doug Thompson it was the best of its grade in the Sierra. The only information we had for it was a short description in the Secor book and a striking photo of a sharp steep prow rising from the lake straight to the sky.


Looking up at the dissapating clouds, we packed light and chose not to take the tent. I was stuffing everything into my Serratus Genie again, raising S.'s eyebrows. 2:30 later got us to Grass Lake, the lowest of the Meysan Lakes. Just as we reached the lake, the "dissapating" clouds had built up and started to rain. A quick search revealed an excellent bivy shelter under a house-sized boulder leaning up against another rock rib. We quickly plushed it out and got comfortable. S. broke out his two pads, inflatable pillow, and sleeping bag while I laid out my bivy envelope, 1/4 foam pad, half bag, and pulled on my sweater and knit cap. S. was nice enough to give me the rope, which made a great pillow when stacked on top of my shoes. Tea and cobler fueled our bodies for the night.


4am is bloody early, but that's what time we woke up for coffee, tea, and a cold breakfast. 1:30 of walking lead us to the base of the route at 6:30am. S. was chomping at the bit and took off as soon as we had the rope flaked out. He was 15+ feet up by the time I had him on belay. A chimney started out for two pitches, which lead to numerous corners and traverses around gendarmes. When I mean numerous, I mean a lot of numbers. The original team climbed it in 17 pitches, and Secor's guidebook says to follow the crest and avoid the gendarmes to the right for 10 pitches. That's it, completely Beckey style.


S. was convinced we were doubling the pitches with our 60 meter rope, but the route description wasn't matching what I was looking at on pitch 6. Every ledge also seemed to be covered with loose 3rd class death blocks, just waiting for the rope to pull them off onto an unsuspecting belayer. S.'s lead on pitch 7 brought us to the orginal piton anchor of pitch 10. 40' of downclimbing brought us to the base of the three crux pitches, a thin finger and face pitch leading to two finger corner pitches. We agreed that the climbing seemed a little harder than 5.9 though. After that we had several hundred feet of <5.5 climbing that we soloed through before reaching the final 4th and 3rd class ridge, and the summit at 1:30pm.


The register dated back to the 1990's, and in it we could find only three other parties in the last 15 years that had climbed the route. The consensus in the register notes is that the route is more like 5.10-, and no longer a grade V. The FA team had to use pitons for protection in the thin pitches, which would have been a lot heavier and slower than a modern team with TCUs and stoppers.


The descent was a straight-forward gravel and snow glissade down the the east chute to Meysan Lake, where a quick contour around the moraines lead to Grass Lake and a tea break before packing up and heading down. We made it back to the Whitney Portal for a second serving of burgers and hand-cut french fries at 6pm.


Gear Notes:

Trad rack with gear to #0.25 - #4, and doubles #0.75, #1, and #2.

One 60 meter rope


Approach Notes:

Hike up the Meysan Lakes Trail to Grass Lake. Excellent bivy spots on flat rock are on the other side of the lake.

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