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North America, United States, California, Sierra Nevada, Tulainyo Tower, East Face

Tulainyo Tower, East Face. One mile northwest of Tulainyo Lake is a large granite spire facing east into a cirque at the head of one of the forks of George Creek. If that sounds confusing, Tulainyo Lake is only two miles north of Mount Whitney as the crow flies. In October, Marek Glogoczowski and I hiked up the long approach from George Creek roadhead (6200 feet) to the base of the climb at 12,000 feet. On the right side of the truly perpendicular tower is a crack system which begins some distance above the base. We started even further right in a wide chimney that we followed for two leads until a broken area of reddish rock allowed us to reach the base of the main crack system. Three consecutive pitches of F9 crack climbing past frequent overhangs brought us to a point where Marek became sick and weak. The temperature was freezing and we had begun the route only one day after leaving sea level. The back side of the tower appeared to be easier and so I soloed toward the top while Marek rested on the ledge. I climbed within walking distance of the summit, then descended 300 feet to Marek’s position, where he told me that he was still too weak to even ascend fixed ropes. We were forced to rappel the face and we descended the canyon after dark, with Marek feeling much better once the elevation diminished. He had been to 22,000 feet only a month before and seemed more fit than I on the approach. It is highly possible that he was in the early stages of pulmonary edema, as even rest at nearly 13,000 feet did nothing to return his breath or his strength. The climb is a true classic: a steep and narrow face on the Sierra crest on excellent rock. NCCS IV, F9.

Galen Rowell