Climbing Classics | The East Buttress of Mt Whitney

I'm going to try to stay up a little bit later and write more about the past month, but first for Steve is our trip report up one of the most absolute classic routes ever established in the High Sierra:  the East Buttress of Mt Whitney.

Steve's been around, but he always makes time to come back to the Sierra Nevada to re-charge the batteries.  He's climbed Whitney a couple of times by the Mountaineers Route and the trail, but he wanted something different.  So he called up Sierra Mountain Center, and the rest is history.

The hike up the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek was casual, and we took a long lunch break at Upper Boy Scout Lake.  This gave the snow in the Keeler moraines plenty of time to soften up - key for us because I decided to save weight and not bring crampons or an ice axe.  This educated gamble paid off (I had just climbed the Mountaineers Route a week earlier), letting us wear lighter and more comfortable approach shoes instead of crampon-ready boots.

We camped on the far eastern shore of Iceberg Lake, which gave us a spectacular perch over the normal bivy area, and spectacular sunrise seats in the morning.  Since we weren't in too much of a rush, we waited for the morning light show to end before heading up the climb.

The East Buttress has spectacular rock and an aesthetic, direct line.  Steve and I climbed steadily, not really rushing but not really going slow.  We opted to stop for lunch where the East Buttress and the East Face routes merge, then finished the 4th class and topped out right on the summit.  We took a moment to breath in the air on top, signed the register, and then started down the Mountaineers Route.  In the mid-afternoon sun the snow had softened up perfectly, and we easily made it back over to the East Buttress approach and scrambled back down to camp.

The East Face gets more publicity because of its position and history.  No one can deny the exposure on the Fresh Air Traverse, or feel a shiver of history when you stand and look back at your partner from the precise spot Norman Clyde took a photo of the first modern belayed climb in America.  But for quality, the East Buttress puts the East Face to shame.  With more 5th class rock, cleaner granite, and an incredible airy position, the East Buttress is not only one of the best climbs on Mt Whitney, but its one of the best climbs for its grade anywhere in the Sierra Nevada.

We woke up with the sun in the morning and made a quick descent to the Whitney Portal Store for burgers, beers, and talks about "next time."

Summary | The East Buttress (III 5.7, 8 pitches) of Mt Whitney (14,495'), 29 June - 1 July 2010 with Steve J.

Photos | The fifth and eighth photos were taken by me | all other photos are courtesy of Steve J.