Winter Mountaineering Trip 2007
See the Trip Report page on the old website.
After practice on Mount Baldy, we climbed Mount Whitney in winter. This was the first of our annual winter mountaineering trips. See also Shasta Trip 2006 and Baldy Mountaineering 2006) for earlier large group trips under the same leadership.
Overview (pre-trip info)
Important date change! Due to a large storm predicted on Friday the 23rd, we're changing the date of the trip for two weeks later. We'll leave Friday the 9th of March, and return on Sunday the 11th. There will still be an earlier group leaving Thursday night (the 8th).
- To stay informed, please subscribe to the following google group. You can unsubscribe at anytime; you can also choose how often you receive new emails, etc. You can also upload pictures to the google groups webpage.
- Dates: The earlier group will leave Thursday evening. (note: date change)
- Mandatory meeting on Tuesday, Feb 20th at 7:45 PM at the Caltech Y's multipurpose room. Please fill out this File:WhitneyTripForm2007.pdf and bring it to the meeting (if you forget, I'll have some extra copies at the meeting).
- Second meeting will be at 7:45 PM on Monday, March 5th, at the Caltech Y. This should be short, but important. We'll finalize driving and tent-groups.
- Jan 22nd 2007 email describing what the trip will be like. Please read this if you're interested in coming on the trip.
Mt. Baldy trip
We're going for practice, leaving Saturday (Feb 24) night at 7:30 PM from the bouldering gym, returning Sunday evening. We'll camp outside the Sierra Club Ski hut -- you're welcome to reserve a spot inside (cost is $15). For driving directions, packing info, ..., see the Baldy Mountaineering 2006 from last April's climb. Here's info on the ski hut. This trip is mandatory for anyone who wishes to come to Whitney and doesn't have extensive prior experience with crampons and such.
We had a great time on Mt. Whitney, and summited about 2/3 of us (the rest were only 60m from the top, but didn't have time to make it). 15 people total, in two groups: group 1 started the approach Friday morning, and group 2 started the approach Saturday morning. Both groups joined up at Iceberg lake and summited on Sunday, then descended to the cars that afternoon. Click the pictures for full-size:
Taken from Template:WinterTripResources (so go to that page to edit this), and compiled from 2008-2011 trips.
- Advice from previous years
- Food suggestions from other Caltech climbers
- Climbing Nutrition
- Don't forget the club's extensive Library, which has books (notably Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills, which covers every important technique for this trip and many more) available for checkout from SFL.
- The Prussik and Munter Hitch are two knots to be familiar with. You'll use the first to ascend a fixed rope, and will need the second to rappel if you lose your belay device.
- Self-arrest youtube video (comment: if you don't have crampons on, then you should dig your feet in).
- Self-arrest guide, taken from "Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills" (access is restricted). See also Self-Arrest.
- Gray-scale map of Whitney Basin, 500 KB PDF file, 8.5" x 11"
Avalanche conditions and Weather links
Here are some web resources. Largely Whitney-focused.
- Our Avalanche Rescue and weather pages
- Avalanche Advisories from ESAC (Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center).
- The cyberspace snow and avalanche center (CSAC) and avalanche-center.org use the ESAC forecast here, but also have good general information.
- Shasta avalanche center and their advisories
- NOAA weather, for Mt. Whitney Summit, for Whitney portal (i.e. trailhead), and for Lone Pine. NOAA also has a written discussion of the upcoming forecast, which mentions the uncertainties in the predictions, etc. The discussion for the Las Vegas area and the discussion for the San Joaquin Valley / Hanford area and the discussion for the Reno area. Mt. Whitney is on the border between the Las Vegas and the San Joaquin forecast areas.
- SoCal Weather.net for local weather
Some online forums
- Mt. Whitney Reports forum from whitneyportalstore.com. The user dmatt provides weather updates often (twice a day?).
- Whitney Weather links from whitneyportalstore.com
- mt-whitney.info is another forum, for the entire Sierras, and perhaps a bit less active than the whitneyportalstore forums.
- Mt. Whitney web cam and a higher res version
Equipment and Resources
Taken from Template:WinterTripEquipment (so go to that page to edit this)
- Mount Whitney Winter Packing List
- Where to Get Equipment (What the Alpine Club owns, what the Caltech Y has, what REI has, other places to rent)
- We have dedicated articles on Crampons and Mountaineering Boots. See also Category:Equipment and Category:How-To.
This is the introduction to the trip (copied from http://www.its.caltech.edu/~alpine/whitEmail.html), sent January 2007:
So, this is a list of people who expressed interest in the climb on Whitney. We have about 40 people interested. There's not a clear-cut maximum number of people for the trip, but obviously, this is too many, so now it's my job to scare away a bunch of you.
