Monday, December 12, 2016

Thor Peak (12,306', South East Couloir, II, class 3)

The forecast on our side of the Sierras called for rain and snow, but everything looked clear on the Eastern side of the mountains. So Saturday morning, we dropped the poochy off with the dog sitter and headed over to Lone Pine. The plan: to climb Thor Peak, a small (~12,000') in the Whitney Portal area

                               Winter mountaineering yay!

Thor Peak 
We arrived in Lone Pine late Saturday afternoon, we had some time before sunset so headed into the Alabama Hills for some sport climbing

Teresa ties in to lead a 5.10

We banged out 7 climbs from 5.6-10b in less than 2 hours before the sun started to set. You have to love climbing in the Hills, its a bit like a climbing gym outside!
With the mountains looking in the western sky it starts to get dark around 4pm, so we packed it up. 

Subaru commercial?
Some food in Lone Pine, then we drove up to the Whitney Portal to make camp at 7500' and acclimatize a little bit. We were the only car in the whole place! I have never seen the Portal empty before. Mental note - Mid December is the time to get some solitude in the Whitney group!

We slept in the back of the car and had a lazy 6 am start.

Who needs a camper when you have a Subaru Outback?
We started up the Whitney trail. I spied some nice climbable ice (a theme of this trip). I need to come back with my ice tools.

Ice climb #1

Whitney Portal Buttress at sunrise

After about 3 miles we left the trail and headed cross country, heading towards the south east couloir of Thor Peak. The approach was not the best, unconsolidated snow and thorny bushes made progress fairly slow.

Teresa approaching the couloir. Notice the many thorny bushes!
Unlike many couloirs I have climbed, this one had several short 3rd class rock steps. These would be trivial in summer, but with snow cover and recently frozen ice they were actually a bit spicy. "Sticky" rubber on mountain boots and rock shoes des not work with even the slightest bit of snow coverage. We put on our crampons so we could climb the rock steps. Teresa was a bit nervous at the crux step, but she pulled through like a champ. 

Teresa climbing through the rock crux in the couloir
After the crux, the couloir became a straightforward snow climb. The snow even become slightly more consolidated ad wind swept higher up in the couloir.

Upper couloir

Top of the couloir

We then topped out the couloir after maybe 1000' of climbing at entered the very broad, low angled summit plateau of the mountain. The crampons and ice axe went back into the bags, and a slow meandering walked up class 2 talus towards the highpoint.

Big summit plateau

Views from the summit crest
Teresa was feeling a bit tired, so she rested in the talus field while I headed up towards the summit crest. There were a variety of towers and high points along the crest, and I was not sure which was the actual summit, so I traversed across a bunch of them, figuring I must have hit the summit at some point. I wasted at least an hour doing that and then we started down.

Instead of down climbing the couloir, we headed down the south west slopes, which would deposit us on the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek. 

We descended about 2000' of garbage, loose scree and then into a snow filled talus field. Not exactly fun. On the plus side there were nice views, and I spied some more potential ice climbing above Boy scout Lake.

Scree descent
On the way down

More ice climbs!
We picked up the trail on the North Fork, and headed back down. We got lost a few times, and the ledges were a bit sketchy in places, but we made it back to the car before dark. 

A long drive home back to Fresno. 

For me, climbing in the mountains during the winter is really special. There are no crowds, the climbing/hiking is way more serious, the days are short and cold so you have to move fast. I love it. I'm not sure Teresa felt the same, but I certainly appreciate that I have a wife who is willing to share in my passion and shares a sense of adventure with me.

Mini ice climb. Hahahaha!!!

1 comment:

  1. Teresa does not feel the same. But is very proud of her Bear.