Winter Traverses in the High Sierra Nevada

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bhashim

Social climber
Atlanta, GA
Topic Author's Original Post - Aug 30, 2009 - 06:24pm PT
Who has done a winter traverse of the Palisades, Minarets or Evolution range?

Who has done other, technical winter traverses in the Sierra Nevada?

I'm interested in learning more about this kind of climb. Please post information and links, or just send me an email!
rocknron

climber
Big Pine, Ca.
Aug 30, 2009 - 07:39pm PT
Check the book "High Odyssey" by Gene Rose, Panorama West Books, Pub. 1987. Orland Bartholomew 1928-29 solo winter trip, Cottonwood Meadows (Lone Pine) to Yosemite Valley.
ISBN-0-9441-9408-7
bhashim

Social climber
Atlanta, GA
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 31, 2009 - 12:32am PT
Thanks, rocknron. I will check out the book.
dmalloy

Trad climber
eastside
Aug 31, 2009 - 12:40am PT
a friend came thisclose to the whole Palisades traverse last winter....as I recall, they were stopped by the fact that one of them had to be back at work. I'll try to find his email and send it to ya. Proud effort.
LuckyPink

climber
the last bivy
Aug 31, 2009 - 01:39am PT
Ski and SNowboard Summits by Paul Richins has maps, beta etc for 50 routes in the backcountry.. there is a chapter in there on the Palisade region.. very reliable info , snow pack has been variable the last few seasons and coming late. ski in climb up ski out


Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Aug 31, 2009 - 07:08am PT
Wow, dmalloy, I'm very impressed by your friend's near-traverse of the Palisades in winter. Please do tell us more. Badass, although winter has advantages like not too hot and, significantly on those high spines, you don't need to carry much water. Think desert of El Cap, then take away the hot and dry.

Seems like the OP was asking about alpine climbing, but then got interested in Orland Bartholomew's first ski the length of the High Sierra. I did the second on that in 1970, 36 days with Carl "P-Nut" McCoy. ("Four Feet Over Sierra," Collected in A Night on the Ground, A Day in the Open, 1996)

Where Bartholomew (solo!) followed the John Muir Trail, we stayed higher and closer to the crest for half our trip. It makes skiing sense to cruise wide-open in the alpine zone instead of following a narrow slot of the JMT down into the trees. So every Crest tour through the 70s repeated or improved on our line.

That culminated in 1980-81 with the magnificent Red Line Traverse that stayed within half a mile of the Sierra Crest all the way from Whitney to Mammoth. Allan Bard, Tom Carter, Chris Cox and occasional friends. Carter is on here -- talk to us! They started it with a bang, making the first ski descent of Mt. Whitney's North Face in ghastly breakable crust, and as Allan liked to say "It was the first time Mt. Russell got used as a pass."

While quite a few climbers are working the big Sierra traverses the last few years, no skiers have even attempted to repeat the Red Line. C'mon you guys, get on it! I mean, like, the Sherwins to Happy Hour traverse has been done already... The Red Line was put up -- or maybe "thrown down" is more like it -- on skinny skis and leather boots. Stout and proud.

The Kings-Kern Divide is likely the most rugged east-west divide in the Sierra. This May Michael Thomas, Jay Kumar and I skied it from Milestone Mountain, where we veered off the Sierra High Route, all the way to the Sierra Crest at Junction Peak, which took us over and around 8 peaks above 13,500'. We crossed the Divide four times. Ten days from Wolverton in Sequoia NP to come out at Onion Valley. We named it the Otto Route in honor of Otto Steiner, who did the first version of the Sierra High Route in 1930 or 31.

I'm working on a TR. In fact just yesterday Peter Haan worked his digital magic on this shot of Jay coming up the East Ridge of Midway Mountain (133,666'), so here's a sneak preview:

matty

climber
po-dunk
Aug 31, 2009 - 01:10pm PT
Evolution traverse in winter? this I would like to see...
Pate

Trad climber
The High And Lonely
Aug 31, 2009 - 01:52pm PT
Tom Carter would be the man to ply for Sierra Backcountry trips. Or Backcountry trips in general.
Walleye

climber
In the Aviary studying trees
Aug 31, 2009 - 01:58pm PT
Yeah Fuzzywuzzums, do tell about Red Lining the fun meter.
10b4me

Ice climber
the reticient boulder at the Happies
Aug 31, 2009 - 02:05pm PT
Doug, and Tom, tell us more please.
The Wedge

Boulder climber
Bishop, CA
Aug 31, 2009 - 02:39pm PT
dmalloy: do tell more. Im curious.
superbum

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Sep 1, 2009 - 03:06am PT
Aiden Loehr and I attempted to do the Full Palisade Traverse (Southfork pass to Agassiz summit)last winter(March 2009). here are photos of our attempt:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=68486&id=553496181&l=31f61343b3

We elected to retreat down the N. Coulior of Norman Clyde Peak because of weather concerns and the fact that we would be commited to a bivy or two...w/o fuel...before our one and only cache was reached at Sill, which contained the vital liquid...

I will be happy to answer any and all questions personally via e-mail (I don't visit this forum often) at vicsahobo@hotmail.com

dmalloy...who are you? who is your friend? I would very much like to talk w/ them! I have been, perhaps foolishly, claiming the only winter Palisade Traverse attempt thusfar and would hate to be branded a liar!

For the record, I live and work in Bishop, have completed the Full Palisade Traverse in the summer w/ no caches, and am single...

-Victor Lawson
snowey

Trad climber
San Diego
Sep 1, 2009 - 01:57pm PT
Wow Vic, Nice pics! Looks like you had fun out there. Some of those bivies look horrible and I can only imagine what conditions were like for you to settle for something that small.

