A big day on Mt Whitney TR


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Eric McAuliffe

Trad climber
Alpine County, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Apr 15, 2009 - 12:20am PT
A Big Day on Mt Whitney – July 8th 2008

This is my first TR on the TACOstand. here we go
Last summer was an interesting one for me. I unfortunately was not able to get as much climbing in as I would have liked, but the routes that I did get on were all stellar. I had been doing my usual bouldering circuits and solo top-rope stuff around my home in Bear Valley, made it to Yosemite Valley for maybe 10 days total and really tried to push myself. Feeling solid on a few 5.9 cracks in the valley and some other climbing here and there in and around Tahoe, a little bouldering around the hot springs on the east side, but that’s about it.

Wanting to get up into the High Sierra and do some alpine rock routes, and hearing about a supposed trip to Whitney my brother and his friends were going on, got me super excited to go with them, but had to find a partner. The proposed mission was very ambitious, downright intimidating if you ask me, and when I first heard the idea I was very hesitant. “Car-to-car, well more like house-to-house” is what got me. The plan was to leave Tahoe City (TC) around 6pm and drive straight to Whitney Portal, crash around midnight for a nice “nap” then up at 3am to get out EARLY! Fly up the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek (NFLPC) and simul-climb both routes, fly back down NFLPC and drive back to TC; all in about 34 hours or so.

The end of the week was coming up and Ryan called me to tell me that Brenden was out and if I wanted to team up with Dostie and go on the mission. Me and Dostie have never met before and I have not done too much simul-climbing, let alone doing the entire routes like that, but after a little more chatting and self-ego boosting conversation I said screw it lets GO FOR IT! I packed my stuff in a few hours and drove up to TC and we split the next day.

Good drive down to Lone Pine, dinner/breakfast from T’s in Incline Village was always filling. We got to the portal at about 11:45pm and basically threw down our bags and crashed out for a few hours. 3am came really quick and Dostie was super psyked to get out early so we were less likely to epic in the dark coming down. Whitney portal is a very interesting place at 3am opposed to other trailheads at that time of day. PEOPLE EVERYWHERE! Well headtorches at least but wow there were a lot of people moving around and hiking already.

We took the short-cut trail that leads straight out the portal and up the steep slope below the Whitney Trail. It was dark and I had never been here before so we all were just following Dostie, he had done the approach a few times already. For the 100 yards we were on the Whitney Trail we must have passed 10 people; at 4:15am! People with small daypacks or nothing, with shorts and tank-tops, headed for fourteen and a half thousand feet; it was an interesting sight to say the least.

On to NFLPC which is a fatty trail now and pretty easy to follow. Escherbacher Ledges were not too bad in the dark, as we were making pretty good time up the approach. I think twilight started as we were crossing the slabs above Lower Boyscout lake, and we were just below the final steep bit before Iceberg as the alpenglow hit the east faces of the Whitney massif. WOW what a sight, it was amazing. Great spot to scope the East Face route from here, where the Fresh Air Traverse goes into the Grand Staircase.

Elan at base of the climbs

We cached some gear near Iceberg lake and topped off our water for the climb and headed to the base of the routes. Elan and Ryan started on EB and Dostie and I started on EF. I got the first lead; our plan was to get to somewhere near the fresh air traverse and belay through that. Tower Traverse was mellow, cruised up the wasboards and up a steep bit of 5.7 on the aręte, and Ryan yelled over from the EB route and snapped a photo of me, pretty cool to be right there by eachother on such an awesome bit of granite.

Me on East Face

Next, I climbed around the aręte and down to the alcove before the FAT. Dostie took the lead and we moved up the Grand staircase nicely, sometimes without any pro between us because it was so mellow. I had a little struggle getting out the top of the staircase but Dostie was standing on talus so it was all good. We met Ryan and Elan on the talus field just below the summit and got to the top together. Great timing 2.5 hours for the route and it was only 9:30am!

Elan on East Buttress

Looking down the Grand Staircase

Dostie on the talus field below the summit

Me and Dostie gaining the summit plateau

We sat and ate our lunches an a small ledge just below the summit talus, enjoying the views and peacefulness of it all even though you could hear the few people on the summit. Some guy stuck his head over the edge where we were sitting as was like “whoa! Where did you guys come from!?!” We replied we had just climbed up the steep east face from Iceberg Lake, and were going back down for a second lap. After we told these people this they didn’t say much else, not sure if they just weren’t sure what we meant or what. A couple of photos and quickly sign the register, then romp down the mountaineers route back to the base of the climbs.

Going DOWN!

