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[TR] High Sierra Grand Prix - 6/8/2012

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Trip: High Sierra Grand Prix -


Date: 6/8/2012


Trip Report:

Being a PNW expat now in school in the flatlands of central Illinois, the chance to escape to the mountains was not taken lightly. My partner for the trip, Dave (still a Portlander), and I had been pouring over this excursion for months, starting with a late-night call telling of his lucky acquisition of Whitney passes for June. Tickets were booked immediately and for three months lofty tick lists were assembled, training regiments laid out, and logistics planned. Of course, out here there's not too much elevation training to be had out here seeing as there are no contour lines (save overpasses) for nearly 100 miles in any direction. Still, we made do.


Monday June 11


After a cross-country flight, a day of errands in Portland, and a day and a half of driving, we arrived at Lover's Leap.


Feeling good and not wanting to waste any time, we headed up toward our first objective: Travelers Buttress. I had never climbed on granite before, so Dave led out the first pitch. A flare caught him by surprise, but other than that all went smooth. The second-pitch offwidth we had heard so much warning about proved not to be too much difficulty for Dave, though the scream "OH MY GOD! I'M IN IT!!" made me question how tenuous it had been for him. (I should mention here that lately his interest has peaked in the area of suffering in the wide).




We used 2x #4 Camalots here and they protected the two constrictions quite well. After some flailing on my part in the OW I led the airy third pitch and we finished the route without troubles. Tired, but stoked to be in the presence of good rock, we hopped on The Line to finish the day.




Tuesday June 12


Keeping the pace up, we started after a dawn breakfast on Surrealistic Pillar Direct.


Not wanting to lose my reputation for bad routefinding, I found us precisely in the wrong place for the second belay (I stayed on the OW corner until it's end). That said, we ended up at the Main Ledge after not too long and found that while there was a party higher up, there wasn't a line at the base of Corrugation Corner. Here's where things get shitty. Literally. Someone took a dump on a ledge near the base of CC. Avoiding that ... mess ... I took off up the first pitch. Unfortunately someone's bowel troubles hadn't subsided after some climbing and I was greeted at the first belay by a large brown smear on the wall.


Luckily that was the last we saw / smelled of that. The rest of the route went well, though by the end of the day dehydration and a light sickness had taken over us: we learned quickly that we'd need to take care of ourselves on this Sierra blitzkrieg.


Wednesday June 13

Discouraged from hiking into the Incredible Hulk by iffy weather forecasts, we left Lover's Leap in the morning for a more moderate objective, Tuolumne's Catherdal Peak. After a warm but enjoyable hike in 4 pitches of great, easy climbing made for a fun, relaxing day with spectacular views from the summit. Unfortunately my camera was not with me that day...


Thursay June 14

Calorie reclamation at the Mobil Mart and laziness in Mammoth, staying with a friend there. We drove into the Valley just to see the tourists and gawk at the big ass rocks they have there.


Friday June 15

An alpine start got us to the trailhead and out of the car on our way to the Third Pillar of Dana by daybreak. While I had kicked the Lover's Leap sickness quickly, Dave held onto a nasty sinus infection that would plague him the rest of the trip. This made the approach a grovel for him, but I loved seeing dawn on the Dana plateau.


After the scurry down to the base of the route, I took off on the first pitch. Again, staying with my compass-like tradition , I found myself horrendously off route after stretching the rope to just beneath a flaring chimney. All was not lost though, as this led us on what we dubbed the "Wide Right Turns" variation which involved a tenuous hand traverse and fairly steep but straight-ahead offwidth before returning to the Regular Route.


The last two pitches provided some classic crack moves and before long we were back to our anti-marmot descent shoe fortress and hiking down the plateau gully; all the while eyeing the growing thunderstorms with a bit of suspicion.



Saturday June 16

A lazy morning led to great evening cragging in Clark Canyon. Our friend in Mammoth showed us the way and we had some good, bolted fun on some solid chunks of tuft that I imagine is what Smith Rocks were like before the chalk and shoe rubber. We did a 5.7, 5.11a, and 5.10b that were all pretty stellar.


