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North America, United States, California—Sierra Nevada, Mount Whitney, Northeast Ridge

Mount Whitney, Northeast Ridge. After more than a dozen ascents of this mountain by what I assumed to be all different sides, I was most surprised when Claude Fiddler pointed out an unclimbed ridge on the highest peak in the 48 contiguous states. On the morning of July 26, I awoke to lightning and storm clouds at a 12,000-foot camp under the east face of Whitney with Claude and Vern Clevenger. We were about to give up and descend when a spot of blue opened in the western sky. By the time we reached the base of the route just south of the Whitney-Russell col, the upper air was clear and mist was rising from every peak and valley. Difficult pitches of 5.9 and 5.10 alternated with scrambling along one of the most spectacular arêtes to be found anywhere. A rappel was necessary in one place to drop fifty feet over an overhang into a notch. The three-and-a-half hours of roped climbing ended at the top of the Mountaineer’s Route, ten minutes from the main summit. What had looked like a bust turned into one of the finest Sierra days any of us had experienced. We glissaded 2500 feet down the east side back to camp, ran through flowers and late spring melt back to the valley, soaked sore muscles in a hot spring, and watched our window in the week’s bad weather close again as a double rainbow glistened in the first evening raindrops. (Grade III, 5.10.)

Galen Rowell