The Fresh Air Traverse

Mount Whitney's East Face is perhaps the classic Alpine climbing route in the Sierra, featuring an otherworldly mix of moderate climbing and breathtaking exposure. I had wanted to climb the East Face from the moment I first summited Whitney—but at the time it seemed like a dream that would permanently remain unfulfilled. Last weekend, I got the chance to give it a try with help from Kurt Wedberg of Sierra Mountaineering International.

It was extraordinary. This also happens to be the first trip where I carried an HD video camera (actually two), so I'm working on a bottom-to-top video of the climb. While you're waiting for that, here's a taste of one of the climb's most famous segments...the 'Fresh Air' Traverse.

As you may be guessing, switching from SD to HD video has proven to be a total trip down the rabbit hole. Basically every downstream software/device/system I owned had to be replaced to cope with the file size, plus there's literally a graduate degree's worth of standards and compatibility info to learn. So, I'm beat and my operating budget for the rest of the year has been annihilated. But it's hard to argue with the end result.

— August 16, 2009

Andy Lewicky is the author and creator of SierraDescents

Sierra Journal August 16, 2009 at 2:58 pm

NICE!!! Love it. Can't wait to see the rest of the trip. Congrats on a great route...

Dan Conger August 17, 2009 at 11:06 am

Kurt's Dad, John, attends my folk's church in Bishop, CA. When I end up doing the Palisades I plan on hiring Kurt to guide me. Looking forward to the full trip report.

Mike August 17, 2009 at 12:05 pm

Very cool Andy. Next time if you are wearing the helmet cam, we all would have liked for you to look off to your right and left more for a reference point. Very nice. I used to live in Bishop - Kurt Wedburg is a cool guy. Todd Vogel is another very cool guy to do a guided trip with.

Andy August 21, 2009 at 11:36 am

No problem, Mike. Would you also like it if I take a nice big pendulum fall next time? That should make for great helmet cam footage! :)

Seriously, the reason the camera tends to aim directly into the rock is because I was totally freaked out. I was trying to avoid looking down. Higher up, I realized I could close my eyes, and then aim the camera down, so I'd get good shots of exposure without overwhelming myself.

There's lots I'd do different next time regarding photography/videography, but overall using the HD helmet cam was awesome. I got shots you'd otherwise never see. And yeah, climbing with Kurt was great!

Mike August 22, 2009 at 8:31 am

Lol...yeah it is easy for me to casually hand out advice whilst sitting on my ass with cup of tea in hand. I would be freaked on that traverse too while trying to get enough air at almost 14k... Hiring a guide seems like such a great way to go. Instant ultimately safe partner. What's next for you andy?

Andrew McLean September 1, 2009 at 5:45 pm

Nice climb and excellent video! I loved the use of the helmet cam for rock climbing.

If you could take a big whipper of a lead fall next time, that would be greatly appreciated. :)


Andy September 1, 2009 at 6:44 pm

Anything for you, Andrew! I'll see to it that the top piece fails, too, just to add to the photographic impact. :)

Thanks for stopping by!

HVH February 6, 2010 at 1:46 am

hope my palms don't sweat as much when i do the traverse as it did when i was watching it. thanks for sharing.