45 Pitches

In From the Range of Light & Fast by Neil Satterfield5 Comments

At Sierra Mountian Guides we connect people to the mountains.  There is a variety of ways to get this done.  This July / August 2014 John B. came out  from Chicago to the Sierra to get connected to some of the best alpine crack climbing the Sierra has to offer. When the dust settled, and the tape came off, we had done 45 pitches of Sierra granite crack climbing. Whew, what a trip, and way to go John!

John B. working the crux on the Red Dihedral pitch.

John B. working the crux on the Red Dihedral pitch.

 

 

Day 1 The first portion of the trip included Steve, also from Chicago, John, Viren and I on an adventure to climb Merriam peak.  We started day one with a crack climbing tune up at Patricia Bowl.  This alpine crag offers amazing crack climbing with a jaw dropping background.  After negotiating the road construction in the canyon we set off for the 45 minute approach hike. We spent the day jamming and laughing our way up some great climbs.  We finished it off with a swim in the lake below the crag.  What a great day.

Hiking in to Patricia Bowl.

Hiking in to Patricia Bowl.

Viren and Steve getting it done.

Viren and Steve getting it done.

Ready to rock.

Ready to rock.

Tuning up the crack technique.

Tuning up the crack technique.

Post climbing alpine lake swim.

Post climbing alpine lake swim.

 

Day 2  This was our approach day to the Royce Lakes basin which sits right near the base of Merriam Peak.  The hike alone is worth mentioning as it allows great views, virtually untouched off trail hiking, and amazing views of the high peaks, pristine meadows and other worldly glacier polished slabs. When we arrived we got our camp set up, cleaned up, and enjoyed a great dinner prepared by Sara.  It was a windy day and we went to bed hoping for good weather in the morning.

On our way into Merriam.

On our way into Merriam.

Glaciology field training session.

Glaciology field training session.

Woking up the amazing glacier polished slabs.

Woking up the amazing glacier polished slabs.

Almost to camp in the Royce Lakes Basin

Almost to camp in the Royce Lakes Basin

The crew at the Merriam Peak base camp.

The crew at the Merriam Peak base camp.

 

Day 3  We woke to clear a sky and the wind machine had turned off.  After some much needed coffee we started off to the base of the climb.  John and I roped up together with Steve and Viren partnering up.  The North Buttress of Merriam is a classic 5.10b multi pitch granite crack climb.  As we made our way from pitch to pitch we enjoyed great weather and lots of laughs.  Typically a cold climb as it is North facing the lack of wind and warm temps made for a great day. The meat of the climb comes in the first 6 pitches but the upper portion of alpine ridge and face climbing is super fun as well.  Both  Steve and John did very well and we enjoyed a pleasant hike back to camp followed by another great meal by Sara.

Pano from camp with John B.

Pano from camp with John B.

North Buttress

North Buttress

North Buttress

North Buttress

Amazing granite on the 1st pitch.

Amazing granite on the 1st pitch.

Triple Crack Pitch

Triple Crack Pitch

Steep climbing on the way up to the crux pitch.

Steep climbing on the way up to the crux pitch.

Great hands.

Great hands.

Working the stem just after the crux.

Working the stem just after the crux.

The view of the Royce Lakes at the top of the crux pitch.

The view of the Royce Lakes at the top of the crux pitch.

Starting the top pitches.

Starting the top pitches.

Great climbing on the ridge on the way to the summit.

Great climbing on the ridge on the way to the summit.

Just past the summit on the  descent.

Just past the summit on the descent.

Happy guys after the climb.

Happy guys after the climb.

Royce Lake with Merriam in the Back.

Royce Lake with Merriam in the Back.

 

Day 4 This was our hike out day.  We made a loop out of the upper portion by wrapping from the Royce Lakes basin to Pine Creek Pass and then back down to the Pine Creek Trailhead.  John and I said goodbye to Steve and Viren on the hike down as Steve had to catch a flight back to Chicago.   John and I climbed a couple of fun pitches on the Bownstone Wall which is right off the trail.  The thunder, lightning, and rain told us it was time to move on.

Sunrise Pano

Sunrise Pano

Merriam in the background. We had the good weather.

