Lone Pine Peak

4 Oct 1998 - by Michael Gordon

Our early summer climb of Lone Pine Peak was scrubbed due to scheduling. The plan to climb the East Arete of Mt. Humphreys this October 3/4 weekend also ended due to recent snow at elevation. So Dave German and myself ascended upon Meysan Lake to scout out the North Ridge of LPP for the future, while also partaking in the summit via the crap chute class 2 route which I had read miserable comments about previously. We had also hoped to get Mt. Irvine and traverse to Mt. Mallory if time and weather permitted.

Furious winds belted our Meysan Lake parking lot bivvy throughout the night, as did the never-ending stream of traffic to and fro the Whitney trailhead - all hours of the night. The walk to Meysan lake was pleasant and cool (55 degrees or so) with intermittent gusts. We set camp at the lake just below Meysan, napped for a half-hour, then departed for the summit of LPP at 1430 hours amidst swirling winds and spindrift. The lack of snow consolidation on the cruddy scree slope only added to the pain of the climb. After hitting the summit ridge, neither of us having been there, we aimed for the immediate high point. To our dismay, we saw an even higher point, then another, then another. After scrambling all the high points on the summit ridge, we finally found the can (which needs a new notebook) and took a break. We enjoyed the summit view for a few minutes, and watched long shadows creep into the Owens Valley. Surprisingly, the wind came to a standstill for our summit enjoyment. Upon our return to camp, it was agreed that neither of us would ever care to climb that route again. 5500 feet gain for the day.

Throughout Saturday night, again the winds howled. Still we awoke and headed for Mt. Irvine. After a high traverse above the north side of Meysan Lake (following a faint use trail) we decided to go for one of the two chutes north of Mt. Irvine's east buttress. Both chutes are clearly visible in Secor's photo of Mt. Irvine, but no route descriptions are given. From our close up vantage point (not being able to see the whole chute), we decided to go for the right (north) rockier chute, which we felt would go faster than the snowy left chute. About half way up, we met the first large chockstone which was carefully passed on the left (south) with some mixed climbing. Snow blanketed most of the rocks in this couloir and we carefully made class 3/4 moves, occasionally making use of of a "dry tool" placement with ice axes to assist with the lack of snow free hand holds. We returned to the couloir after no other impasses were observed. Here the pitch steepened, and the talus was covered by unconsolidated snow. At 13,000 feet, it was tiring climbing. We aimed for a snowfield at a col, which presented to us a beautiful view of Mt. McAdie, Mt.Muir, and the Whitney massif. We could now see that Irvine's summit was about 1/4 mile to our south along the ridge which we stood, separated from us by some 500 vertical feet of more snowy scrambling, some potentially exposed.

Stopped at 13,200+ feet, we decided to descend amidst our waning enthusiasm, increasing wind speed, and decreasing available time. We carefully picked our way down the dicey moves, and returned safely to camp. Though we didn't make Irvine's summit, we were jubilant merely in being able climb in these sublime surroundings and try an "exploratory" route. I would like to return and complete it sometime. Both of these chutes are visible in their entirety from the lakes below Meysan.

Though the winds were frequent, the weekend was splendid weather-wise. Temps 50-60 during the day, roughly 30 or so at night. Not a cloud in the brilliant blue sky. 8200+ feet gained for the two days. Dave and I agreed that this Meysan lake "amphitheater" was quite a spectacle, surrounded by clean white granite; the NW face of LPP and the beautiful buttress on Mt. Irvine, all dusted in fresh, clean white snow.


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