I am definitely bookmarking this thread.
The Wedge

Boulder climber
Bishop, CA
Sep 1, 2009 - 02:11pm PT
Vic, Nice to see the pic. YOu looked like shiz after that. Maybe see ya at family night again. l8er bro -eric
dmalloy

Trad climber
eastside
Sep 1, 2009 - 03:39pm PT
hey Vic, it's me, Darren, and you are the friend I was referring to. We are friends, right? I kid....You found this thread on your own....I saw you in Wilson's just a day or two after you guys came out and never got the full story on what had gone on up there. I'll look forward to checking out the pics. Sorry that none of my Wed have been working out for Family Night, I think about it every week. Nice to finally figure out who The Wedge is, too; what up Mr Baja.

The rest of you all should know that while Vic lives on the super down-low (unless you shop the beer aisle at Manor), he is a very dedicated climber with the right amount of crazy - or maybe a little too much crazy. Anyhow, an inspiration to the rest of us.

Doug, I know a few people who have gotten all set up for long Sierra ski traverses the last few years - maybe not the whole Red Line, but a length of the range. However, the snow conditions have been unworkable for at least the last 4 years - too much snow for a few years (one of those springs, 2006 I think, some folks I know had their caches in and everything but then it snowed, and snowed, and snowed, throughout April and early May, and they could never launch) and not nearly enough in the last couple of seasons.

Someday I hope to be unemployed and a lot stronger so I can try one of these things out....only one way to find out how tough I am, eh?
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Sep 1, 2009 - 04:49pm PT
Hi Vic, Nice photos! I love the one where the next two miles looks like a knife-edge. Seems like you guys had good snow conditions. Those bivis were nasty tho. You dropped off the ridge right about where I figured – at a minimum – the first cache should go. Long ways from there to Sill. Better luck next winter. If I can break free I’ll come and help you ski in a cache or two.

Darren, Glad to hear folks are dreaming the Red Line. And you too. Here’s wishing you, uh…”tactical unemployment?” And better conditions. And, yeah, 'finding out how tough you are' is sure right. I was completely wrung out after skiing 21 out of 28 days with a pack this spring.

I think ’08 was about the worst spring conditions anyone can remember. It has never quit snowing for the season on the first of March before. Nothing but nieves penitentes by mid-April.

This year had enough snow – we never lacked for good skiing on our trip in early May. But avalanche conditions on north faces were way sketh. Saw many spontaneous releases while scouting and caching during late April that pulled out one and even two layers below the surface slides. I was talking Sue Burak’s ear off – she’s the forecaster, right? -- looking for advice, and even tried to get her to come along. In the end we kicked down instead of skied on the major north slopes – at least the tops of them – and nothing slid.

We got away with it, but I would not have felt comfortable on the Red Line this spring, which is basically one major north face after another for 200 miles. Sue said she had never seen this dicey of layering lingering so far into the spring touring season.
Pate

Trad climber
The High And Lonely
Sep 1, 2009 - 06:19pm PT
where's fuzzy? i want to hear him spin a good yarn, but i need some new dirty jokes too.
superbum

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Sep 1, 2009 - 08:02pm PT
HA! Thanks for all the kind words Darren! Lowkey? Most would disagree...looks like I'll have to spray even harder now :)

DR, we wanted two more caches, one either at Norman Clyde's N Coulior, or just before the Crest, and then one at Winchell Col. Unfortunately the weather was AWEFUL in the weeks prior to our attempt. We really started caching too late and were forced to fully abondon the Winchell Col cache in the interest of time. The Sill cache took 3 freakin' days to stash (deep powder snow/weather) and the Norman Clyde one made it to the base of the glacier, but no farther.

We tried to approach the traverse to start it three seperate times! The first one was thwarted by 80mph winds at the saddle just above Willow Lakes...we dropped gear and left. Came back the next day, picked up our hardware and got to just below Southfork pass. We decided to melt some water there before continuing and low and behold, our fuel pump was leaking!!! No o-ring in the repair kit meant going back to Bishop a second time. After all the snowshoeing in order to cache and approach in the previous weeks and days, we decided a rest day was in order. So, again in the interest of time (I DID have to go back to work eventually) we started from the car hoping to get up and over Middle Pal that day. Logistically that was a bad call. I think sleeping at Southfork Pass is the way to go...we could have goten much farther on the first day that way and would have had a MUCH better bivy spot...and goten farther on the next day...better bivy...etc. etc.

So, our luck was bad, logistics flawed and our weather shitty. Climbing powder snow is very dangerous when it drapes over loose rocks and 4th class slabs...

Last, but not least, after completing this thing in its entirety a few weeks ago, I'm convinced that we would have bailed farther down the ridge anyway. It's a very serious climb in the summer, nevermind the winter, and I don't think that I'm ready to stick my neck out that far just yet...Maybe in a few years? Maybe if conditions are perfect? Maybe if we have, like 19 caches? Maybe if there is a naked dance party atop every summit?

Anyway, i'll be happy to answer any more ?'s etc. My Partner Aiden still wants to do it this winter and is looking for my replacement...
superbum

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Sep 11, 2009 - 04:44am PT
if anyone's interested...here are our pics from doing the whole thing this summer...

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=98518&id=553496181&l=04c5f60e15
Porkchop_express

Trad climber
the base of the Shawangunk Ridge
Sep 11, 2009 - 07:10am PT
Can a winter traverse be done without skis/snowshoes? Crampons I have...or is that going to be later in the season?
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