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?
Bob Harrington

climber
Bishop, California
Sep 12, 2009 - 10:17am PT
Man, doing that in winter would be tough. Good try Victor. I've been across that Middle to Clyde section a couple of times, and it seems like it would be desperate with snow on it. Loose, north facing, exposed...
superbum

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Sep 13, 2009 - 07:30pm PT
I would say no way, skis/snowshoes are a must for the approach. We opted for snowshoes because, well, we both suck at skiing. We left them at Southfork pass and picked them up later. We would have LOVED to have them on the hike out...but would have hated to climb w/ them. A perfect scenerio would have skis/shoes for the hike in, then leave them and have skis/shoes cached at your exit point...well, it's only perfect if you make it to your exit point...
Fuzzywuzzy

climber
Sep 14, 2009 - 02:20pm PT
Whoa, hold on there. The Redline was a lark on the year of years when the entire Sierra was filled to the brim - maybe overflowing. I have not seen it form up like 82-83 since. Any part of the Sierra Crest should keep anyone overjoyed to spend a week exploring the nooks and crannies. So many things to do. I sure much badder lines have been put down - and connected from time to time. Post up hombres! It wasn't the skiing - it was the companionship that shone through during those BIG winters. Everyone on the Eastside was floored, going out and coming back with a stoke to beat all.

I'll post up a shot or two eventually. I think Allan's quote goes something like, "I can't believe we skied what we skied on those skis"? or something like that? Hattrup remembers the saying. Anyway old timers in checked shirts and leather knickers would have done it 50-60 years earlier if it had been in Europe. Maybe earlier. True of all the route. With the new skis (boards too) the lines should be so much prouder and not nearly as conditions dependent. We finished a section on June 21st - and the skiing wasn't all corn even then!!!

The wider boards make the "connections" more difficult - Large legs and bigger lungs are required. That is why those lightweight noodles worked for us. But...there is some progressive stuff out there that could ease the pain. We didn't do the half of what we set out to do - honest. Each major peak in the Sierra has at least 4 mega descents - you can see them beaconing from the valley floor. Seems like a lifetime of dreamy lineups to me.

Pretty sure over the years there are some jealous quiet types who have been checking these out and leaving only signatures. GOOD ON THEM!
Fuzzywuzzy

climber
Sep 14, 2009 - 03:10pm PT
Orland Bartholomew was the"man"! DR I have a copy of his diary. Very different than Gene's stoic book about the traverse. He shows a active wit and the descriptions are fantastic. I got a copy form Messick when Howard W. and the crew skied the route about 10? years ago. Walleye would know. I should get a copy to you someday so we can scan it.

Skiing tech has changed too. We jumped so (too) high to clear our tails. The boots were so limp and the bindings loose that was the tactic for survival. Much steeper stuff could be skied with lite skis these days. Maysho is probably over the hill? His strategy and verve has shown us all what can be accomplished.

Forgot this was about traverses (climbing) SP and that team over there probably know more than most.
Pate

Trad climber
The High And Lonely
Sep 14, 2009 - 03:22pm PT
We need to get JP in on these threads Carter, bad English grammar and all. And where's Bela? Like you, such a Sierra source of knowledge.
Fuzzywuzzy

climber
Sep 14, 2009 - 04:25pm PT
Pate -

JP? I do not know who is who here?

And, you, Pate, lend me a hint!

Anybody done a 20,000' day in the Sierra yet?
Pate

Trad climber
The High And Lonely
Sep 14, 2009 - 04:33pm PT
I smell funky smoke...... Jean was leading the way and you were gassing the jokes at the back of the line way back when in the Butte on the AMGA thing.

Fuzzywuzzy

climber
Sep 15, 2009 - 11:14am PT
Oh yeah "That" JP!

He is one-of-a-kind.

"We are going on a ski saf-a-ree" = safari!!!
Fuzzywuzzy

climber
Sep 15, 2009 - 11:34am PT


June 1983



Nice snow in April
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Sep 15, 2009 - 11:44am PT
Hey Carter,

What years did you guys actually ski the Red Line? I keep wondering...

I just re-read yours and Alan's Redline article. It's SO good. I'm tempted to type it in here.

