Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Two Summits Just Reached: Cayambe and Whitney

In the Andes of Ecuador and the Sierra Nevada of California, two important summits were reached last week.

Guide Aidan Loehr and climber Julius Gawlas (shown in photo) summited Mt. Whitney (14,494'). An early season climb, the route involved a technical snow ascent. Julius Gawlas photo.

In California, the Sierra experienced a little bit of a winter heat wave over the last few days, creating soft snows at lower elevations and a lo
t of work in breaking trail. AAI guide Aidan Loehr called in this morning to report that his team came off the mountain yesterday after summiting 14,494-foot Whitney late on Wednesday.

The team found they could drive to within five miles of Whitney Portal. In many years you can get a couple of miles closer. There was so much sno
w even down low that they used snowshoes on the entire approach. On Wednesday, the third day of their trip, they moved camp from Lower Boy Scout Lake to Upper Boy Scout Lake, arriving there at about 10:30am. With weather conditions calm and sunny, they decided to make a summit attempt that afternoon, rather than waiting until the next morning which was their original plan.

Camp at Upper Boy Scout Lake (11,300'). Julius Gawlas photo.

Aidan and climber Julius Gawlas (Cupertino, C
A) left camp at about 12:30pm, and Aidan reported, “there was no broken trail, so for the first part of the climb, we had our work cut out for us. It was brutal trail breaking in the soft snow for the first part, but we got into great conditions a little higher on the route.” Climbing the Mountaineers Route, they found soft snow in the lower half of the first gulley, but “beautiful, hard now in the upper half, all the way up to the notch.” Aidan said, “From there we moved into the west facing upper gulleys with the first 100 feet on 3rd and 4th class rock, and the final 300 feet on just excellent 50-degree hard packed snow. It was great cramponing and just soft enough that we could kick a little bit of a toe in to make a little step. That made it very comfortable and fun climbing. The final 50-100 vertical feet to the summit was a walk on wind-blown rock in gorgeous weather. We reached the summit at about 5:30, just before sunset, and we had really gorgeous red skies off to the west. Usually we’re summiting early in the day on these climbs, so this was fun to have different lighting the whole way. We had an easy descent and were back in camp by 8:30 with big appetites. It was a great day.”

Climber Julius Gawlas of Cupertino, CA resting in front of the East Face of Mt. Whitney. Julius Gawlas photo.

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