Joined: 07 Dec 2004 Posts: 550 Location: Berkeley/Meyers/Motel Subaru
Posted: Thu May 18, 2006 7:09 pm Post subject: TR:Up, Down, and All Around-Circumnavigating Whitney Pt.2 up
Up, Down, and All Around: Circumnavigating Whitney
(with photoshop help from mchin)
My toenails had finally at long last recovered from the sadistic beating they got on our Palisades trip together last season. This meant that it was time for iluka to fly down for another Sierra expedition. iluka now hails from Seattle, but he cut his ski mountaineering teeth many years ago in the high Sierra--back when he couldn’t tell gorp from goretex and mchin taught him everything he knew. Since then, ikuka has grown fond of the Cascades but still makes semi-regular appearances down south to ward off looming SAD or vitamin D deficiency. This time, he brought along paulpalf, Brit-expat-turned-Vancouverite ttiper, to help us interpret the metric USGS maps of the Whitney region. As last year’s trip was planned as a circumnavigation and then changed en route to a point-to-point, the complementary strategy would be to plan this year’s trip as a point-to-point and then change it to a circumnavigation. And as fate would have it, that is exactly what happened.
Mal comune, mezzo gaudio (When we all suffer together, we’re almost having fun)
We leave Berkeley in two cars around 3PM. Traffic gods willing, the plan is to share a nice dinner at Bridgeport’s Restaurant 1881 around 7-8PM. However, somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle of Echo Summit, Gardernerville, and Topaz Lake a bewildering comedy of errors occurs. The upshot of the crossed signals, dropped cell phone calls, fleeting glimpses of what may or may not have been each others’ cars, misunderstandings, and misassumptions leads to mchin and paulpalf eating fish tacos at the Lee Vining Mobil Station while iluka and I settle for whoppers at the Gardnerville Burger King 90 miles north.
Next day, we leave a car at Onion Valley and head to Whitney Portal for a leisurely 2PM start. We want to stay low our first night, and with Whitney Portal at 8300’, we figure we should be sailing into camp at Lower Boy Scout Lake (10,300’) by 5PM. As we depart the parking lot, we come upon an ominous sign. Foreshadowing?
A good climber’s trail beckons at the turnoff for the north fork of Lone Pine Creek, but this soon proves deceptive. Having unknowingly missed the segue to the ledge route on climber’s right, we are resigned to some serious type II fun. The next two hours are spent alternatively crawling on hands and knees under dense willow thickets and scrambling with heavy packs over chest-high boulders. Desperate for the open slopes on the far side of the creek, we convince ourselves that a dubious stream crossing is actually not so bad. Following a full team effort, all skis, poles, packs, and people make it safely across:
By the time we reach the lake, daylight is scarce but we find a dry and cozy spot for the night. Dawn breaks, and you know you’re livin’ large when you can make breakfast in bed!
The next day’s plan is Russell-Carillon Pass. At 13.2K and with a class 3 section on its north (descent) side, it promises to be interesting. That is, if slogging a heavy pack through thin air up 2,500-ft of 30-degree slope can be considered interesting. At least the 500 ft of loose scree and gravel near the top provides variety. Here, I’m very glad to be approaching the end of this particular climb:
At the top of the climb, iluka crosses a small plateau to get to the pass:
The beta we had gotten from the WPS message board is good and the col’s north side, mixed rock and snow, is easily downclimbable--unless you’re an acrophobe like me. paulpalf and iluka scamper down like billy goats. Gingerly, I start my descent facing into the slope, kicking one step and then another, white-knuckling my ice axe and my Whippet. My pack weight feels like it’s going to tear me right off the ridge into oblivion. Ever the loyal husband, mchin stays nearby to offer encouragement like, “I’m getting cold, can’t you go down any faster?” Cold? I don’t know what he’s talking about--my brow is covered with beads of sweat. After an eternity, and just before mchin succumbs to hypothermia, the slope mercifully slackens. I plunge step down to Tulainyo Lake, the highest in the Sierra at 12,825’.
Here’s mchin on the Tulainyo shoreline, north side of Russell-Carillon pass in the background:
We camp at Wallace Lake (11,480’), sharing a patch of dry ground with a solo traveler named Hiep. A slight, sun-weathered wisp of a man, Hiep calls himself a ‘homeless itinerant’, a description that seems fitting for the copious duct tape holding his gear together and the ramen and M&Ms that are his apparent dietary staples. As we eat our freeze-dried, Hiep regales us with tall tales of his many high Sierra adventures. We ask whether he is on ttips, but he has never heard of the internet.
Harvesting Barnyard Corn
Next day, Hiep heads off to explore George Creek. Knackered by R-C Pass, and with paulpalf feeling the altitude, we decide to take a layover day and then head south to Guitar Lake instead of north to Onion Valley. paulpalf hangs out at camp with a book, while mchin, iluka, and I head for the summit of Mt. Barnard, overlooking our camp (just above my right shoulder in photo):
The climbing feels easy with just day gear...
…and soon enough we top out. At 13,990’, Barnard has the uncertain distinction of being the Sierra peak closest to being a 14er. Here, mchin and iluka reach up to the elusive air 10 ft above.
What Barnard might lack in altitude, it makes up for with luscious corn. Come on down y’all to the Barnyard corn feed! Yeeee haaaw!
mchin kicks up his heels as the Kaweahs look on…
…while Lucy walzes with Whitney, Wallace, and Wales. Woo hoo!
Back at camp. paulpalf relates with dismay about how, during his single brief excursion that day, the bikini-clad Swedish Telebabe Ski Expedition Team passed through our empty campsite and continued down toward the Kern River. We reassure him that the Swedish Telebabes must be heading to Guitar Lake as well, and that we will undoubtedly catch up with them tomorrow.
to be continued…
Last edited by Lucy on Fri May 19, 2006 6:04 pm; edited 1 time in total
Joined: 08 Mar 2006 Posts: 23 Location: Seattle, WA
Posted: Thu May 18, 2006 10:16 pm Post subject:
In the interest of full disclosure, I would just like to state for the record that I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to revisit scenic Gardnerville during all the first day confusion as well as my chance to down a healthy Whopper at BK...
Joined: 08 Jan 2005 Posts: 313 Location: Kahlifornia
Posted: Fri May 19, 2006 3:38 am Post subject:
That picture of you pointing to misery in the sign is priceless!! About that scree slope going up to the Carrilon plateau/pass, from Clyde Meadow. Well, yes, it is a "fun" one isn't it? Carrillon was my first sierra peak, many-many moons ago. Your report really makes this forum all worth while. Waiting for part deaux.
Nice work finding the elusive Barnyard corn at 13,990!
You really gotta pimp the hamstrings for it this season.
The "foreshadowing?" picture makes for quite a cliffhanger. Eagerly, if anxiously awaiting the next installment. If you got caught in a slide, I hope you at least had someone in the wings seranading you on flute.
That slope does look a tad more than 30 degrees - sandbaging a bit perhaps?
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