Trip Report
East Face of Mt. Whitney with John and Sharon
Tuesday June 12, 2018 12:44pm
John and Sharon had just wrapped up some sort of geophysical survey in the western Great Basin just as I was completing my mapping assignments in eastern Nevada around Pioche. John and I concluded that since we were co-located within the same time zone for the first time in many moons that we ought to synchronize our watches for some sort of alpine buffoonery. Sharon was fully on board with the buffoonery part of the equation so we arranged to meet in Lone Pine. John had been teaching Sharon how to rock climb and we surmised that the classic east face route on Mount Whitney would be a user-friendly introduction to longer rock climbs in an alpine setting. “Fifty crowded climbs of North America” indicates that this route is only about 5.4 in difficulty, but the exposure is truly spectacular for a climb of that technical ease. The hike in was yet another reminder of just how quickly trails on the east side of the Sierras gain elevation. We set up camp by a lovely lake just east of the east face. As near as I can tell, only lovely lakes are even allowed in the Sierra Nevada, all non-lovely lakes are strictly prohibited!
The east face of Mt. Whitney on the kind of cobalt blue sky day that J...
The east face of Mt. Whitney on the kind of cobalt blue sky day that John and I have come to associate with the Sierra Nevada.
Credit: Nick Danger

As John and Sharon settled in to do whatever it is couples do when they are knackered from the hike in, I went off to reconnoiter the approach to the climb for the following morning. And reconnoiter I did, as I was about half way up the route and pulling through some easy moves on the traverse from the sloping ledge into a chimney/dihedral combo, marveling at the thousands of feet of clear air beneath my fanny (pack). About that chimney/dihedral thingy, either I was somewhat off route or Californians have a very liberal definition of what exactly 5.4 climbing entails. There were moves that felt solid at 5.6, but they were indeed on solid holds and I felt comfortable, if somewhat surprised by it all. By and by I caught up with a climbing guide from Lost Wages and his client on the last pitch, and we enjoyed each other’s company on the final scramble to the summit. As long as I was out and reconnoitering about, I figured I should probably reconnoiter the way back down to camp as well.
Early morning alpenglow on the Keeler Needle just south of Mt Whitney.
Early morning alpenglow on the Keeler Needle just south of Mt Whitney.
Credit: Nick Danger
L to R, John, Sharon, and Nick and the east face of Mt. Whitney
L to R, John, Sharon, and Nick and the east face of Mt. Whitney
Credit: Nick Danger

The following morning dawned cloudless and beautiful, as usual – does California even have bad weather? After our typical breakfast of instant goat meal and caustic comment tea, we were off. The climbing really is pretty easy, so either John or I would belay Sharon and the other one would scamper about taking pictures and offering encouragement. John led the airy traverse and Sharon was duly impressed by the exposure.
Sharon near the start of the classic east face route.
Sharon near the start of the classic east face route.
Credit: Nick Danger
John near the start of the climb.
John near the start of the climb.
Credit: Nick Danger
John and Sharon at the start of the upward-sloping ledge.
John and Sharon at the start of the upward-sloping ledge.
Credit: Nick Danger
John starting across the ledge.
John starting across the ledge.
Credit: Nick Danger
Sharon coming up the last part of the sloping ledge.
Sharon coming up the last part of the sloping ledge.
Credit: Nick Danger
John leading the airy traverse.
John leading the airy traverse.
Credit: Nick Danger
John leading up past the traverse.
John leading up past the traverse.
Credit: Nick Danger
Sharon climbing up in the chimney/dihedral section.
Sharon climbing up in the chimney/dihedral section.
Credit: Nick Danger

Since John and I were much more accustomed to climbing mountains in Colorado and Wyoming, we had a day pack with extra food and water, rain gear, hats, and gloves. There we sat, on the summit in our wool clothes, surrounded by dozens of people in shorts, tee shirts, running shoes, and maybe a pint of water. We were wondering “who are these people?” as they, doubtless, were wondering the same thing about us. The only conclusion that we could arrive at is that it never does storm in the Sierras, and what happened to the Donner party was a total fluke – bummer for them. Well, bye the bye we wandered back down the descent couloir on the north side of the mountain, the same one I had reconnoitered the previous day, got to camp, and descended the trail to a wonderful meal in Lone Pine. The next day we drove back to Lost Wages where we each caught a flight back to our own part of the world.

On the drive back we heard on the radio that the guy who invented the Hostess Twinkie had died that morning. In remembrance we stopped at a convenience store and each bought a package of twinkies and a coke, and felt wretched for the rest of the drive back. I have not eaten a hostess product since, and this was in the late 1980’s. Also on the drive back we took California 168 east out of Big Pine. Near as we could tell this road was created when some guy drove a paving machine down this narrow little canyon between flash floods – only road I have ever seen where the shoulder on both sides of the road is a cliff. Bet most people don’t miss their turns on that one!