Traversing back to the start

Flip flop this time, and I think it was about 11am or so when we started off again. Dostie took pitch one, and we were moving so fast I don’t remember a lot of detail except for the 5.7 face protected by pins, I got a little sketched but worked through the moves and back to cruising up to the nice comfy belay ledge Dostie found just below the “Peewee”. Feeling a bit fatigued at this point I asked Dostie if he didn’t mind leading the final pitch, as I was a bit uncertain of the route-finding on the next bit. Fun climbing past the peewee and easy wandering to the left after that to the talus field, where we once again met Elan and Ryan and summited at around 2pm for the second time.
STOKED to be done with the technical bit so early, all down hill from here! Signed the register again and headed down to Iceberg lake to retrieve our gear. After all we had done so far we were feeling pretty good still when we started heading down the NFLPC. It was cool to see all the stuff we walked by in the dark earlier, what a cool area. By the time we got back down the ledges, all four of us were hurting pretty bad from all the sustained down hill walking on talus and trail. We got back to the car around 7pm and were stoked to have finished with lots of light left.


What a great mission. We got to climb 2 ultra-classic routes and did so in fantastic style by going super light and fast. This was my first fourteener and that was just like the icing on the cake. I do however want to go back and pitch out the East Buttress route so I can enjoy each pitch and be a bit more relaxed about it, but with the permit system how it is now, that might never happen; good thing there is a whole ton of fantastic granite elsewhere in the range waiting to be climbed.

2 min after returning to the car……..SHOES OFF!!!!!

Jeff D, Eric McAuliffe; Elan P, Ryan Mc
Summary of climbs:
Mount Whitney 14,495’
East Face/East Buttress both III 5.7 1000’
Car to car in approx. 16:30 on July 8th, 2008
Writen by Eric McAuliffe: April 14th 2009


Trad climber
Twain Harte, California
Apr 15, 2009 - 12:33am PT
Bump for a very nice trip report.

Mountain climber
Olympia, WA
Apr 15, 2009 - 12:56am PT
Thanks Eric! Great report, Brings back memories.

Apr 15, 2009 - 01:05am PT
Very cool. Thats a full day for anyone(except Croft, ofcourse)

Trad climber
Apr 15, 2009 - 01:15am PT
No doubt! Style points awarded.

Both are fine routes indeed! But in a day, bravo! DK and I did the EB. and the next day Fish Hook Arete. We were pretty worked!

Trad climber
Apr 15, 2009 - 09:45am PT
Really nice, Eric! Great TR! Makes me really homesick for the Sierras.

San Fran Cisco
Apr 15, 2009 - 10:19am PT
Great TR; I'm sure I'm not alone in my envy.

Apr 15, 2009 - 10:21am PT
The goods!
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Apr 15, 2009 - 10:39am PT
Kids these days...

Don't seem to like sleeping in the backcountry.

Do their night stalking at the beginning of the trip, completely flying in the face of the fine Epic Tradition of stumbling down bleary-eyed in the dark.

No discernment: when they can't decide which route to do, they weenie out and just do both.

Did you notice the runout in one of those shots? What, forgot to pack pro?

First shot I ever saw of Dostie w/o skis.

Not bad for a first TR.

3hrs to El Cap Meadow, 1.25hrs Pinns, 42min Castle
Apr 15, 2009 - 11:00am PT
You did two laps on Whitney and got back to the car with plenty of daylight! Damn. I'm clearly not taking the right drugs.
J. Werlin

Apr 15, 2009 - 11:00am PT
bump for the Sierra.

Nice go on the double.

A little to the left of right
Apr 15, 2009 - 11:02am PT
Awesome TR! That there, is heaven on earth...someone remind my why I'm movin' to Austin.

Eric McAuliffe

Trad climber
Alpine County, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 15, 2009 - 11:08am PT
thanks everyone for the great comments.

DR, i was laughing so hard when i read your post, truly hilarious.

thanks again


Trad climber
Pasadena, CA
Apr 15, 2009 - 12:18pm PT
Just got word our permits are in for June - we hope to do the East Buttress on Whitney and the Fishhook Arete on Russell. Last year we attempted the same over Memorial Day weekend and got shut down by the weather at Upper Boyscout Lake. The E-Ledges were full of running water and ice, making our down climb so much fun... This year will be different!

This here TR makes it that much harder to wait another 2 months! Awesome stuff!

edit for stoopid speling meestakes.

Apr 15, 2009 - 12:19pm PT
You people are livin' right :)

Trad climber
Nor Cal
Apr 15, 2009 - 01:56pm PT
Good read Eric, and a climb well done. You posting from the library up there? I should be up in May quite a bit.

Apr 16, 2009 - 09:27am PT
bump !

Apr 16, 2009 - 09:45am PT
woot! right on!

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Apr 16, 2009 - 10:10am PT
Nice first TR! And good pix too.

Thanks for sharing man.

I'd love to get up there sometime.
John Moosie

Beautiful California
Apr 16, 2009 - 12:16pm PT
First trip report and he hits one out of the park.

Thanks, and what a great day.
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