American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, California, Sierra Nevada, Mt. Whitney, ...Lost

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2007

Mt. Whitney, …Lost. Our climb was spectacular and, compared to our expectations, epic. Not counting 8,000' vertical of carrying loads in the first 24 hours. Not counting getting snowed off the Fishhook Arête, our training climb. Not counting our tarp shelter ripping in half in the middle of the night, exposing us to a four-inch snowfall dump at 12,000'. And not to mention venturing the first moves onto the entire southwest quadrant of a fairly popular peak. No, the real epic didn’t even start until Michael Thomas and I roped up at 8 a.m. on October 3, taking a middle arête among many choices. We re-climbed the nine pitches we had done before dark two years ago, including two 5.9 sections.

Then we tried to weasel around the headwall, but it forced us back to front and center. Straight up was steep and delicate and likely 5.10, but it was a relief that protection showed up. Soon after, it got dark. But the moon was nearly full, sparkling off the white granite in beautiful and climbable ways. Several hours later, a best-guess choice led us into moon shadow and under a nasty-looking block. Couldn’t tell what was holding it up over our heads. In the midst of delicate climbing around it, my foot slipped and my headlamp popped off and sailed down the gully. Fortunately, that kept us from trying to further climb under that block’s eerie tonnage. We found another way. To make a long story short, after 20 pitches we unroped at 2:30 a.m. It was so cold, with a biting wind blowing at 30+ mph, that with all our clothes on and walking uphill we could not stay warm. Summit at 4:00 a.m.; a three-hour nap in the stone shelter on top.

Our first ascent so much longer than expected, we called the route “… Lost.” Lost for years on the backside of Whitney. Lost our way several times, as on the crux headwall and up under the threatening block. Lost a headlamp. However, “Not all who wander are lost” (J.R.R. Tolkien).

Doug Robinson, AAC

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