Monday, July 28, 2014

The Lowe Route & The Answer, Question Mark Wall, Lone Peak Cirque

7-24-14  Climbing in the Lone Peak Cirque

July 24th is a Utah holiday so Luke and I went to the mountains.  The classic Lowe Route has been on our list ever since we started trad climbing 2 summers ago; so we made it happen on the 24th.  Our main goal was to climb the Lowe Route, but we were open to climbing other routes afterward, energy depending. So we left the Jacob's Ladder trailhead a little after 6 am and quickly made our way up to the Lone Peak Cirque, which we reached by 9:30 am.  We took a significant break here, read up on the route, and fueled up.

We scrambled up the approach (Pete's Staircase, 5.4) to the base of the wall and began climbing the 3-pitch 5.8 Lowe Route.  Luke and I agreed that we would split up the best pitches (1 and 3), so Luke led the first 2 pitches and I led the 3rd pitch.

After climbing the Lowe Route, we hiked down and around and climbed another route; the Answer.  This route is basically a variation of the Lowe Route and was a lot of fun.

Pitch 1: A sweet, steep, hand-sized dihedral to the top of a pinnacle.  5.8

Pitch 2: A wandering, easy section and a short crack to the base of the steep upper face. 5.7

Pitch 3: A straight shot up the upper wall.  Used the small crack for protection and climbed the patina to the summit.  So sweet! 5.7

Lone Peak Cirque 
Question Mark Wall - the approach requires some low 5th class scrambling to the tree-covered ledge
First pitch of the Lowe Route, so fun!
First pitch of the Lowe Route.  Luke is not free-soloing as it might appear
Wandering 2nd Pitch of the Lowe Route
The 3rd pitch of the Lowe Route - a bit of a runout start
Luke coming up the fantastic and exposed 3rd pitch of the Lowe Route

Pitch 1: The same first pitch as the Lowe Route.  5.8

Pitch 2: Moves up and left and follows bolts/pins to a fixed 2-bolt anchor with white webbing below a roof.  5.8

Pitch 3:  From the anchor, the route traverses right around the roof and back left onto the exposed face protected by sparse bolts and pitons.  5.8
Me leading the fun and chllenging first pitch of the Lowe Route and The Answer
Luke on the 2nd pitch of the Answer, all fixed protection on an exposed face
The 3rd pitch of the Answer on the Question Mark Wall.  Luke is belaying from the top and I am climbing.
After a long day of climbing, we started rappelling Pete's Staircase back to the cirque floor to begin the hike out.  We were informed by some hikers that two other hikers were stranded and needed help.  We spent an hour or so helping two college kids who were on an exposed ledge between two impassable cliff faces.  We lent our harnesses and rope to help them to safety.  Good deed for the day complete.

We reached the car 3 hours later.  14 hour day in the mountains.

Monday, July 21, 2014

White Baldy Peak via West Ridge (Class 3)

7-19-14 White Baldy Peak

My Dad (61), my friend Kyle and myself climbed one of the highest and challenging peaks in the Wasatch on Saturday - White Baldy Peak.  Often overlooked by the prominent and well-known Pheifferhorn, White Baldy is more challenging, more fun, and a good warm-up for the Grand Teton, which we plan to do in Mid-August.

We began our hike on Saturday morning around 7:15 am. We followed the trail up to Red Pine Lakes and then scrambled over and up a boulder field to the saddle on the west ridge of White Baldy.  From the ridge, we scrambled up 1,000 vertical ft of class 3 terrain to the summit.  We enjoyed a windless and sunny, yet cool summit for 20 minutes before we made our descent.  

