May 23, 2011
I'm so excited—Whitney has eluded me since 2006, when I passed on skiing the Mountaineer's Route, figuring I'd get to it next season. Every year since then, I've waited for the north chute (above the notch) to fill in...and waited, and waited, and waited...
This year too, despite the record snowfall, many of the big north faces in the Eastern Sierra failed to fill in, including Whitney's north chute—alas. As I was resigning myself to yet another year of waiting, I suddenly wondered if maybe, just maybe, something else on Whitney's north face might be skiable. So, back to Whitney Portal I went. Starting from Iceberg Lake, Trevor and I went up Iceberg col, then began traversing around the base of the north face, toward Arctic and Guitar Lakes. When we found what looked like a skiable line through roughly the middle of the north face, up we went.
I think of all my Sierra adventures this one becomes an instant favorite. We did the whole route in one huge day, under changing light and alternately clear and snowy skies, and I don't think the interior Sierra has ever looked so good. The north face proved steeper than I was expecting, and fairly complex, with an interesting choke section that passed through cliffs and slabs. Snow quality was quite tasty, not at all the scary ice I was expecting, and I skied right from the Smithsonian shelter atop the summit, thanks to a skinny ribbon of snow that wound its way across the summit plateau. Outstanding!