Last weekend the first winter storm blew through the mountains, followed by a week of sunny weather. Highway 120 was closed, and then opened again. I knew that my chances of climbing mountains up near Tioga Pass were passing quickly, soon the road will be closed for the winter.
|Winter is coming......|
Mitchell (who I previously climbed Moro rock with) was also stoked to come along. We planned to climb the NW ridge of North Peak and then the North ridge of Mt. Conness. This did not work out as planned, but we still had a good time
|1st (failed) objective - NW ridge North Peak.|
We met at my fav. ninja bivy spot near Lee Vining on Friday, and had a chilly night camping. We woke up at 5 am, and were at the trailhead by 6ish. The large snow banks on the road were an indication that my dreams of the snow melting off the rock might not be correct. Turn out the week of warm weather was not enough to clear the snow. Its going to be full-on winter up there once another storm passes through.
|The boys ready to start|
The first part of the approach is easy, a few miles of relatively flat ground past some alpine lakes. There was a fair amount of snow, and with warm temps in the day, and freezing at night, the snow was very hard. Making it relatively easy to walk on.
|Approach in a winter wonderland|
|Ice climb Michael and I did a month ago (right most couloir) - buried in snow.|
|Garrett on the approach to the ridge|
We stomped up some slopes, then were onto the ridge. Then we hit a very icy snow slope, that blocked our access to the main rock ridge. Dang, I wish I had packed an ice axe and crampons, because the slope was not very steep, but very icy. A fall on would send you down a cliff, being fatal.
Mitchell went as high as possible on some rock steps but was blocked by the icy snow. I had mountaineering boots on, so I started kicking steps up the slope. Although we probably could have gone up the slope by kicking steps, the situation was making Garrett very uncomfortable.
|Looks benign. But this slope was super icy. I wish I had brought an ice axe!|
I don't like to push people into situations they feel are dangerous, so we backed off the ridge. Those low angle icy slopes can be fatal.
I was kicking myself for not packing an ice axe, then we would have flown up that slope. However, the mountain is not going anywhere, I can always try the link-up with Mt. Conness some other time.
|Lets go hike up that choss pile!|
|Mitchell chillin in the talus|
|Garrett approaching the summit, awesome!|
|Mitchell enjoying the stellar views|
I was super proud of Garrett. Although he has not climbed in a year, and is not in "mountain shape" he pushed through to the top without a single complaint. I have huge respect for those qualities, always willing to push his limits, and respects that its the difficulty of the endeavour that gives it meaning.
Mitchell was also a badass, obviously a super-fit driven alpinist, but at the same time modest and easy going. I could not have asked for better partners on that day.
|Group summit pose!|
|Blocky summit ridge|
|3rd class descent|
After couple of hours of hiking through the snow, now wet so some post-holing here and there, the sight of the dam across Saddlebag lake was a welcome sight.
|Finally, the way to the cars|
It was great to see Garrett again, and also great to get to know Mitchell a bit better. I think him and I have more mountains to climb!
P.S. -- Post climb activity
Since I had no climbing partner on Sunday, I decided to bring my little buddy for a hike up near Huntington lake. Great active rest hiking with my canine friend.
|Best hiking buddy|