On Saturday July 1, we left Bishop at 7:20am. At 11am we had reached Bishop Pass (12,000' with snow cover.) After a ~1 hour break, we continued on snow and reached Thunderbolt Pass (12,500') ~3:30pm. We found some good dry camping spots right at the pass. We were a little tired from going in the soft snow with full packs; going further would have been hard and would not have bought us much for the next day.
Sunday, we left camp 6:20 am with crampons on. Traversing with crampons toward Potluck Pass was somewhat complicated by the sun cups that were tilting in the angle of the slope. Balance while cramponing from one sun cup ridge to the other took attention and this traverse lead to much anke twisting. We reached Potluck Pass at 8am. The infamous slabs on the east side of Potluck Pass were partly snow covered. We found and followed a steep snow slope which ended up working well,though slow. Next, we were on for the long approach to Sill's West ridge. We followed the broad drainage NE, which then steepens at it curves NW. The steeper part measured 40 degrees with an inclinometer. We left the snow a little early and contoured high in the rocks on the right side. It would have been easier to just follow the snow field until we could head up for the ridge. We finally headed for the ridge and followed a mostly class 2-3 route to the summit. We reached the top at 12:30. On the way up, several of us had the typical altitude-related symptoms, but this was a cheerful group: everyone held their own and kept a smile on their face through it all. We savored our summit victory and spent 1:15 on the summit. The wind and cold were moderate for 14,153'.
We came down mostly on snow. We picked a mostly dried rock route to go up over Potluck Pass. After a long break, we left Potluck at 4:30pm and contoured over soft snow, a few dry patches, and many rock fall trails to Thunderbolt Pass. We reached camp at 6:20pm. A 12 hour day including our 1 hour + on the summit.
On Monday, we left Thunderbolt around 7:30am. Toinette and Helga had not gotten their fill of fresh air. They signed out and went to climb Columbine.
On Tuesday, Kirsten and I took advantage of our acclimatization to hike White Mountain and visit the 4000 year old Bristlecone Pine Forest. On that side of the valley, there was only a small snow field just below the 14,200' summit. Quite a different world from the Sierras. Our hike started under heavy clouds. We had barely enough time to summit before the summit disappeared in ugly black clouds and we were chased off by a loud thunder clap. We did not linger on the way back. The sheep at Barcroft Lab say hello.
All in all, a successful and enjoyable trip made up of wonderful participants.
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