Unfortunately, on the descent, we decided to take a direct path down on loose rocks instead of staying on the solid summit ridge with sure footing.  By the time we reached the meadows near the upper Red Pine lakes area, we were pooped.  My dad soaked his feet in the creek and I jumped in the lake.  When I got out, I saw the sign which read, "No Swimming."  OOOPS. We were back to our car around 3 pm. ~ 8 hours round trip.
Dad hiking around the Lake with White Baldy in the distance
Some nice, steep, and exposed class 3 scrambling on the summit ridge
A cool pinnacle on the summit ridge, I had to get on top of it
Looking down to Red Pine Lakes from the summit ridge
Summit shot with my pop
Bath time.  Sorry watershed users (i.e. Salt Lake residents)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Sundial Peak via the Eleventh Hour

Eleventh Hour (5.8 trad, 4 pitches, alpine, grade III) Sundial Peak, Big Cottonwood Canyon
Sundial Peak in mid July
Luke and I left the Lake Blanche trailhead at 7:15 am and we were at the base of the route by 9:15. By 9:45, Luke was on the route, leading the first pitch.  By 2:45 we were back to the car. 2 hours on the approach. 3.5 hours climbing and rappelling the route. 2 more hours on the descent. 7.5 hours total.

Pitch 1: Begins in a weakness on the western side of the north face of Sundial Peak, about .5 miles south of Lake Blanche.  The route-finding is pretty straight forward.  He used almost the entire 70 m of our rope to get to a big ledge where he belayed me up. 5.7.

Luke getting started on the first pitch of the Eleventh Hour
Pitch 2: I lead this pitch up a shallow dihedral and then up and left up through a steep dihedral and slab with a couple tricky, exposed and runout moves.  Small gear would have been nice!  I belayed on a nice ledge above the slab. 5.8.
Luke working through the crux on pitch 2
Pitch 3: Luke led this pitch on fun finger cracks and traversed right and moved up near the arete to a belay ledge. 5.8.    
Luke getting started on pitch 3
Me getting to the top of Pitch 3 on the Eleventh Hour
Pitch 4: I led the final pitch up a fun, juggy and exposed dihedral to the summit. 5.7
Me close to topping out on the final pitch of the Eleventh Hour

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Capitol Reef Hiking

July 12-13 - Hiking in Capitol Reef

Spent the weekend in Capitol Reef with a big group of friends and did several of the hikes in the park.

SULPHUR CREEK (~6 miles): We dropped a car at the Visitor Center and drove up to the trailhead. All 13 of us followed the wash downstream into some slotty sections where the canyon narrows.
Taking care of business 
Waterfalls in Sulphur Creek
The Castle, Capitol Reef
Narrow section of Sulphur Creek

COTTONWOOD WASH (~4 miles): The whole group followed the Cottonwood Wash upstream from the Notum-Bullfrong Road to the west into the Waterpocket Fold where the canyon narrows within the resistant Navajo Sandstone.  Lots of stagnant and deep water.  Required some challenging stemming and/or swimming.  We turned around early due to time, didn't get very far up the slot section.
The beginning of the slot section in Cottonwood Wash
Hiking down Cottonwood Wash

HICKMAN BRIDGE (~2 miles): Nature hike to a large natural Arch near the Visitor's Center.  45 minutes.
Hickman Bridge

BURRO WASH (~6 miles): Much like Cottonwood, we started off the Notum-Bullfrog Road road and followed the Burro Wash up the dry stream bed until the canyon narrowed.  This canyon was the highlight of our hikes, with scrambling, boulder problems, stemming, wading, and squeezing.  We stopped at a large chamber with an impassable dry pour off and retraced our steps to the car. 2.5 hours RT.

Heading into the cold water in Burro Wash
Narrow slots in Burro Wash
Wading through the deep water
Stemming down into the deep canyon below
Squeezing through Burro Wash


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Teewinot via East Face

Teewinot Mountain via East Face - Class 4, Snow, Alpine, Grade III

Following a week of geologic fieldwork in Yellowstone, William and I planned on climbing some mountains.  Our first choice was Granite Peak, located in the rugged Beartooth Mountains of southern Montana.  Due to poor weather, we opted for plan B; Teewinot Mountain in the Tetons.  The Tetons were supposed to have bad weather rolling in by mid-afternoon as well, but we figured we could climb it and get off the mountain before the storms blew in (unlike Granite, which would require many hours of hiking just to get to the base of the mountain).

