Lessons Learned

On long alpine routes sometimes the crux of the route is just getting to base camp. On Whitney the bushwacking through "The Jungle" below the ledges were epic.

Route finding on huge granite slabs requires planning and creativity. Planning to get to the right spot to belay. Creativity to create a belay with minimal protection.

Respect the Summit Block. Try this route you will understand.

Get an early alpine start.... Routes like this are deceptively close to camp until you start the march to the base of the route and find out the snow slopes undulate forever. Also we were glad we were prepared for nightfall. We rappelled from the summit after the sun set and were very glad we had crampons to negotiate the slog back to camp on very hard snow and ice.

Don't forget the insect repellent. The backpack in from North Lake is a mosquito-fest. Bring plenty of blood. Also when traversing talus slopes, plan your route from the base and stick to it. My partner went too high on the diagonal left traverse and we lost time on the ascent.

When rappelling from towers on this route, beware of loose rock. Upon retrieving the rope we pulled down some rock that could have been bad news if we were a few feet to the left. Clear loose rocks from the ropes path on your way down while you are rappelling.

Don't climb with the Sierra Club. I was a human bowling pin after the neophytes above trundled rocks on me. Unlike a bowling pin I was able to move across the slabs to avoid the strike. Also when we got to the top of the route, the leader didn't have a rope for the less nimble to do the 3rd class move to the summit. I gave him my slings and then he rags on me for my belay technique.

Make sure all your partners are comfortable on the varied terrain that alpine routes can bring. We did not expect steep snow on the descent. One of our group went for a slide and flew over the bergschrund out of site. Lucky for him he landed on the snow bridge. After about 20 minutes of "... do you know who you are and where you are" he regained his memory. Your safety and security can change in a heart beat. Where a helmet.

Double check clip in of your gear after you have placed gear in the rock.  On the 5.8 vertical face pitch on this route I dropped a carbiner with a bunch of stoppers.  What this really taught us is that we did not need as much gear as we carried up.  Alpine racks should be light.  We were able to do the climb without a problem. 

Too much Cytomax can be a bad thing.  I was 50 vertical feet from the summit and took a sip of my Cytomax.  I was overcome with a nauseous feeling.  This went away in about a minute but I have never like the taste of Cytomax since.  If you are going to use energy drinks make sure you really like the flavor.

Keep your shoes tied tight. One offwidth crack on this route ate the climbers shoe. Only after Herculean efforts was it retrieved.

On the way up the route the snow bridge over the bergschrund on the cold morning was large and solid. On the descent AFTER crossing the bridge I looked back only to see that it was in marginal condition. It is harder to see the condition of the bridge from above. Proceed with caution (rope up or jump over it).

Make sure all in your party know how to use the gear that you have on your rack. One of my Tri-cams was fixed on this route.

Don't think that your equipment that you used in the Southern Sierras of California will work as well in the Pacific Northwest. Keep your sleeping bag dry by putting it in a plastic bag inside your pack. Make sure you have boots that are entirely waterproof and warm. Gortex Jackets lose their water repellence over time. Smaller teams travel faster than larger ones.

Bring a rope. If you get off route it is easier to correct your mistakes by a short roped traverse or rappel.

When belaying below a dihedral, stay on the protected side of the prow not in the slot below the climber to avoid rock fall. My partner knocked down a bowling ball sized rock that exploded 3 feet from me as it hit the face. Only to have his body follow the rock and ultimately be eye to eye with me hanging from the rope...upside down. This was very scary. We were off route and bailed. WARNING. The picture in 50 Classic Climbs of North America showing the South Face of Clyde Mineret is deceptive.

Beware of changing winds and waterfalls. When the wind changed later in the afternoon the water fall to the left of us began to shower us on a section of the route that was very slabby. Climbing the wet slabs was impossible.

ALWAYS double check your rappel anchor and your rappel device. Are you fully clipped into your harness? Are the knots tight?
Also beware of retrieving your ropes in sections where long vertical cracks are directly above you. Our ropes got jammed high on the route after the second rappel. This route is notorious for eating ropes.

When you are almost at the top of a route and it begins to rain, lightning and thunder....CLIMB FAST.

When you feel weightless as a result of loosing your grip on the offwidth above the "Wave Pitch" 15 feet out from your #4 Friend and you regain your hold, you realize that there are such things as "Guardian Angels".

When you see the rappel anchors at the top of a climb and you have only one more move.....don't fall. And if you do, you realize that you will have time to say a few things and think of the horror about to come before the rope begins to do its job. "Scotty..... watch me...falling......this is the big one.... ugh...moan...."

Introducing someone to climbing and providing them the oppurtunity to experience the joys of bagging a summit is a great gift.   I took my brother up this peak and we had a great time.  He was awed by the summit views and the harsh alpine environment.  

Climb On, Climb Safe, Climb for Life

Back to Howard's Home Page