Direct South Face of Lone Pine Peak

26 May 2001 - by Michael Gordon

Alois Smrz and I completed the Direct South Face of Lone Pine Peak (V, 5.8) in 15.5 hours car-to-car on Saturday, 26 May 2001. The route was originally put up over three days in 1970 by Fred Beckey and Eric Bjornstad and had spots of aid on it.

We employed variations to the Beckey/Bjornstad line which Alois Smrz and Miguel Carmona first climbed in 1984 (bypassing some of the nastier gullies, tunnels, and chimneys taken by the FA party). We finished on a nice 5.8 handcrack, bypassing the A0/5.9 tension traverse to an ugly looking chimney which finishes the standard route. Alois has now done this route four times in 19 years, and also holds the first winter ascent of this route in 1993.

The approach - though short in distance - is over difficult and trail-less terrain, and required nearly five hours of our effort. We began walking from the Tuttle Creek bivy (passing the Stonehouse), and roped up somewhere between 830 and 900. Key to our success was consumption of as much water as we could handle: multiple quarts Friday night, one gallon on the approach, 3 to four quarts on the climb, and one quart on the descent. We drank approximately 9 quarts during the approach and climb, but were still dehydrated upon summiting.

Alois counts sixteen pitches of climbing, though we 3rd classed the first pitch, linked pitches, and even unroped for a couple of hundred feet somewhere around the 11th or 12th pitch. After topping out, there is still two unroped 4th class pitches of exciting exposure. If one were to belay it all, it might come in at 20+ pitches, but you might never finish in a day. The descent takes three hours down the east slopes.

The Direct South Face is far from classic, but the exposure at times and its position on the incredible South Face of Lone Pine Peak is amazing. Several of the pitches were quite nice, but were equally compensated for by pitches with poor rock, biting ants, and dirty, bush-filled gullies. However, this is a great testpiece as a Grade V climb done car-to-car (my first Grade V altogether!). A real strong and fast party can likely knock a few hours off our time.

Even when you're a mere hundred yards from the car on the return, the last crux of the day is in front of you: fording Tuttle Creek in early season. It's not wide, but currently is flowing hard. You have to find a safe crossing, and bushwack in one side, and out the other. Quite fun in the waning light of a long, hard day.

Gordie's Ramblings in the High Sierra "Yellow Pages for the Sierra - If it's not here, it doesn't exist "

'Suddenly, peering down from my giddy perch in the sky, I understood for the first time that here at my side was not friend but family, and that what we were doing was not climbing but living...' Robert Leonard Reid

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