Mount Le Conte
Mount Le Conte (sometimes "LeConte") is a lesser known peak in the Whitney zone of the High Sierra due to its lack of 14er status. However, its appearance from afar is striking and is often the subject of copious photography for parties ascending Mt. Langley and Lone Pine Peak, and can also be seen from Lone Pine itself. The summit is at ~13940 feet, and is flanked by many other lofty pinnacles and sub-peaks on the "Comb Ridge" including Mount Corcoran.
Mt. Le Conte is usually reached via Meysan Lakes by starting at the Whitney Portal. It can also be climbed from the east via Tuttle Creek, as was the route chosen by members of the 2012 Veterans Mountaineering Trip.
- Standard Route (from the north)
- North Face Direct
- East Gully ("Laughing Dolphin")
- Corcoran Traverse (from the south)
Proceed up the steep slopes above Meysan Lakes to the plateau between Mallory and Le Conte. Drop down slightly on the west side of Le Conte and find the northwest gully leading to the summit.
The main obstacle to overcome is a tricky 10-15 foot section of rock often called the "Waterfall Pitch" due to a slow trickle of water or ice in its cracks. There is a piece of webbing installed at the top for those who are cautious, and many choose to set up a belay here, but many also free-climb this section without much trouble. It is rated "class 3" but this is almost universally accepted to be too low.
Once above the Waterfall Pitch, there is a little more class 2-3 scrambling to a typical, airy Sierra summit! The true summit is the first peak just south of where you top out on the ridge.
Check out SummitPost.
Approach is from Tuttle Creek, up into the bowls below Comb Ridge - a long hike with plentiful boulder hopping and battling varying sized scree. Once in the furthest north part of the bowl, locate the "Laughing Dolphin" spire just to the south of the main peak and go up to it until just below and to the right. A mostly class 2-3 route, there is one class 4 section to be surpassed at a chockstone near the top of the gully. Some groups prefer to rope up for this section, and most prefer to at least remove their packs and set up a haul line. For first-time alpine climbers, it felt comfortable to have rock shoes and a belay.
The rest of the route is a mix of steep snow, steep scree, scrambling on boulders, and exposed class 3 traversing to the standard route. To clarify, you do end up above the Waterfall Pitch if you take the right traverse from the top of the East Gully, which is reasonably well-marked with cairns. You could also choose to down climb from the top of the East Gully on the west face, and traverse to below the Waterfall Pitch, but it's less fun.
As of May 2012, there is a loop of webbing installed at the top of the chockstone in the East Gulley.
Coming soon (hopefully)!