December 5, 2011

Mount Muir Panorama

A very chilly December day atop 14,012' Mount Muir, enjoying the hair-raising exposure off the summit block.

I wanted to get some photos of Muir and Trevor wanted to check Muir off his list, so we teamed up for an unexpectedly long day via the Mount Whitney trail and the West Face.

I have to say, conditions on the MWT are pretty harsh right now. The trail was much icier than expected, starting right from the parking lot. There is snow in patches up to about Trail Camp. The switchbacks above are snowbound, with variable conditions—some soft, some crust, and lots of hard snow/ice. We spent most of the day skittering about in crampons. Plenty of ice to necessitate them, but not enough snow to cover the rocky ground, making for an incredibly fatiguing (and slow!) day of travel.

As for the normally-class 3 moves up Muir's summit pinnacle, there was just enough snow and ice to up the difficulty level, thus already ruining my goal this year of making it through the entire winter season without scaring myself. On top, Trevor held my legs while I perched on my crampons and tried to film a 360-degree view. Sorry I didn't get closer to the edge of that incredible east face, but my aluminum points felt like skates on cold Sierra granite.

It was both interesting and challenging trying to stay comfortable in temperatures that ranged probably between 1°-24° F the whole day. We hardly stopped moving, taking only short breaks, as even five minutes of sitting was enough to make us feel alarmingly cold. You really get a sense, in those conditions, of how even a minor mishap could quickly spiral out of control. Winter really does change everything—there's a big difference between climbing a big peak in December versus April or even March. Thankfully there were only light wind to contend with.

Technical note: no, I wasn't intending to shoot M.O.S. The camera I'm using is a Sony NX70U. Picture is nice, esp. in center frame, but for some reason the camera's sound malfunctioned in the cold. So, I've replaced the empty audio track with some wind sounds I've got in my sample library. I was tempted to try to overdub the narration, which was lost, but somehow I couldn't get the right edge into my voice here in the warmth and comfort of my apartment...sorry!


Andy Lewicky

ANDY LEWICKY is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer who enjoys good books, jasmine tea, long walks in the rain, and climbing and skiing the big peaks of the California Sierra. email | follow

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