High Sierra, the overlooked middle. I don’t get it. The High Sierra has largely been ignored for new routes in recent years. Yeah, there is some great stuff going on at either end of the range, like Peter Croft tearing up the Incredible Hulk (lately with Lisa Rands breaking into trad leading— welcome to roped climbing, Lisa!). And down south there has been a surge of activity on the Whitney Massif. Between shifts of flipping the burgers Croft raves about at the Whitney Portal Store, Myles Moser and Amy Ness will lope up to the crest, fire a 17-pitch Grade V (such as the East Buttress of Mt. Irvine), and be back for the afternoon shift. There are also rare repeats on the south face of Lone Pine Peak. After an early ascent of the Mike Strassman Memorial Route on that wall, I can tell you that stories of flaky rock seem to be true only of the gully-type climbs.
The open faces are rather nice. Unreported this year, they also put up a major first ascent on Crooks Peak (the former Day Needle) that goes at V, 5.10, AO. Details, for now, are on Supertopo.com.
The other big activists in the Whitney region are an upstart group from San Diego who call themselves the Pullharder Alpine Club. They have been quietly pocketing one fine line after another, including the amazingly aesthetic Pipeline on Mt.Carillon and a hidden gem on the north face of Mt. Russell. This year they became the first to break onto the mouth-watering buttresses on the north face of Mt. Hitchcock. Because these routes are Grade III, they’ve gone unreported here, but I can tell you that those buttresses and aretes—there are nearly a dozen—have been hiding in plain sight for too long. They are in-your-face for hours when you hike the trail from the summit of Whitney.
But there sure is a lot of terrain between Whitney and The Hulk that’s being passed over. Many climbers are skeptical of my raves about hundreds of unclimbed walls in the high country. I’ve seen people glaze over and back away when I get on the subject. So here’s a bit of proof, as a tease. Check out this photo from the north side of a ridge extending east off the summit of Table Mountain: a fine little buttress capped by a feathery ridge. I would name the creek leading there if it had a name. You’ll find it if you follow the Kern River nearly to its headwaters, then turn left. And if you go look, you’ll find another surprise up the same drainage. Can’t miss it.…
Doug Robinson, AAC