Sunday June 17

We headed south midday toward Pratt's Crack Gully. Endless climbing surrounded us as we entered the Pine Creek Canyon and I was thoroughly convinced that climbing residents of Mammoth should never EVER have the excuse that they're bored with the climbing they have available to them.


We started with the classic corner line Shiela which proved to be sustained and physical for its 5.10a rating.


After taking turns on that and then climbing it yet again to retrieve our rope (somehow the rope had tied a splendid knot around the anchor 'biners in the pulling process) we unloaded the wide gear and scoped out Pratt's Crack. Taking the 165ft. offwidth corner seriously, Dave wore a dress.



Though it looked intimidating, chockstones deep in the crack along with face holds abound made for relatively easy climbing with only a few short sections were true OW technique had to be employed.


That said, 2x #6 Camalots, a couple of Big Bro's, and a 9" Valley Giant were all helpful.


Monday June 18

After picking up our trail passes we arrived at Whitney Portal midday. Plenty of food was eaten, and while we had originally set our eyes on some of the hard multipitch lines there in the Portal we opted to take a rest day in preparation for the work that was to come...



Tuesday June 19

With 45lbs on each of our backs, we slogged up the Upper Fork trail toward Iceberg lake. Not too much to report here other than the advice received from one of the Portal Store workers proved very wise and helpful: "Drink and filter water at EVERY lake and stream crossing".



There really couldn't be much more of an ideal campsite than at the base of the East Face of Whitney at Iceberg Lake.



Wednesday June 20

A quick breakfast at Iceberg in the morning and we were off toward Russell.


I started up on the first pitch of Fishhook Arete with the following sequence: climb, place gear, warm hands, repeat. Luckily the sun crept over the horizon as I neared the first belay and the rest of the climb was warm, windless, and afforded great exposure.


The descent however, was kind of a death trap. Every step yielded falling rocks and debris. We left 100 yards or so between us to prevent getting hit with each others' trundles, but even then it was sketchy.



That night we enjoyed some beautiful skies over the Needles and the desert below.



Thursday June 21

As a last hurrah, we ran up (literally in some places) the East Face of Whitney. Conditions were perfect just as on Russell and we were fortunate to not have any one else on route to compete with. Upon reaching the summit, we astonished some hikers, had a snack, looked at each other with the satisfaction of a full trip completed, and wasted no time scurrying down the Mountaineer's Route back to Iceberg lake where we promptly packed up camp and got the hell back to sea level. By 6pm we were filling our faces with Lone Pine pizza and all was good.





Overall it was a fantastic trip. Save for the Hulk, we got on every route we wanted to and plus some. Granite proved to be all it had been talked up to be; that is, after I learned to stop worrying and trust the lieback and smear. Weather lined itself up perfectly for us and we had routed to ourselves for nearly every climb. Can't wait to get back to the Sierra. For now though, it's back to Flatland.


Gear Notes:

We carried close to a full double rack to #2 Camalot and a single #3 and #4 on everything we did and it was WAY overkill for all but the more committing pitches (top of 3rd Pillar, Shiela). Fishhook on Russell and the East Face of Whitney could easily be done with single cams and a second set of nuts / hexes.


Approach Notes:

All the approaches complemented the climbs with good views. A warning however: the trail to Iceberg Lake from Whitney Portal is STEEP! Though I have to say, finding our way around the Ledges was not as hard as Supertopo made it out to be...

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That spotlight exposure on fishhook turned out nice. I'll have more vacation by Late Dec/ early Jan. We'll definitely do an ice trip somewhere then.

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Nice work - you finished up in my neck o' the woods. Whitney East Buttress / Fishhook are on the agenda for this summer. That scree coming down is indeed the worst, but there are a lot of great lines on Russell so you do the suffer. You didn't need to filter there, btw...I never do. Dip and Sip, baby.


How do you like the Tenshi, btw? My buddy is tossing it around between buying that and the Nallo 2.

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theres alot of poop in those parts burchey.


I'd agree with you on the main trail up towards Whitney, but I think the North Fork is pretty solid. Hope I never prove myself wrong.

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