Lone Pine Peak — Page 5

Lone Pine Peak - Northeast Drainage & Headwall

Camp Doom

A few exhausted steps get me atop a broad hump of snow and rock, and Inyo creek's claustrophobic drainage suddenly opens as if an epic curtain has been drawn.

I find a flat, dry patch of ground to pitch my tent. From this spot, I have a perfect vantage of the route ahead, as well as easy access to snow both up and down. Shockingly, it is perhaps the best campsite I've ever had in the Sierra. I set up my tent and start melting snow for water.

Lone Pine Peak: Camp Doom

Tomorrow, I have only to down-climb a 40' slope of rock and sand, and I'll be standing on a great sheet of snow leading up to the great unknown.

From here it's still not apparent whether or not the headwall connects to the summit couloir, or even if this great gully of snow is continuous through Lone Pine Peak's steep granite slabs ahead.

But to this point, at least, I can ask for no better.

The sun goes down, the wind picks up, and the air cools.

Traveling solo has its own special set of pleasures, but in my opinion spending the night alone is not one of them.

Left to myself and my thoughts in the fading light, feelings of impending doom begin to rise within me. In my mind, all the unknowns of Lone Pine Peak have metastasized into a nightmarish void. And gazing up, up does not in the least inspire feelings of security.

The face ahead funnels into one single, winding gully—a massive terrain trap through which avalanches of incalculable size undoubtedly sweep like the hand of a wrathful god. It is easy to imagine rockfall tumbling down that face as well. And the landscape is strikingly steep! From where I stand here at exclusive Camp Doom, solo mountaineers always welcome, Lone Pine Peak's summit is 4700 vertical feet above but less than 1.2 horizontal miles away.

What the heck am I doing here?

Ordinarily I would confront these fears head-on, take it step by step, stay within my limits, know I would turn back if needed. But tonight I am not comforted by that plan. I see it is all a lie. It is nothing but foolishness to believe, for all my might, that I am somehow capable of controlling these forces of chaos. In this vast and uncaring darkness, surrounded by granite and ice, I am but a tiny, fragile spark of life, clinging to an illusion of safety that never was and never will be real.

next: The Hardline

About SierraDescents

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.

Pray for snow.