Trip ReportThor Peak - Stemwinder TR
Stemwinder is a route on Thor Peak in the Mt. Whitney region. Secor's listing is I, 5.4. I'd seen trip reports over the years and figured it might be a nice easy backcountry climb with a not too long approach.
My friend Laura was interested in climbing this one with me, so she secured us a dayhiking permit for the Mt. Whitney trail and we set out on Saturday morning around dawn.
Near Bighorn Park we cut across the marsh towards the slabs below Thor Peak's south face. Turns out the brush was covered in frost and the ground was marshier than we expected, so our approach shoes got a bit damp :) Next time we'll have to head further up the trail and cut right to avoid the swamp.
An old snag marks the start of the route -
The route heads left up a ledge. There is a 10-12' chimney near the beginning though. While Secor says this is third class, we roped up and I belayed Laura, since it was pretty awkward and sort of a grunt. Maybe it can be climbed around.
We headed further left and found the crux of the route, a 5.4 chimney with a piton near the bottom. Various trip report authors seem to think this is kind of a sandbag, and it gave me some pause .. I decided to take my pack off and put my right side in, left foot in front, right foot in back. Wow, it really works ! I backed up the piton with a nut and found some more pro higher up. I think the thing is only about 12' high really, but it was kind of intimidating. Must be those old-school ratings again :)
I belayed on some mid-sized cams in a crack further up, then instructed Laura to tie in about 20' from the end of the rope so we could haul the packs up. On belay, climb on !
She wasn't having much fun with this thing, and in fact she flipped me the bird once she got within sight :) But she came through like a trooper and hauled the packs up.
We stayed tied in since we'd read that there might be some class 4-ish terrain for about a pitch, and the rock was pretty grainy in places. I think with the two chimneys I'd managed to unnerve poor Laura too :(
I found a nice horn to sling, then brought Laura up.
We headed up another two pitches on my 50m x 8.5mm rope, the last of which was pretty much third class, with a lot of rope drag. Soon we were at a nice flat notch, near the pale red pinnacle noted in Secor's description -
If I were doing this again I'd probably put the rope away after the chimney and not get it out again until the pinnacle.
Here we slung a horn and turned a corner to the fourth class slab traverse. It was not really hard, just unnerving. The holds were good, but lots of exposure. Exciting !
I headed up a crack and probably should have traversed right sooner, into an easier gully, but did so after finding another piton. This led to some unpleasant rope drag. I eventually lassoed another horn, then put Laura on belay. Oh man, she was not liking this at all ! I can't blame her.
I brought her up, and fortunately by now we were pretty much done with the route. No more rope work. Some third class got us into a sunny spot and we had a snack, then scrambled up to the summit plateau.
It was getting a bit late, and we wanted to get down to the Portal for burgers & beer, so we decided not to tag the summit (Laura had been there multiple times anyway). We did have one last thing to take care of though ..
Laura led us down the SE Couloir, which was a loose scree-fest but pretty much uneventful. It had been an enjoyable day, and we returned in time to chow down on Portal burgers and chat with Doug. We had a blast.
Sunday we headed up a fun third class route from Lone Pine Lake to Candlelight Peak with Laura's SO, Sean, who had come up from socal. From Candlelight we got a good view of the route we'd climbed -
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