Southeast Face 5.7
Trip ReportThe wife's first alpine climb -- Petit Griffon
Me - "Do you want to go climb this thing in the little lakes valley? Its a bit like the Dorion tower, but at 13,000 feet"
Wife - "Sure, I love that area"
Me - "Its going to involve snow climbing, so you'll need crampons and an ice axe"
Wife - " Hmmm, well, ok"
Although my wife is a great rock climber, she has been hesitant to do anything that involves snow and ice. Finally after much convincing,she agreed. She likes backpacking, she likes climbing, alpine climbing is just putting both of them together!
Our objective - Petit Griffon, a rock spire at 13,000' that sits in beteeen Mt Mills and Mt Abbott. It involves over 1000' of snow climbing, and three pitches of rock climbing to the summit. Sounds like a blast!
We headed up the east side of the Sierras, picked up our permit in Mammoth Lakes, then drove to the trailhead down rock creek road. We woke up bright and early, realized we had forgotton coffee, so drove back to Mammoth, rectified that mistake and were on the trail by 9am. Right away, we were gifted with magnificent alpine views.
We headed up towards Mono Pass, then Ruby Lake. We crossed a stream, then time for cross country travel. It was not long before we were at the snow line.
We had planned to climb the route on Friday, but the wife started to feel a bit of AMS from the altitude, so we decided to make a camp, acclimate for the night, and try climbing it in the morning. We set a nice camp around 11,000' just below lake Mills. And had a relaxing afternoon, resting, acclimating, and enjoying the stunning location. We entertained ourselves by building a series of tiny snowmen.
We both got a solid 10 hours of sleep, and were up and back on the approach to the climb around 8 am. We got to the base of the snow couloir below the climb, 1000' of 40 degree snow slopes. We put on our crampons, busted out the ice axes and up we went. The wife's first experience with crampons. The upper part of couloir was in the shade, so it was very cold, and quite icy. I'm glad we had crampons. We reached the notch just below the tower, and got our first views of the climb.
As I racked up, a couple of other climbers showed up. Strangely enough, we had actually met one of them before at the base of Snake Dike earlier in May. Small world
I headed up first, a 5.6 corner crack system, my fingers were numb from the cold, making the crack seem much harder. Then a belay at a flake, and a weird traversing, down-climbing 4th class pitch.
Then the crux pitch, a wild looking 5.7 crack with 300' of air below. Wildly exposed, but super fun, well protected climbing.
Then summit time! The summit was amazing, a perfectly flat, coffee table sized block. We looked in the summit register, we were the first climbers to summit in 2016. Unlike some Sierra peaks, this one is not frequented very often. There was even a fragment of the original register, which contained the names of the first/second ascensionists in 1964.
We waited for the other party to summit, chilled with them for a few minutes, and to make our descent quicker, we teamed up and tied our ropes together to make the rappels quicker.
We then rigged another rappel to quickly bypass the steeper bits in the snow couloir. We said our goodbyes to the other party.
Very nice guys, I hope we run into them again sometime. Its always nice to have more partners for alpine adventures.
We walked back to our camp, rested for a while, then I foolishly spilled our Deluxe Kraft Dinner. So we opted to walk out and get pizza in Mammoth.
Amazing climb, in a stellar location. This is why I love living in California, and why I love alpine climbing. I think maybe I hooked my wife on alpinism, what's next for us?
Recent Trip Reports