On a day late last winter, some buddies and I were driving to Mammoth to ski for the weekend. We already summitted Mt. Whitney about a month prior, and didn’t have any plans to climb on this particular weekend. But when you see the awe inspiring Sierra Mountains, you just cant resist that urge to climb. As we came up on the little town of Lone Pine, California, we all decided to stop for dinner.
Over dinner we got the wild hair to wake up at 3am, and push for the summit on the Mountaineers Route in a single day. Mt. Whitney saw a considerable amount of snow the weekend prior, so we were slightly worried about the snow conditions. We weren’t even sure we could make it to the summit in time. There also was a major storm blowing in the following night, and the forecast called for snow with 60 plus MPH winds. We knew we didn’t want to get stuck on the Mountain when that hit.
So we had to get up and down before the sun set and weather rolled in. In the early morning at low altitude the snow was thin and firm. It was easy and we made quick time with only crampons. As the sun came out and we got further up the mountain, the snow got deeper and softer. We only brought some snacks and water, trying to go light and fast. So on a day when snowshoes would be a must, we were left to post hole our way up.
By 2pm we made it about a quarter of the way into the chute around 13,500 feet and the wind was ripping 50 plus miles an hour. Signs of a small avalanche could be seen in the bowl near the chute. So, with weather rolling in, and bad snow conditions, we licked our wounds and headed for home. It’s always hard to turn around when your goal is so close, but sometimes, the mountain gets the better of you. That’s the fun and challenge of climbing. We held our heads a little low but we are stoked for this upcoming winter season and the challenge of climbing the Mountaineers Route again.