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#83075 - 03/19/11 02:03 PM Mountaineer's Route Conditions
Kurt Wedberg Offline


Member

Registered: 06/21/05
Posts: 994
Loc: Bishop, CA
I just got down from back to back trips on the MR March 10-13, and 16-18. Conditions change all the time but here are a few things I found:

*There's more snow in the North Fork Cyn below Lower Boyscout Lake than I've seen in 3+ years. 98% of the willows are covered. The snow is as unconsolidated as always but if you're fortunate enough to follow someone else's boot/snowshoe tracks it is pretty firm.

*The road is melted out to the lower end of the Portal (Meysan Lakes trailhead area). Lots of rocks are strewn across the road as usual.

*In addition to the Road Closed sign there are several big boulders across the road.

*The snowpack is pretty stable with low avalanche risk. There are still the problem areas that I always watch for. Some of the most hazardous areas are the ice at about 9500' across from the Ebersbacher Ledges, and the hill just below Iceberg Lake. The ice across from the E Ledges is mostly covered with snow. When it warms up it'll start sliding. The slope below Iceberg Lake is relatively firm and stable at the moment. When it warms up it'll soften. Keep in mind the bottom of that slope is a great terrain trap. This is the site of the last avalanche burial in this area.

*The is about 8-10' of snow at Iceberg Lake.

*The Mountaineer's Chute has a plentiful amount of snow. The cold temperatures have kept it fairly firm.

*The final chute above the notch has good coverage on the last 2/3 of the route. The bottom third is mostly rock.

A couple pictures are below. Here are some pictures from Mt. Whitney March 10-13, 2011.


Looking higher from Lower Boyscout Lake.


From Iceberg Lake looking towards Mt. Whitney.


About 13,400' in the Mountaineer's Chute.


From the summit looking down at the final chute above the notch on March 12, 2011.


Looking up at the chute above the notch on March 18, 2011. Wind chill brought the temperature down to -10 degrees.
_________________________
Kurt Wedberg
info@sierramountaineering.com
http://www.sierramountaineering.com

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#83080 - 03/19/11 04:55 PM Re: Mountaineer's Route Conditions [Re: Kurt Wedberg]
Berne Offline
Member

Registered: 10/29/08
Posts: 78
Loc: Rancho Bernardo/ San Diego
Thx, Kurt, great pics. Looks like you had excellent snow and weather conditions!

Berne Mettenleiter

Ps: Sorry about the breakin!

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#83084 - 03/19/11 09:15 PM Re: Mountaineer's Route Conditions [Re: Berne]
ClimbSTRONG Offline
Member

Registered: 06/04/07
Posts: 219
Loc: Aptos, California, USA
Kurt (or anyone else with recent beta and/or experience)-
Did you use snowshoes on this trip?
Is your team coming up a fixed rope on the final 400?
Who is currently making the best snow shoes on the market?

Thanks in advance for any info,
Gary
_________________________
climbSTRONG
"Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing" -Helen Keller

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#83086 - 03/19/11 09:56 PM Re: Mountaineer's Route Conditions [Re: ClimbSTRONG]
Kurt Wedberg Offline


Member

Registered: 06/21/05
Posts: 994
Loc: Bishop, CA
Yeah snowshoes are a good idea. You may or may not need them. It's literally a day to day thing right now. If the temperature warms up the snow will be soft. If it stays cold the snow will probably stay more stable.

Yes that's a fixed line that I set for the group to ascend. It doesn't stay there. I put it up and took it down.

I've used Atlas snowshoes for years and like them. I know some people have been having good luck with the MSR Lightening Ascent. I haven't used them personally but I've seen others have a good experience using them.
_________________________
Kurt Wedberg
info@sierramountaineering.com
http://www.sierramountaineering.com

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#83087 - 03/19/11 10:16 PM Re: Mountaineer's Route Conditions [Re: Kurt Wedberg]
ClimbSTRONG Offline
Member

Registered: 06/04/07
Posts: 219
Loc: Aptos, California, USA
Thanks Kurt!
I see that you're headed back up in a week. I live on the coast (Aptos) and if the storm that has been here for the last 2 days has any moisture left by the time it hits the Sierra you will have a bunch of new snow. Best wishes on your upcoming trip.
Gary
_________________________
climbSTRONG
"Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing" -Helen Keller

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#83109 - 03/21/11 11:19 AM Re: Mountaineer's Route Conditions [Re: Kurt Wedberg]
tdmorgan79 Offline
Member

Registered: 01/06/10
Posts: 59
Loc: UT
Looks like everything is about to change...