Impressive that you have Orland's journal. Man, I want to read it, so thanks for the offer.
Misha

Trad climber
Woodside, CA
Sep 15, 2009 - 11:45am PT
superbum - nice job with the full traverse! Did you do the Northwest Ridge of Winchell on the way down from its summit?
Fuzzywuzzy

climber
Sep 15, 2009 - 12:15pm PT


DR-

Cox skiing NF Whitney 1982 (1st year) note original Dana Designs Terraplane (25 lbs total) That was the Rule. We called it "fueling" instead of eating. Pretty light for us - but heck it was May? What were we worried about?




Powder in the Great Basin



Looking at the North Face from Russel. AB.



Looking out towards Mineral King zone



Cirque Crest



Coxy, AB & Dan Asay somewhere north of Whitney



Feeling Small





Coming at ya?
le_bruce

climber
Oakland: what's not to love?
Sep 15, 2009 - 07:13pm PT
Incredible pics, Fuzzywuzzy, and great thread everyone.
superbum

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Sep 18, 2009 - 02:59am PT
Misha: Yes, yes we did. That beast of a steep ridge was not exactly what we wanted to see after a long day from Sill...Good clean solid rock though, thank gawd.

Me preping a rap on the NW Ridge of Winchell at 5am:



The steep and exposed NW ridge of Winchell:



The summit of Winchell is on the left...our bivy was just below a prominent 80'spire just to the right of the firs BIG notch...and the photo was taken from near the southeas tridge of Aggassizzzzz:

superbum

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Sep 18, 2009 - 03:08am PT
PS: I'm still single....
superbum

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Feb 8, 2010 - 12:31am PT
ok...not single anymore...cross yer fingers for me!
Dirka

Trad climber
SF
Feb 8, 2010 - 02:34am PT
superbum-

That was an awesome Pic TR! Proud work!
superbum

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Mar 20, 2010 - 08:54pm PT
WINTER IS OVER! You snooze you loose. Untill next year....
mark miller

Social climber
Reno
Mar 20, 2010 - 09:07pm PT
Hardcore Sh#t,..I thought only DR and Galen ever did that stuff. That's what dream's are made off, Thanks.
corniss chopper

Mountain climber
san jose, ca
Mar 21, 2010 - 01:00am PT
Still a chance of a spring storm or two that will hit the crest
and lay some fresh snow. Time it right to avoid those hot sunny
approaches.
Stephen B

Mountain climber
Pasadena
Jun 25, 2010 - 08:49pm PT
I tried the Whitney basin traverse in winter a few years ago, but ran out of time to finish it. I highly recommend it. Don't know if anyone has completed it in winter.

We have a small trip report about it here: http://www.summitpost.org/trip-report/483849/winter-whitney-basin-traverse.html
superbum

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Nov 13, 2010 - 02:42pm PT
It's almost winter once again....feelin' tough?
superbum

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Mar 9, 2011 - 09:51pm PT
http://pullharder.org/2011/02/16/cant-touch-it-winter-ascent-of-thunderbolt-to-sill-traverse/
superbum

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Mar 9, 2011 - 09:52pm PT
http://www.summitpost.org/phpBB3/post822206.html
jedster

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Mar 4, 2013 - 11:55am PT
Just finished the full Palisade Traverse. Probably the first in winter? Enjoy.

lhttp://www.jediahporter.com/2013/03/teaser-first-winter-ascent-of-complete.html
10b4me

Boulder climber
Somewhere on 395
Mar 4, 2013 - 12:11pm PT
^^^can't wait to read about it
JerryA

Mountain climber
Sacramento,CA
Feb 1, 2014 - 01:19pm PT
The 2013 AAC Journal has a good article on Jed Porter & Ian McEleney's grand Full Palisade Traverse-Winter .
Grippa

Trad climber
Salt Lake City, UT
Feb 1, 2014 - 02:58pm PT
Damn this season would be the one to score "winter" ascents of anything in the Sierra!

You guys seeing some precip from this most recent system? We just got a foot or so here in the Wasatch, and it was NEEDED!! Our reservoirs are drying up fast...
ß Î Ø T Ç H

Boulder climber
extraordinaire
Feb 1, 2014 - 04:11pm PT
a winter traverse of the ... Minarets
The longer winter approach (from Main Lodge) and the known technical difficulties of the traverse would make this a burly outing for sure.
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