We left Yellowstone at 5 am and we were on the trail at 7 am. Clear skies.  The East Face route leaves the Lupine Meadows parking lot and pretty much goes straight up the mountain to the summit.  2.5 miles, 5,600 ft. to the top.  We made great progress, despite the steep trail.  We were motivated by the weather window we had, not knowing how long it would last.  Once we reached the "apex" area, where the trail turns into a steep snowfield and scrambling, we put on our helmets and unpacked our ice axes.

Close to the "Apex" area on Teewinot.  The route follows the snowfield straight up towards the summit
William getting started on the snow
Taking a breather on Teewinot
From here, we deliberately and methodically kicked steps up the steep, crusty snow using our ice axes for balance and security.  William, apparently dehydrated, started feeling nauseous and decided to turn back.  He encouraged me onward and so I went.  I quickly climbed the snowfield and scrambled up 3rd and 4th class solid rock up the right side of the couloir until I gained the summit ridge.  The entire Teton range suddenly came into view in a moment.  I had reached the summit by 11 am and I beat the storms. I made my way down the same way I came up.  William was feeling much better when I reached him, having drunken his water and refilled numerous times with melting snow.

Looking down the route from near the summit of Teewinot 
Looking south towards Jackson from Teewinot
From left to right: South Teton, Middle Teton, Grand Teton, Mt. Owen

I dried my feet out and filled up my water bottle before we made the hike back down to the car.  We reached the parking lot at 2 pm, exactly 7 hours after starting.

Storms blowing in around 2:30 pm

We got a burger in Jackson and went out separate ways.  I drove back to SLC that afternoon through torrential rain and thunderstorms.  We got our weather window.           

Monday, June 23, 2014

Boundary Peak, Nevada

Boundary Peak is one of those mountains you would probably never climb if it weren't a state high point. It's the northernmost peak in the White Mountains, which are almost entirely in the state of California. However, the state line divides Boundary Peak from the rest of the range.

After climbing the East Buttress of Mt. Whitney on Friday, we planned on hiking up Boundary Peak on Saturday. We stopped at the Ranger Station in Bishop and they recommended the Queens Mine Route to save some elevation.  We took their advice and drove up a former mine road to the trailhead; 4x4 required.

We started hiking at 10:15 am.  It's a straightforward hike (literally) to the summit. The trail climbs from 9,800 ft to 13,140 ft - an elevation gain of ~3,340 ft. We took 3 hours to get to the summit and another 2 to get down.  It was a quick and uneventful hike and another tick off the western state high points.  
Breakfast in Bishop, a High Sierra tradition
Queens Mine Route to Boundary Peak
The top of Nevada
Taking it in.  This one is for you Wayne McQueen!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Mt. Whitney via East Buttress in 15 hours (5.7 trad, Alpine, 11 pitches, 1000', Grade III)

My infatuation with mountain climbing began 4 summers ago.  I wanted to get to the top of as many peaks as I could.  I've made several lists and goals when it comes to peak bagging and climbing, most of which are still a work in progress, as are the skills required to reach several of these mountains.  Mt. Whitney has long been on my list due the appealing technical routes it offers and its' title as the highest mountain in California and the contiguous United States.  

This weekend Luke and I drove to Lone Pine, California from Salt Lake City to climb Mt. Whitney.  The drive was eventful in and of itself; we ran out of gas in the middle of the Nevada desert. After 4 hours, we had several new acquaintances in Ely, a new gas can, a good story, and we were back on the road.

We camped at the Whitney Portal (trailhead) on Thursday night with the intention of climbing a technical route called the East Buttress in a single day.  Most parties will take 2 or 3 days to climb this route. However, we decided we would rather carry less gear and move light and fast - there are advantages to each method.  More recently I have adopted the light and fast method in the mountains because a) I usually don't have much time and b) I'm not a fan of carrying stuff I don't need.  So, we started the 4-mile, 4,300 ft approach at 4 am, hoping to be back down before dark.

