American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, California—Sierra Nevada, Lone Pine Peak, Bastille Buttress

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1972

Lone Pine Peak, Bastile Buttress. To appreciate the size of Bastile Buttress, or even the immensity of Lone Pine Peak, one must personally come to grips with the terrain. The vast relief from the desert piedmont of the Owens Valley to the heights of Mount Whitney must be the cause of the deception everyone experiences. As an example of the impression of simplicity, various estimates of the height of the buttress ranged from 7 to 11 pitches. It turned out to be 17. The name came later, but the choice was obvious. When one drives to Whitney Portal, it is the buttress on the vast scarp of Lone Pine Peak. Disgusted by the long lift lines at Mammoth Mountain one weekend in March 1969, I hiked up a canyon to the base of the very polished rock-climbing problem. Self-belaying, I reached a fine ledge in two pitches. Above was a giant arch, then relentless smoothness. Occasional cracks were spaced on the occasionally blank, pillar-like buttress. By April the long clutch of winter was disappearing. Hampered by the restrictions of weekend availability, Joe Brown, Charles Haas, and I could not complete the climb on our first serious effort. April 26th to 28th proved to be the winning combination, helped by a miniature bivouac fire on a high ledge from a few pieces of fibrous deadwood. Not even the occult could have foreseen the timing of a potential catastrophe. While we slept below the buttress a slab of ice some 6 by 15 feet in size slid out of the giant arch and crashed down over our ropes. In the morning … well, the ice was gone. Technically, the climb was a mixture of many delights and frustrations, with numerous challenging free and aid sections. Bolts were placed at six different areas, but only one was a ladder. Some of the hard friction was difficult to protect and one lead (9th) was truly tiring nailing. NCCS V, F8, A3.

FRED BECKEY

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