The Mountaineer's Route — Page 5

Mount Whitney - Ebersbacher Ledges

V. Ebersbacher Ledges

Finding the correct path to gain the Ebersbacher Ledges is a topic of much concern among newcomers to the Mountaineer's Route. In years past, it was indeed challenging to choose the right path.

Now, however, even those with modest route-finding abilities will likely find it easy enough to stay on the emerging use trail, which traverses back and forth across the creek and ends exactly at the short scramble needed to gain the Ledges' start.

Mount Whitney - Ebersbacher Ledges Mount Whitney - Andy on the Ledges Mount Whitney - Ebersbacher Ledges Narrows Mount Whitney - North Fork Drainage

I cross the creek, passing a hidden waterfall, and make my way to the lone Lodge pole pine marking the start of the climb. The sun has turned this east-facing canyon into a solar oven. I'm eager to get higher, hoping for a breeze to cool the air.

An 'easy' Class 3 scramble leads to the start of the Ledges, which then traverse east a hundred yards or so before switchbacking to the west.

Hikers with no climbing experience whatsoever may find the first scramble to the base of the pine tree alarming.

If so, they certainly won't be happy with what comes next: the traverse is undeniably exposed, with a scattering of loose gravel that compromises traction.

For most of the route, climbers can hug the side of the canyon and feel relatively secure, notwithstanding the cliff immediately below.

Be advised, however: one short section of the Ledges narrows to perhaps only 12 inches or so. Unfortunately, this part also happens to be the most exposed.

The standard means of assessing climbing route difficulty struggles to accurately describe a challenge like this.

In terms of difficulty, the section is trivial, Class 1 or 2, no harder than walking along a street curb. But exposure—the prospect of a fatal fall if one slips—changes the equation. I would prefer to see exposed routes assigned a mandatory Class 4 rating regardless of difficulty level. In my mind, this would better advise climbers of the challenge of traversing atop a 100-foot cliff, regardless of how 'hard' the move actually is.

For now, the system remains as it is, and we have no universally agreed-upon way to describe such climbs. Some climbers will find the Ebersbacher Ledges trivial and wonder what all the fuss is about. Others will find them terrifying. In any case, I'm happy to be across the tricky part safely, then on my way back to the west, traversing through the small patch of forest and then hiking up the final third of the canyon, on my way to the first of the Mountaineer Route's pit stops: Lower Boy Scout Lake.

next: Lower Boy Scout Lake

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When there is snow, SierraDescents is Andy Lewicky's California backcountry skiing and mountaineering website. Without snow, sierradescents becomes an ill-tempered hiking and climbing blog.

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