For the most part, the approach to the climb followed a well-marked, albeit steep, trail with short sections of class2/3 scrambling. By 8:30 we were at Iceberg Lake near the base of the route to the summit.  The weather was clear, warm, and windless - a perfect day for some alpine climbing. We filled our bottles with ice cold water from the lake and prepared for the 500 ft scramble to the route and the 1,000 ft rock climb.  We scrambled up big blocks and ledges to the beginning of the East Buttress route, which follows a steep ridge/arête to the summit.

Sunrise at 5 am!  Only an hour of hiking in the dark up the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek
Getting into the high country, Mt. Whitney is still hiding.
Looking up our route from Iceberg Lake.  The East Buttress route starts near the top of the left snowfield and follows a prominent ridge to the summit.

Pitch 1:
Luke led this pitch up a fun, sustained left-facing dihedral and steep blocks to a ledge.  ~60 m @5.7
Luke leading the first pitch on the East Buttress

Pitch 2:
I led this pitch up steep blocky terrain up and around the right side of the tower. ~50 m @5.5
Luke coming up the easy terrain near the top of Pitch 2 on the East Buttress
Pitch 3:
I led this pitch right up the wide ridge on a steep, poorly protected face and then up and over easy, blocky terrain to a big belay ledge to the right of the arête. ~60 m @5.7

Me leading Pitch 3 on a poorly protected and runout section of the East Buttress.  There is a piton but you can't clip a biner to it because it's hammered down to the wall.  An easier variation goes around the face to the right.

Pitch 4:
Luke led this pitch (perhaps the best) up a shallow right-facing corner, which transitions into a steep dihedral just right of the arête.  ~60 m @5.7
Luke leading the excellent, fun, and exposed 4th pitch on the East Buttress. 
Me finishing up the 4th pitch on the East Buttress

Pitch 5:
We simul-climbed up and to the right of the Peewee Block until the climbing got harder again, just above the block. ~100 m @easy 5th
Luke coming up easy terrain on Pitch 5, which we simul-climbed. Iceberg Lake can be seen below.
Pitch 6: 
Luke led a short pitch up a steep and thin right-facing dihedral. ~30 m @5.7

Pitch 7:
I led this final pitch up steep flakes and a small roof. I ran out the rope up 4th class terrain to a nice ledge with a view of the summit block. ~65 m @5.6
Luke coming up the final pitch towards the summit block.  IceBerg Lake is almost 1,500 ft. below.  We were a couple hundred feet of scrambling from the summit at this point.

We unroped and scrambled up the summit block to the top. We climbed the route in 5 hours (started at 9:30 and finished at 2:30).  We spent 20 minutes on the summit taking in the views of the numerous alpine lakes, jagged peaks of the Sierras, and the beautiful alpine valleys of Kings Canyon National Park below.  We then made our way towards the Mountaineers route for the descent, knowing we still had to hike down 6,000 vertical feet.
Luke and I on the summit of Mt. Whitney (14,495 ft.)
Looking north from the summit of Mt. Whitney
Looking down the East Buttress from the summit of Mt. Whitney
Looking down the Mountaineers Route on Mt. Whitney
The Mountaineers Route (in summer conditions) is the pits, plain and simple.  The route is a 30 m wide steep gully full of loose boulders and scree.  With each step, you risk dislodging a rock onto climbers below and slipping yourself.   However, we made it down without killing anyone or ourselves and we were back at Iceberg Lake in about an hour and a half.  We got some water and made the long hike down to Whitney Portal.  We reached our car at 7 pm - exactly 15 hours after we started.  This was one of the best climbing trips I have done to date.  No complaints. 

*We used a 70 m alpine rope and brought 6 cams, a set of nuts, and several slings. 

That night we got dinner in Lone Pine and camped outside of town.  The following day we made our way up Boundary Peak in Nevada.  We knocked off two state high points in 2 days.