Sunday, June 26, 2016

Teresa becomes an alpinist -- Petit Griffon (13,720', II, steep snow, 5.7)

Teresa, about to become an alpinist
Me - "Do you want to go climb this thing in the little lakes valley? Its a bit like the Dorion tower, but at 13,000 feet"

Teresa - "Sure, I love that area"

Me - "Its going to involve snow climbing, so you'll need crampons and an ice axe"

distinct pause

Teresa - " Hmmm, well, ok"

Teresa has just signed on to becoming an alpinist. What's alpinist? Here's my definition:
- Technical climbing (5th class) in the mountains, often with massive approaches and/or snow and ice climbing. 

Although Teresa is a great rock climber, she has been hesitant to do anything that involves snow and ice. Finally, she agreed. 

Our objective - Petit Griffon, a rock spire at 13,000' that sits in beteeen Mt Mills and Mt Abbott. It involves over 1000' of snow climbing, and three pitches of technical rock climbing to the summit.
Our objective - Petit Griffon -

We headed up the east side of the Sierras Thursday night, picked up our permit in Mammoth Lakes, then drove to the trailhead down rock creek road. We woke up bright and early, realized we had forgotton coffee, so drove back to Mammoth, rectified that mistake and were on the trail by 9am.  Right away, we were gifted with magnificent alpine views. 

Views of Bear Creek Spire
We headed up towards Mono Pass, then Ruby Lake. We crossed a stream, then time for cross country travel. It was not long before we were at the snow line.

Don't fall in Tese!
Snow fields
We had planned to climb the route on Friday, but Teresa started to feel a bit of AMS (acute mountain sickness) from the altitude, so we decided to make a camp, acclimate for the night, and try climbing it in the morning.

Not feeling so hot. Altitude sickness is a bummer
We set a nice camp around 11,000' just below lake Mills. And had a relaxing afternoon, resting, acclimating, and enjoying the stunning location.

Now that is a nap
nap time selfie
Afternoon diversions
 We both got a solid 10 hours of sleep! And were up and back on the approach to the climb around 8 am.

On the approach. Mt Dade, Mt Abbot and Petite Griffon in the back ground.
Almost there...
 We got to the base of the snow couloir below the climb, 1000' of 40 degree snow slopes. We put on our crampons, busted out the ice axes and up we went. Teresa's first experience with the tools of the alpinists trade. The upper part of couloir was in the shade, so it was very cold, and quite icy. I'm glad we had crampons. We reached the notch just below the tower, and got our first views of the climb.

Crampons and ice axe.

In the shade, at the notch.
Looking up at our route
 As I racked up, a couple of other climbers showed up. Strangely enough, we had actually met one of them before! His name was Charlie, a computer guy from Palo Alto, who we had met at the base of Snake Dike earlier in May. Small world our little alpine climbing community. His partner, a Spanish climber showed up a few minutes later.

I headed up first, a 5.6 corner crack system, my fingers were numb from the cold, making the crack seem much harder! Then a belay at a flake, and a weird traversing, down-climbing 4th class pitch.

At the second belay

Somewhere on the climb. Bomber cam anchor to the left
Then the crux pitch, a wild looking 5.7 crack with 300' of air below. Wildly exposed, but super fun, well protected climbing.

Leading up pitch 3. Scary, but so much fun
Then summit time! The summit was amazing, a perfectly flat, coffee table sized block. Amazing. We looked in the summit register, we were the first climbers to summit in 2016! Unlike some Sierra peaks, this one is not frequented very often. There was even a fragment of the original register, which contained the names of the first ascensionists in 1964. 

Summit victory! Teresa the alpinist!

Original summit register! First or second ascent
We waited for Charlie and his partner to summit, chilled with them for a few minutes, and to make our descent quicker, we teamed up and tied our ropes together to make the rappels quicker.

We then rigged another rappel to quickly bypass the steeper bits in the snow couloir.

rap down that couloir
We said our goodbyes to Charlie and Friend. Very nice guys, I hope we run into them again sometime. Its always nice to have more partners for alpine adventures! 

Bye Charlie and friend!
We walked back to our camp, rested for a while, then I foolishly spilled our Deluxe Kraft Dinner. So we opted to walk out and get pizza in Mammoth. 
Amazing climb, in a stellar location. This is why I love living in California, and why I LOVE alpine climbing. I think maybe I hooked Teresa on alpinism, what's next for us?

Teresa the alpinist.

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