First, let's settle on a date. Most people wanted to go late in February (weekend of the 24th and 25th). Another good reason for this weekend is that we get a better chance at having some more snowfall in the Sierras, which would make for a better trip (it would actually make the final part of the climb easier). So, let's plan on the 24th and 25th. To clarify, the regular group will leave Friday evening and start hiking Saturday morning. The group that goes early will leave Thursday evening and start hiking Friday morning. Both groups will attempt the summit on Sunday.
It would be nice to do some practice on Mt. Baldy, but so far there is no snow. If there is snow there, we'll take a trip (perhaps stay overnight a t the hut). If you are in Pasadena and don't have previous experience, then this trip will be required. We'll cover ice axe and crampon use. If we don't have such a trip, then it's strongly recommended you leave in the earlier group (in fact, we'll consider making it mandatory).
In general, I want to emphasize that this is not a guided trip. The other leaders and I are not paid, nor are we certified, nor do we have liability insurance. Climbing in a large group provides safety benefits, and you can learn technique and tricks, but this is not a class. Please don't hold us responsible if you get frostbite or sprain your ankle. You'll be treated like an adult and a fellow climber, not a student.
The weather this year has been cold. A serious issue will be adequate gear. One of the most difficult items of gear to find will be boots. It might be possible to do the trip in leather hiking boots, but due to the abnormal cold weather, you'll have a pretty high risk of frostbite. Thus I strongly recommend either special insulated leather boots or insulated plastic boots (e.g. La Sportiva Nepal). A double plastic boot would be excellent for the trip. If you have an insulated overgaiter, then you could probably get away with normal leather boots.
Many people asked me about gear. The club only has about 6 ice axes and 3 crampons (and the Caltech Y has 3 snowshoes). These won't go very far among 40 people. Please try to find this gear elsewhere. If you can, borrow it from a friend. Our website has useful information: http://www.its.caltech.edu/~alpine/equipment.shtml and specifically, http://www.its.caltech.edu/~alpine/equipment.shtml#REI http://www.its.caltech.edu/~alpine/equipment.shtml#riverside If anyone wants to organize a carpool to riverside or santa ana, Reply All to this email.
Renting boots is a problem. If you find a place to rent them, please let me know. It is up to you to find the gear.
Additionally, you'll need standard cold-weather hiking gear, such as gaiters (which you probably cannot rent), warm pants (I will not let anyone climb in jeans), long underwear, non-cotton jackets, very warm mittens and gloves, harness, large backpack, sleeping bag, pad, etc. If you cannot borrow or rent these items, then you should be willing to buy them. We'll put a detailed packing list on the website. A warm sleeping bag (e.g. 0 F) and thick down coat are very nice; if you don't have them, prepare to suffer a bit.
About half of you expressed a bit of worry about whether you'd be able to do the trip. I think technical skills (using crampons) are less important than good "outdoors sense". If you're a strong backpacker, then you'll probably be fine (we will have pretty heavy packs on the approach, e.g. 60 lbs) . Also important is being able to withstand some unpleasant cold and windy conditions. Cooking dinner in the cold, with a headache, might be the hardes t part of the day.
It is possible to make the climb without prior winter mountaineering experience, but ONLY if you're a fast learner, athletic and determined. I wouldn't be concerned about hiking fast; I'd be concerned about having enough energy to hike all day long through snow with a heavy pack, gaining 4,000' of altitude. Almost every aspect of backpacking is more difficult in winter. If you're not in good backpacking shape, please start taking some long hikes now.
The camp at iceberg lake is about 12,500', which is quite high, and most of us will have altitude headaches (which isn't serious, only unpleasant). We'll leave the cars at perhaps 8,000'. Another thing to consider.
On an encouraging note, the final climb to the summit from camp is relatively short (compared to the long approach) and it won't be too hard to turn around in case you don't feel like making it to the top. We're descending our ascent route. There should be enough people on the trip that you can find a group of climbers going at your pace. But we'll be leaving very early in the morning, and it will be cold.
In short, I can't say whether or not you have enough experience. It depends on how much you can train in the upcoming month, how determined you are, ... You are the judge.
You don't need to decide immediately whether you want to come. A week before the trip, I'll have an on-campus meeting which will be mandatory. If you don't come to the meeting, then it means you're no longer interested in the trip. If the time of the meeting conflicts with something important, or if you don't live in Pasadena, then it's ok, but email me.
The meeting will be very important -- you'll need to choose a tentmate, make sure you have a stove and tent, etc. We'll go over transportation as well. It will also be a good time to ask questions.
Info on the trip will be at: http://www.its.caltech.edu/~alpine/whitney.shtml
Email me if you have specific questions that you want to be answered before the meeting. If you find a good source of rental gear, please share it with me and I'll post it on the website.