Mount Whitney (N#71, T#5), Mount Muir (N#72, T#6), Mount Young (N#73, T#7), Mount Hale (N#74, T#8)
Nathan Day 59, Travis Day 3
My day started in the wee hours of the morning when an extra aggressive gust of wind ripped the rain fly off my tent. I suppose the change in tone of flapping nylon woke me from my stupor, and I was able to pull it inside before it got sucked away into the alpine sky. The raging gale was strong enough to press my tent fully flat on top of me. Eventually, I gave up on the flimsy structure, reaching out the door to disassemble it above me. After a few more hours of fitful sleep, I emerged from my tangled nest into the icy morning wind. Perfect conditions for attempting a technical climb on the highest peak in the lower 48.
Travis and I would be joined by Justin, whose early morning stoke and sarcastic jokes certainly put some extra pep in my step as we climbed back up to Iceberg Lake, repeating our route from the previous morning. At the lake, the winds were even stronger, and Justin made the wise decision to opt for the more protected and less technical Mountaineer’s Route. Travis and I set off on the East Buttress in the gusty winds.
Fortunately, the wind’s speed didn’t increase as we climbed higher on the peak, with some sections of the route even providing much appreciated complete respite from its persistent force.
The climbing was fun and excellent, consistently engaging but never too difficult.
The position was even more incredible, the steep face dropping away below us for thousands of feet as we climbed high on one of the proudest walls in the country.
The climb ended abruptly and all too quickly, the flat summit plateau a sudden and jarring change from the steep climbing below.
We took shelter from the wind in the small summit hut for a few minutes, then jogged off down the shockingly well constructed trail. It was a novel experience to run on smooth single track well above 14,000 feet! The trail brought us quickly to Mount Muir, which was easily summited via a short third class climb.
Back on the trail, we jogged down the steep, loose, boulder-strewn west face into the Hitchcock Lakes basin below.
The smooth descent of the well constructed trail a far cry from what traveling through such terrain would be like otherwise.
A few hours of unremarkable talus slogging brought us to the summit of Young, then Hale, both worthy for their excellent views, if not interesting routes.
Dropping off of Hale, we encountered a steep snowfield where, upon finding an abruptly icy patch, I got some excellent self-arresting practice. Despite the long day behind us, the final climb back to Whitney-Russel col was remarkably pleasant, thanks to the wonderful scenery of the gorgeous granite walls towering above us.
We excitedly examined countless potential routes up the sweeping, vertical faces.
Finally forced to tear ourselves away from the stunning valley, we picked our way down icy snow back to Iceberg Lake, then continued on to our camp and on out to the trailhead. We exited just as the sun set, closing another stupendous day in the hills.
View the activity here.