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#83115 - 03/21/11 02:16 PM Re: Mountaineer's Route Conditions [Re: tdmorgan79]
Kurt Wedberg Offline


Member

Registered: 06/21/05
Posts: 994
Loc: Bishop, CA
Originally Posted By: tdmorgan79
Looks like everything is about to change...


Yeah I think you're correct. I'm teaching an avalanche course right now and I'm interested to see what conditions we find in the backcountry when we dig our pits and do our snow analysis.

I'm scheduled to be back on Whitney later this week. I'll share what I can upon my return.
_________________________
Kurt Wedberg
info@sierramountaineering.com
http://www.sierramountaineering.com

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#83116 - 03/21/11 02:25 PM Re: Mountaineer's Route Conditions [Re: Kurt Wedberg]
tdmorgan79 Offline
Member

Registered: 01/06/10
Posts: 59
Loc: UT
I was hoping to skin up/ski down Whitney tomorrow or Wednesday, but weather (mostly avalanche) considerations have postponed my trip to the weekend.

I've been following avalanche conditions on Whitney most of the season, and my sense is that things have been relatively stable/consolidated up until this storm.

I'm very interested to hear about your pit test results and snow analysis. If the ESAC downgrades to level 2, I'll likely head for the Portal to dig my own pits ASAP.

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#83141 - 03/22/11 09:44 AM Re: Mountaineer's Route Conditions [Re: tdmorgan79]
Steve0 Offline
Member

Registered: 03/22/11
Posts: 6
Loc: USA
Besides snow, does anyone have an idea on where the last usable water source is along the MR? Thank you.

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#83148 - 03/22/11 12:31 PM Re: Mountaineer's Route Conditions [Re: Steve0]
SummitsWithIPAs Offline
Member

Registered: 02/10/11
Posts: 8
Loc: Phx, AZ
Quote:
Besides snow, does anyone have an idea on where the last usable water source is along the MR?


On our trip two weeks ago, we camped at the LBSL elevation. The lower portion of the resulting stream from LBSL feeding down into the E-ledges gully is available (and convenient!) to pull water from. There are also some opening trickles from snowmelt on the southern-facing cliff bands surrounding Iceberg lake, but I would use these to fill water bottles on the way up to Iceberg -- they're somewhat distant from any potential campsites and sparse. For fuel-sake, assume you'll be boiling snow anywhere above LBSL.

Cheers,
Ben

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#83150 - 03/22/11 01:09 PM Re: Mountaineer's Route Conditions [Re: Kurt Wedberg]
skong Offline
Member

Registered: 03/11/11
Posts: 3
Loc: New York
Thanks Kurt.

I am planning to do MR this weekend. However given the current snow condition and weather forecast, I am wondering if it is a good idea to push. Maybe should wait at Lone Pine till later next week. really appreciate if anyone can update latest development up on MR later this week.

btw, I read the avalanche reports from esavalanche.org didn't see Mt Whitney mentioned in it. Is whitney covered by them or not? who/which organization will be alternative source regarding avalanche risk in Whitney area?


regards,
an east coast climber

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#83153 - 03/22/11 02:14 PM Re: Mountaineer's Route Conditions [Re: skong]
tdmorgan79 Offline
Member

Registered: 01/06/10
Posts: 59
Loc: UT
skong,

The best source of Mt. Whitney avalanche beta (other than your own analysis and pit tests) is the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center. Their forecasts cover the same terrain (aspect & elevation) as the Mt. Whitney area:

http://esavalanche.org/



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#83208 - 03/24/11 11:17 AM Re: Mountaineer's Route Conditions [Re: tdmorgan79]
skong Offline
Member

Registered: 03/11/11
Posts: 3
Loc: New York
thanks, tdmorgan79. good to know esavalanche covers same terrain.