  Trip Report Views: 1,049
Nick Danger
About the Author
Nick Danger is a ice climber from Arvada, CO.

Comments
Did you like this Trip Report? Got something to say? Don't hold back...
Comment on this Trip Report
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
  Jun 12, 2018 - 12:53pm PT
Cool throwback TR,
Thanks Nick!
Tad
Nick Danger

Ice climber
Arvada, CO
Author's Reply  Jun 12, 2018 - 01:15pm PT
Taco brothers and sisters, Thanks for reading my stories of yore these past couple of years. I have very much enjoyed writing them and sharing. Anyway, I am moving to another state soon and have no idea when I will be back on line, being the tech luddite that I am. I have more stories written and someday will post them up.

Tarbuster, I have not forgotten that photo of the climbing wall Layton Kor built down in Denver back in the 1980's and will get a photo of it to you before I move. It's been fun, Roy, I have really enjoyed your company. Expect to see me come home every few months to say "hi".

Cheers
Contractor

Boulder climber
CA
  Jun 12, 2018 - 01:26pm PT
Excellent and classic, thank you!

Yes the summit is choked with beach goers on a nice day. It's only a matter of time before some stoner summits in flip flops with a crash pad.
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Jun 12, 2018 - 01:44pm PT
Another blast from the past complete with an original rugby shirt...keep them coming!
hooblie

climber
from out where the anecdotes roam
  Jun 12, 2018 - 02:01pm PT
now just a doggone minute. danger doesn't walk out on US!
we need your kind around here to keep the blues at bay.

at the very least, rattle our cage with regularity.

"instant goat meal" ...
i'm gonna crack a grin
with every future packet
micronut

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Jun 12, 2018 - 02:11pm PT
Love it. Still need to get that route done someday! Thanks for the great story and photos.

Scott
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Jun 12, 2018 - 02:20pm PT
If only permits weren't such a hassle. Almost makes me want to buy into a guided trip.
socialclimber

climber
CA
  Jun 12, 2018 - 02:23pm PT
I did that climb for the first time in 2011 I think. An amazing trip, so cool seeing the gear from BITD.

Charles
ydpl8s

Trad climber
Santa Monica, California
  Jun 12, 2018 - 04:45pm PT
Nice as usual Nick (Bob).
Somehow you moving to the Land of Enchantment makes a hell of a lot of sense, in a manifest destiny kind of way. Say Hi! to Carol if you see her.
Moss
L

climber
Just livin' the dream
  Jun 12, 2018 - 06:10pm PT
Excellent report, and the photos were spectacular!

I did that route one weekend in 2004, survived an epic, and returned to do it again the next weekend. Love the thing.

Hope you keep coming back to the Taco...your TRs and thoughtful posts are always much appreciated.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Jun 13, 2018 - 03:15am PT
Awesomeness as usual Nick,
I haven't had a hostess product since the 80s either,
Lol
Nick Danger

Ice climber
Arvada, CO
Author's Reply  Jun 13, 2018 - 06:13am PT
Scott, As a matter of fact, I am going to be Carol and Vic's next door neighbor! I will definitely say "Hi" to her for you. A couple of weeks ago when I was interviewing for the job down there I had dinner with Carol and Vic and your name came up in regards to geology field trip buffoonery. Maybe I should start a subset of trip reports about THOSE misadventures!
Macronut

Trad climber
Fresno, Ca
  Jun 14, 2018 - 12:00pm PT
A fun read and loved the wool clothing. Done in style! Can't wait for Micronut to stop working so we can get it done.
Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
  Jun 15, 2018 - 09:50am PT
Fifty Crowded Climbs, Lost Wages, Goat Meal, Caustic Comment Tea … "Reconnoitering " by way of doing the whole route!
Yes, I caught that. You did it twice!

Beautiful photographs: I'm thinking those might be Ektachrome?
Gearhead alert: looks like Sharon was carrying a red Hine Snowbridge Rucksack and wearing blue Robbins boots.

Yes, some geological buffoonery threads would be well received I'm sure!

 And Nick: we'll have none of this professed social media absence on account of geographical location. Just doesn't wash with this crew, you know?
Rick A

climber
Boulder, Colorado
  Jun 15, 2018 - 10:28am PT
Bob
Mountain boots and wool knickers: the groovey way to climb Whitney!
Hope to cross paths with you again soon.
Rick
ydpl8s

Trad climber
Santa Monica, California
  Jun 15, 2018 - 03:42pm PT
Bob, only if you have pictures of the Neanderthal accent in Water Pocket Fold. :-)
Moss
Bad Climber

Trad climber
The Lawless Border Regions
  Jun 16, 2018 - 06:00am PT
Fun stuff. I think we've got to bring back knickers et al. We need more classic style in the hills.

BAd
Did you like this Trip Report? Got something to say? Don't hold back...
Comment on this Trip Report
Go