Aug 23, 2014
Lone Pine Peak
|Photos / Slideshow
Lone Pine Peak previously climbed Aug 10, 2004
Unnamed Peak 13,074ft (more often called Peak 3,984m) is a CA 13er located in the Whitney area, the highpoint of the ridgeline connecting Lone Pine Peak to the Sierra Crest. The summit register we found left by Brian French in 2006 paid tribute to his canine companion of some 15yrs that had joined him on many a mountain adventure. Brian's name of "Little Buddy Summit" seemed to have less chance of sticking than the simpler, "Rosco Peak", so I've adopted that name here. Brian, along with his wonderful wife Marie, have joined us occasionally for a day during the Challenge over the years. It seemed a fitting tribute.
Secor lists the East Ridge from Lone Pine Peak as class 2-3 with little fanfare, but that's a bit of a sandbag. I had been on my way between Lone Pine and LeConte back in 2004 and had found the ridge to be harder, choosing to traverse the steep South Face instead. Bob Sumner had gone in hunt of the summit via the East Ridge only to be stopped at a what he described as a class 4-5 notch. We weren't exactly sure what to expect when our group of eleven started from the Meysan Lake TH, but then that's part of the adventure we'd come looking for.
Unlike the previous day's outing with the concern over violating the Whitney Zone sans permit, today's hike up the Meysan Lake Trail required no permit and we pretty much had the trail to ourselves. The trail is a good one, showing none of the signs of heavy use by packers as found on many other East Side trails. Sunrise came as we plied the switchbacks leading up almost 2,000ft of the Meysan Creek drainage. Lone Pine Peak was seen through the trees high above on our left. At a trail junction we turned left towards Grass Lake and the start of the class 2 NW Chute leading to the saddle between Lone Pine and Rosco. We found Grass lake to be named well, its placid waters reflecting the white granite faces of the Sierra Crest nicely. Rosco Peak was clearly visible from here as well, illuminated in the early morning sun.
The lower slopes leading to the base of the chute were easy cross-country, but the route soon devolves into a messy collection of sand, scree and talus, all loose and disagreeable. The upper portion is only marginally better and it was with some relief that we were happy to finally land at the saddle between the two summits. As Lone Pine Peak seemed an almost "free" bonus peak, almost all the participants headed there first. I didn't realize that it was almost a mile away past a few false summits and was not as "free" as I had first surmised. Eric was already at the summit when I arrived just before 9a. He took off almost immediately while I hung around for a few others who were tailing me, including Jonathan and Nick. The ammo box that served as a register was busy with many entries from this popular peak. I can't recall if I simply forgot to photograph the pages or found the task to daunting, but we did sign it ourselves before following on Eric's heels some ten minutes later. We crossed paths with a few other participants as we retraced our route back along the ridgeline. It actually makes for a very enjoyable hike as the ridge is broad and easy to hike and the views are marvelous from its 12,500-foot elevation. Mt. Langley rises high to the left as does the jagged crest comprised of LeConte, Corcoran, Sharktooth and other unnamed pinnacles. The higher summits of Whitney and those along the crest to the south are seen on the right.
As we started the climb of Rosco's East Ridge, we were fairly quickly met by Matt and Andrew coming back down. They had found the difficult step that Sumner had described and had come looking for the bypass route supposed to be on the north side. Our meeting was fortuitous because it was at that point that we looked right and noted ledges and a possible route across the steep North Face. Andrew, Jonathan and I plunged onto the route without further thought, though not without some caution as there was plenty of loose rock to be careful of. After a couple hundred feet on the ledges I looked for a way back to the ridgeline, finding a keyhole that served the purpose nicely. Andrew followed me through this while Jonathan explored a lower series of ledges that led much further across the face. His route would work as well though I think it missed some of the nicer scrambling above. Back on the ridgecrest just beyond the step, I found the scrambling a highly enjoyable mix of class 3 rock, sometimes moving left or right, but mostly staying near the crest. After almost half an hour of this, I finally met up with Eric who was comfortably resting in the sunshine. The highest block is just east of the wider summit area, a short class 3-4 move to get one to its tiny perch that hold at most two persons. With so much time at the summit, Eric had exercised his artistic talents in filling 8 pages of the register with a panoramic sketch of the Sierra Crest visible from the summit. He added labels to more than a dozen recognizable peaks he had drawn. There had been only four other persons to sign the register since Brian had left it in 2006, the last in 2011. Over the next 45min we gathered a group of nine participants at the summit for a group shot. Besides the usual six, we had Mason, Matt and Andrew (Jonathan's nephew) joining us. All agreed it was a fine summit with a better-than-expected climb to reach it.
