Monday, March 17, 2008

Winter Ascent of Whitney

AAI Guide Jeremy Ellison has reported that he and George Watkins of Waddell, Arizona, summited Mt. Whitney on March 5th. Below are Jeremy's trip report and photos from the trip.

Climbers: George Watkins of Waddell, AZ, Spencer Arnold of Mission Viejo, CA, John Willard of Raleigh, NC, and Grant Willard of Los Altos, CA

On the first day, the group found the Whitney Portal road plowed, yet closed several miles from the Portal thanks to Paramount Pictures as they were filming a movie on the road. Under heavy winter packs, they arrived at Lower Boy Scout Lake about an hour after dark. A big day to be sure!

Film crews from Paramount Pictures were hard at work.

On day two, the team awoke to clear skies and warm temperatures, and they made their way to camp just below Iceberg Lake. The North Fork of Lone Pine creek was firm snow, and no snowshoes were needed all the way to the lake. The afternoon brought strong, cold winds that lasted into the evening. The team retreated early to the tents as the sun fell over the high summits of Keeler Needle and Mt. Whitney. The temperature dropped off dramatically with the falling sun.

The Whitney team prepares for the summit, enjoying sun.

At 6:00am on summit morning, the team was greeted by more strong winds. Of course, no one was in a hurry to leave the warm tents. They departed camp with the warmth of the first morning light at around 7:00am. Strong winds prevailed throughout the morning, slowed progress, and kept conversation light. They soldiered on up the Mountaineer's Couloir where the 35-degree slope of the couloir and strong winds funneling down on their faces proved challenging. The increasing altitude also began to take it's toll.

George Watkins getting close to the summit.

Finally, George and guide Jeremy Ellison made a hasty move for the top up the final fourth class slabs and 50-degree snow in crampons, arriving at the 14,494-foot summit at about 11:30am. Strong winds and cold appendages made the summit a brief experience, but clear skies allowed for an inspiring view across the Eastern Sierra range. It was a great winter climbing success on the highest peak in the lower 48 states.

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