Though it is still snowing but the current weather forecast suggest we will have couple sunny days next week. fingers crossed

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#83337 - 03/30/11 07:24 AM Re: Mountaineer's Route Conditions [Re: skong]
Kurt Wedberg Offline


Member

Registered: 06/21/05
Posts: 994
Loc: Bishop, CA
Just got down from a climb up the North Fork. Avalanche conditions are HIGH in the area right now. Things should settle down after the sun has worked on the snow for a while but this may take a week or more. I was amazed to see people heading up there without transceivers or any knowledge of avalanche awareness. Here are a couple pictures from Sunday March 27 plus a video showing all the wind that created wind loading on many slopes.

You can watch our friend dmatt's web site for the updated forecast at http://www.easternsierraforecast.com. The weather is supposed to warm up over the next week. This will eventually help the snow become more stable but until that happens there will be a period of time of weak snowpack while things slide and settle. Keep in mind that if natural avalanches are happening the chances of human triggered slides are much higher.


At 10,600' conducting a shovel compression test to try to gauge snow stability. This is the isolated column we made.


Before conducting the compression tests I stuck my shovel behind the column.


The top 20cm of snow slid off immediately.


I continued with the shovel compression test and we found 3 weak layers at 30cm, 70cm, and 80cm... all of it part of the new snowpack. For those of you who know this test. These layers failed at CT12, CT13, And CT17 respectively.


Two of my guides with me as we watched the results of the shovel compression test. This pit was dug down 1 meter, all of which was part of the new snowpack.


There was lots of sliding going on all aspects from north to south and everything in between.


A video from Lower Boyscout Lake showing the winds above. It was an impressive sight. Gusts were hitting 90+ mph over the crest of the Sierra. As the wind scours some slopes it will load all the snow on other slopes.

Be careful out there everybody!!!!!

_________________________
Kurt Wedberg
info@sierramountaineering.com
http://www.sierramountaineering.com

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#83340 - 03/30/11 08:17 AM Re: Mountaineer's Route Conditions [Re: Kurt Wedberg]
Berne Offline
Member

Registered: 10/29/08
Posts: 78
Loc: Rancho Bernardo/ San Diego
Kurt, thanks for the beta on N.F. conditions. What is the road condition to the portal like?

Thx, Berne Mettenleiter

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#83341 - 03/30/11 08:23 AM Re: Mountaineer's Route Conditions [Re: Berne]
Berne Offline
Member

Registered: 10/29/08
Posts: 78
Loc: Rancho Bernardo/ San Diego
Kurt, just looked at the group hike post and there are pictures of the road to the portal as of yesterday, so no need to respond!!


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#83342 - 03/30/11 08:34 AM Re: Mountaineer's Route Conditions [Re: Berne]
Ryan B Offline
Member

Registered: 01/27/10
Posts: 86
Loc: Rancho Santa Margarita, CA
Hey Kurt, thanks for the conditions report. It's nice to actually know exactly what your talking about after learning all this in your class. Thanks again!
_________________________
http://ryanbracci.smugmug.com

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#83345 - 03/30/11 09:38 AM Re: Mountaineer's Route Conditions [Re: Kurt Wedberg]
JamesL Offline
Member

Registered: 07/16/07
Posts: 613
Loc: California
Kurt,
Thanks for the great information, photos and video.

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#83362 - 03/30/11 01:16 PM Re: Mountaineer's Route Conditions [Re: JamesL]
tdmorgan79 Offline
Member

Registered: 01/06/10
Posts: 59
Loc: UT
Kurt,

Great to run into you and your group on Saturday. As I posted earlier, my tests (ECT) on Sunday morning produced similar results, so I turned back.

Thanks for all the great info!

Taylor

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#83690 - 04/13/11 08:53 AM Re: Mountaineer's Route Conditions [Re: Kurt Wedberg]
gwesely Offline
Member

Registered: 09/24/10
Posts: 10
Loc: SF,CA
Just wondering if anyone knows - ascending the MR in winter - do you need to take the standard E-ledges or with the snowpack can you just keep going up the North Fork drainage all the way to LBL. I'm thinking of doing a hike/ski up and down MR in the next couple of weeks with skins/AT gear as well as crampons and ice axe for the chute.

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