The Mountaineer's Route — Page 6

Mount Whitney - Lower Boy Scout Lake

VI. Lower Boy Scout Lake

After the claustrophobic confines of the north fork drainage, it is a relief to at last reach the open vista of Lower Boy Scout Lake, where Mount Whitney's summit and the two Needles make a brief appearance.

I take the opportunity to pump some water and snack on a handful of pretzels. If it seems like it's taken a while to get here, it has! Lower Boy Scout lake sits at 10,300', fully two thousand vertical feet above Whitney Portal and the trailhead.

Mount Whitney - Lower Boy Scout Lake Mount Whitney - Talus Mount Whitney - Lower Boy Scout Lake Mountaineer's Route - Slabs

That makes the lake an excellent place to stop, re-hydrate, and air out the feet—which is exactly what I do. I find nice grassy spot and settle down for a little break.

Lower Boy Scout Lake is considered the first potential camp site along the Mountaineer's Route. At 10,300', it has the advantage of being at a relatively modest elevation, offering warmer weather and less chance of getting sick at night.

But, the area is buggy in summer, and a long way from the summit, so most people choose to camp higher, either at Upper Boy Scout Lake, or Iceberg Lake.

When I pack up and step across the stone path to the opposite side of the lake, I notice a few trout swimming in the shadows.

One of the many pleasures of the Mountaineer's Route is its remarkable variety. The way is broken up into clearly defined sections that bear little resemblance to each other.

This contrast in scenery keeps the route interesting, even in the face of the tremendous vertical distances to be gained. You're always finding something new to look at.

If you're expecting easier going now that we're up above the willows, however, you'll be disappointed. From Lower Boy Scout Lake, a faint use trail quickly leads us to a broad and bare field of talus.

For those of you who are new to talus' pleasures, I won't spoil the fun with too much discussion of it. I will note, however, that for the remainder of the Mountaineer's Route, loose talus and scree will be near-constant companions.

As for routefinding, hikers and climbers can search for cairns to follow through the talus, in hopes of finding easier passage—or you may simply strike off on your own. After about 500 vertical feet of scrambling (that is, after you've had about enough), the route crosses the creek once again, gaining a network of smooth granite slabs.

Here, again, winter snowmelt can be a problem. The slabs lie directly in the creek's path, and in flood seasons, may well be in the creek. Today, however, the slabs are largely bare granite, perfect for avoiding the talus and willows on either side. That eliminates one concern, but I am a little nervous about getting lost in this section.

There is no trail, and there are several critical creek crossings to make to avoid getting trapped in willows, or dead-ended on an impassible slab. Luckily, I stay on-route without having to do any backtracking. Thanks to the hard smooth granite, I make quick time up this section of the climb, and I know Upper Boy Scout Lake can't be far.

next: The Moraines

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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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