Today was absolutely perfect! Not a could in the sky and no wind to speak of. The guides said it does get better than this. They woke us at 3:30am and we were climbing by headlight just before 5am. The climbing started fairly tame but they had us all roped up from the get go. Crampons, harness, helmet, and ice axe. Rope intervals were much tighter than normal glacier setups. No glaciers on Mt. Whitney. The ropes were in place to allow the guides to control any slips or falls as necessary. Thankfully it wasn't necessary today.
After reaching Iceberg Lake, the route turns up the 35 degree Mountaineers Chute. Steep cramponing until you reach "The Notch" at 14,000 ft. From there the guides put in three rope lengths of anchored fixed lines to allow for ascending the final 500 ft. of 45-50 degree slope. You do this with the use of a piece of climbing gear called an ascender, naturally!
100% of the team made the summit!
The top of Mt. Whitney is a big flat plateau that even has a structure built many years ago by the Forest Service. After lots of pictures and Facebook status updating (4 bars of AT&T 3G goodness) and a bit of lunch, we were lowered down each pitch by the guides - facing up the mountain, leaning back on the rope, and walking backwards down the 50 degree slope. Awesome! Closer to camp, we had a wicked glassade.
After another tasty dinner, we chatted for a while and headed to the tents. After breakfast tomorrow, we should hit the trail to allow us to descend all the way down to cars and drive back into Lone Pine for a team lunch.
It felt pretty good being the highest people in the US today!
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