I was interested in exploring the possibility of descending the West Ridge which Secor describes as class 4 with a lot of loose rock. Jonathan was the only other to show similar interest, the rest choosing to return the way we came. Michael later reported the class 4 step was not as difficult as it had appeared, he and a few others returning back along the East Ridge more directly. Meanwhile I was finding the West Ridge all the excitement that was advertised. Most of it was class 3 with some short sections of breath-holding class 4 found along the way. I only made it about 1/3 of the way to the saddle with LeConte before I decided to drop down the northwest side to explore a more direct route to Meysan Lake. This was a difficult, mostly fun (but sometimes scary) descent that had that unnerving feature of only showing me enough of the route ahead to keep me going, but always wondering if I'd run into an impasse below. At several such possible showstoppers I managed to find another way around and keep the descent going, my options always feeling quite limited. But it worked, and after about 45mins' effort I had reached the easier, albeit tedious, moraine below leading to Mesan Lake. As I was making my way along the moraine, I heard shouting from above and eventually spied Jonathan high on the cliffs to my right. He had taken a different route altogether but had run into a serious problem. I could see no way for him to get down from where he was and conveyed this to him, along with a quick description of where I'd gone. He would have to find his way back on his own (he would be only 30min longer returning to the trailhead, so it appears he wasted little time finding the better route).
I found myself at Meysan Lake at 12:20p where I came across a couple of backpackers who were hoping to get to Lone Pine Peak. They had come up the Meysan Lake trail several miles too far, I explained, which they found mildly discouraging. I followed the lake's outlet, Meysan Creek, down to Camp Lake and a fine alpine meadow where I picked up the trail. It would be 2p before I managed to return to the trailhead near Whitney Portal. As on so many previous days, I found Eric waiting patiently here, in need of a ride back to Lone Pine. Nick was also sitting on the side of the road, having beaten me back by five minutes. The West Ridge/NW Face route was certainly not faster than the ascent route, but it made for a very enjoyable loop.
By the ninth day, Eric had pretty much sewed up three of the four jersies in this year's Sierra Challenge. Over the past two days I had increased my lead for the green jersey (over 50yrs) by more than an hour, giving me a virtually insurmountable lead over Jonathan. Alas, it was not to be. I slept poorly that night, waking often with nausea and diarrhea that was draining me physically and mentally. In the morning I didn't think I'd be able to hike to Mt. Anna Mills so I told Michael to drive up and start the group without me. I tried to rally after he left, dressing, getting my gear together and driving up towards Horseshoe Meadow, knowing I would probably miss the 4a start by 10-15min. My nausea got the better of me as I was driving up the switchbacks to the TH and I had to pull over to retch. One of the other participants, even later than I, drove past as I was doing this, not so much as slowing down. I had to admire their determination. For my part, I was done and drove back to Lone Pine. I'd spend the rest of the morning in bed at Lone Pine (until I got kicked out to make room for the next guest), then the remainder of the day in bed in Independence where my brother had a room through the next day. Whatever it was I had (not likely food poisoning), it had me incapacitated for more than 24hrs and weak for several days later. It was an ignominious way to end the Challenge without a proper goodbye or farewell to end the 10-day event, but such is life...
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Lone Pine Peak
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