Merriam in the background. We had the good weather.

Side view on the hike out.

Side view on the hike out.

Great view on the hike out.

Great view on the hike out.

A little climbing on the hike out.

A little climbing on the hike out.

 

Day 5 A well deserved rest day.

Day 6 The weather forecast didn’t look too good but John and I decided to at least check out Cardinal Pinnacle.  We drove to the base and it looked good enough to do the  approach.  As we came to the base of the West Face route the weather looked good enough to give it a go.  We climbed the West Face, then as the weather was till good, made our way to the summit of the Pinnacle.  Then, to make, a day of it, we did some top-roping. When we wrapped up we had done 10 pitches of climbing on a day that looked like a bust.  As we came back to the car we ran into our friends Tay and Ram.  They had been in the area backpacking, recognized our car, and hung out to wait for us.  We ended up grabbing dinner in Bishop together.  What a great ending to a great day.

John with Cardinal Pinnacle in the background.

John with Cardinal Pinnacle in the background.

Close up of Cardinal Pinnacle.

Close up of Cardinal Pinnacle.

 

Day 7 The rain that stayed away the day before looked to be catching up with us today so we decided to hit Benton Crag. We did get some precip but were still able to get some fun pitches of granite climbing in.

John climbing at Benton Crag.

John climbing at Benton Crag.

Fun climbing on high friction granite.

Fun climbing on high friction granite.

Taylor climbing next door.

Taylor climbing next door.

Trying to stay dry while John was cranking out pitches.

Trying to stay dry while John was cranking out pitches.

 

 

Day 8 Approach to the Incredible Hulk.  Fun hiking with some good elevation gain to a great lake campsite. After a swim, and a good dinner we hit the hay early.

John B. at the Mono Village on the approach to the Hulk.

John B. at the Mono Village on the approach to the Hulk.

John B. in Little Slide Canyon.

John B. in Little Slide Canyon.

The Incredible Hulk with a cool alpine crag in the background.

The Incredible Hulk with a cool alpine crag in the background.

John after out lake swim.

John after out lake swim.

Cool Alpine Lichen

Cool Alpine Lichen

Sunset on the Hulk from camp.

Sunset on the Hulk from camp.

 

Day 9 Early start for the Red Dihedral.  We racked up just as the sun was coming up.  We fired up the route and ended up having an unusually warm and windless morning.  There was a 20% chance of thunderstorms after 11am so we wanted to get off the climb early.  The route delivered in classic style.  Incredible rock, great crack climbing, and plenty of pitches.  We came back to camp tired, dry, and ready to celebrate an incredible trip.

John B. contemplates another instant oatmeal breakfast on our Alpine Start

John B. contemplates another instant oatmeal breakfast on our Alpine Start

Early Pitches on the Red Dihedral.

Early Pitches on the Red Dihedral.

John B. getting into the business on the Red Dihedral pitch

John B. getting into the business on the Red Dihedral pitch

John B. working the crux on the Red Dihedral pitch.

John B. working the crux on the Red Dihedral pitch.

All smiles on perfect granite.

All smiles on perfect granite.

Nice rest break after another pitch of 5.10.

Nice rest break after another pitch of 5.10.

John B. coming over the notch as we approach the last pitches.

John B. coming over the notch as we approach the last pitches.

Selfie on the summit.

Selfie on the summit.

John B. in the descent gully.

John B. in the descent gully.

The Incredible Hulk with a cool granite peak in the background :-). That never gets old.

The Incredible Hulk with a cool granite peak in the background :-). That never gets old.

 

Day 10 After a great nights sleep we had breakfast and then hiked back to the car.  As John and I said our goodbyes we tallied that in nine days we had climbed 45 pitches of hard Sierra crack and face climbing.  Quite an accomplishment for a business man from Chicago.  Way to go John! Thanks for a great trip. -Neil

Smokey Sunrise

Smokey Sunrise

Comments

  1. I could not have completed this incredible accomplishment without the fortitude of my good friend and partner, Neil Satterfield. Thank you Neil!

  2. Awesome accomplishment John! You are an amazing dude! Your climbing exploits are legendary throughout the Sierras. You are indeed the 21st century Norman Clyde.

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