Escaping the Summer heat at Altitude: Climbing at Keller Peak and Whitney Portal

18 08 2009

The last few weeks of July were particularly hot in SoCal and Lizzy and I have escaped to the higher altitudes for a bit of fresh air.

Many weeks back, the day before Lizzy returned to Cali, I took a short trip up to Keller peek with Josh. It was pretty hot but we got a bit of bouldering in and did some exploring around Dinosaur rock. Josh had been waiting at the campsite while I battled traffic and informed me that the middle of the day was HOT.

As the sun fell low in the sky I got excited to take advantage of the cool temps for a possible first ascent of a dirty finger crack on the side of lower dinosaur rock. We ran back to the car and got headlamps and gear and I proceeded to make my way up the crack covering Josh with dirt and granite in the process. The light faded but  luckily I had borrowed Josh’s head lamp and made it to the top bleeding, covered in dirt, but happy.

My headlamp, which I had given Josh, had almost run out of batteries and as I struggled on the climb Josh was slowly slipping into darkness. Once off belay I set up a rappel to clean the gear and Josh walked around the back to clean my rap anchor.  I was psyched to have done a climb already as we quickly drove to town to get pizza.

The next day Josh was super excited and was awake at 5am. Since the cliff was so close we were climbing before 6 and had finished up by 10:30. This ended up working perfectly since the heat was unbearable and did not go well with the sharp granite. I was able to headpoint a climb that I had top roped last time for most likely its first lead. If this climb was in bishop and had a slightly flatter landing it would likely be a highball. A perfect jug gave way to a horizontal crack that provided the only gear to protect the crux. We thought that I could fall on the first few moves safely but as I got towards the top a fall should be avoided. One final cam protected the mantel to the anchor and made the climb safe enough. I did a few runs on TR to figure out the foot holds and then succeeded on the lead on my first try! (phew)

Josh had looked at a very pretty line on the back wall that followed a series of crescents past 4 bolts. I rapped down it to place the QD’s and Josh gave it a go from the ground. He managed to figure out the first section but got stuck at the crux between the 2nd and 3rd bolts. I struggled much more on the first section but found some hidden crimps and made it to the top.  After a rest, where Josh tried a few other routes, and another try on TR I was able to redpoint this fun route just barely sticking the crux bump and keeping my weight low on the following sloper traverse.  This was our last route and a great end to the day!

Climbing - Summer 09 010

Looking up from the base at the crazy knobs on Boney Fingers.

Fresh off getting her wisdom teeth out, Lizzy wanted to take it easy, the Sunday she returned from Seattle,  so she brought her bike to San Diego so we could go for a long ride. I had recently been convinced to start triathlon training by a friend and I was excited to do a bit of extra biking with Lizzy.

Climbing - Summer 09 011

A pretty Sierra view from the 1st belay

The following weekend we were to go to Whitney Portal to climb Boney Fingers, MSMR, and Ghost Rider. This was a lot of pitches but they all seemed doable. I had recently started campus training with my friend Stein and got in a workout before we got on the road Friday morning. This was a bad idea, since my body did not have any time to recover. I felt fine on the hike in to Boney Fingers, but my body shut down as soon as I started climbing. The 5.11 direct start was beyond me and I pulled on the bolts to get established in the crack.  It seemed odd that there were only 3 bolts since there was serious ground fall potential before you get in your first piece.  I managed to work my way up the crack, feeling way out of shape, but didn’t fall and made it to the knob anchor.

Climbing - Summer 09 016

Looking out from the stone House as described in our directions.

The 2nd pitch was much more fun and was a staggering 70 meters!! I didn’t have nearly enough quickdraws and placed all but one of my cams. The last many feet were protected by small nuts and thankfully I didn’t feel too much rope drag with my Sterling Ion.  I would suggest the following rack: 1 blue alien, 3 green aliens, 5 yellow aliens (or more!), 3 grey aliens, 1 or 2 – .5 camalot,  2 –  .75 camalot.  Also bring many small nuts, at least 10 qds and a handful of slings. 70 meters is a long way! We followed the advice on MP.com and I rapped first, fetched the 2nd rope which Lizzy pulled up and then double rope rapped.

Climbing - Summer 09 018

Lizzy takes a break on our way in to climb on Lone Pine Peak

We did this in time to get back before dark and got ready for an early-ish departure the next morning. I was very excited for SuperDike (aka MSMR) since I knew all the first ascentionists. After an exciting drive (narrow road with steep dropoff on one side) we made it to the “trail head” and made good time to the stone house on a very steep but decent trail. After leaving the stone house we followed a very good trail of cairns for a long way until they disappeared. We had notes from two friends but the approach photos had somehow not printed. Despite this we continued cross country up the hill hoping to rediscover the trail. About an hour and a few false cairns later we found the correct trail much further uphill than we had been.

Portal1

We thought the hiking would never end as we trekked towards the face above…

MSMR2

A nice photo we took of the route  not knowing where the climb was…

We had been hiking for over 2.5 hours at this point and were not quite sure of our destination. We feared that it was a far off wall (1st photo above) since we could not see a large dike on the face closest to us (photo directly above). We had spotted something similar to the “sea of knobs” noted in the topo but could not at the time figure out how the route would lead to this feature. With much doubt we continued until a large talus field noted in the directions at which point we had reached the 3 hour mark. The day had been getting progressively hotter and we were still over an hour from our objective.

Climbing - Summer 09 038

The less obvious upper trail.

Climbing - Summer 09 040 - Edit

The well traveled but incorrect lower trail with a misleading HUGE cairn.

Lizzy and I made the hard decision to turn around, which was the right one, since we had lost so much time already and likely would run out of water and be hiking back in the dark. Determined not to lose our way we managed to take the high trail all the way back to the stone house. We found that we had made an initial error (going low on the good trail past the huge cairn) versus staying high on a worse trail. Hopefully these photos will help the next party choose the right trail.

The key photo that I didn’t print out from SummitPost

Once we hiked out and drove back to Whitney Portal (with a stop at McDonalds for a McFlurry!) we had many hours left in the day. With a single small pack of water and food Lizzy and I decided to go as far as we could up the Meysan Lake trail. It was so nice to know where we were going after being lost for over an hour approaching Lone Pine Peak. It was so chill to have such a small pack and we had a much better time chatting instead of the constant, “AH, we are lost where do we go” from before.  The hike was pretty and while we did not make it to the lake we saw some pretty rocks on the way up. We had forgotten our watch and headlamps so we turned  around early to make sure we were back before dark.

Climbing - Summer 09 027

A happy Lizzy and Luke, no longer lost!

Motivation was a bit low after being lost for a while so we drove back early for some relaxation on Sunday. Overall it was a bunch of drivingnd not much climbing abut it was still very cool to see Whitney Portal. There is so much granite and it makes me want to go back to try and put up some new routes. Now that we figured out where MSMR is I will have to go back for another attempt!

Enjoy,

Luke

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2 responses

19 08 2009
Nate

I’m bummed you guys couldn’t find MSMR! Yeah Tuttle Creek is notorious for thrashing, bushwhacking, hellish manzanita approaches. There are lots of sucker-cairns too, and trails usually disappear for sections.

9 09 2009
Sierra Adventures, an Attempt on Mount Langley « Dream in Vertical

[…] a familiar jaunt up to the Stone House. This trail was nice and Lizzy and I had been there about a month earlier.  We were apprehensive about water so we both packed maximum capacity, carrying almost 2 gallons […]

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