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Electrical Storms on the 3rd Pillar of Dana
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By Tyson Waldron
From Reno, NV
Jul 14, 2014
Woodfords 5.10 aka Heaven on Earth
Hey Guys,

Have long standing plans to finally get up and tick the 3rd Pillar with my good buddy... The weekend coming up (7/17/14) is one of the only weekends we can both get together to do it, as he is insanely busy, and even I am regrettably much more of a weekend warrior than I ever have been as of late... It feels like this is one of our only windows for this route to go down together this summer.

Lee Vining shows a pretty consistent 30% chance of electrical storms throughout the week, Tuolumne Meadows shows only a 5% chance of precip...

I've gotten trapped in a "30% chance of thunderstorms" thunderstorm at altitude before, and can honestly say I feel lucky to be alive from it. I understand they are no joke. That isn't the question here.

Just based on the topography of the area, it seems like the Dana Plateau is a pretty terrible place to be during a lightning storm.

Anybody have tales of epics that they can shed good hindsight info from when the weather went to shit on this route?

Is it best to rap, leaving gear, just to avoid the plateau if weather comes? Do you get any warning of the storm or does it typically come directly from your blind side (southwest)?

If the weather report worsens, we probably wont make an attempt. But as is, we will be going for it. Most likely an alpine start on Saturday to hopefully avoid thunderstorms that generally form in the afternoon.

Thanks for your tales in advance!

FLAG
By FrankPS
From Atascadero, CA
Jul 14, 2014
I'm going this weekend up to Mt. Lyell in Yosemite. I don't like the 30% chance. I know if I start early (not from the trailhead, but from a high camp), I can possibly summit and get down, at least partway, before the afternoon thunderstorms come. If the sky is looking cloudy/sketchy, it's a real judgment call as to whether to attempt a prominent formation.

If the dark thunderclouds appear before you even start your climb, the smart thing to do is to not chance it. YMMV.

FLAG
By Cor
Jul 14, 2014
black nasty
Use the weather.gov (nws) 7 day forecast page.
Scroll down, and on the right is the hourly weather graph.
This is a great thing to see when things (%) go up or down by the hour.

Also on the map on that page you can zoom in, and get a point forecast for
"The mountain" (at elevation). Then look at the hourly graph.

This has worked well for us here in Colorado.
Hope this helps you choose things some...
But 30%. I would go for it...

C

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By Fat Dad
From Los Angeles, CA
Jul 14, 2014
Good tip Cor. I'm interested in other responses since a buddy and I were planning on the T-bolt-Sill traverse this weekend.

FLAG
By fossana
From Bishop, CA
Jul 15, 2014
West Overhang
The fine folks at climbingweather.com did it for you. Here's the point forecast (leverages NOAA's data):
climbingweather.com/California...

FLAG
By Tyson Waldron
From Reno, NV
Jul 15, 2014
Woodfords 5.10 aka Heaven on Earth
Thanks for the responses guys,

I feel like I've got a pretty good handle on the report, i.e. 30% of the day on or near this peak is gonna be no bueno.

What I'm really hoping to get is a few TR's of when the weather didn't cooperate on this climb and what they did (or wish'd they'd done)....

Probably a small pool of qualified respondents, I'm know... but one can hope.

FLAG
By Tyler Wick
From Bishop, CA
Jul 15, 2014
ECM
In my experience anything 20% and above in the Sierra (from the NWS) usually means more like 50% chance its going to tstorm at some point in the day.

Hopefully this system drops all its moisture early in the week and will be mostly cleared out by the weekend. If not, watch the build up on Friday and you should be able to get an idea of what your timeline will be on Saturday.

Edit to add:
If you get caught in a thunderstorm on that route, rap or hunker down if there is a decent spot. You can rap with a single and will probably have to leave gear. You definitely don't want to be on top.

FLAG
By Tyson Waldron
From Reno, NV
Jul 15, 2014
Woodfords 5.10 aka Heaven on Earth
I agree Tyler. In my experience with the Sierra a 30% chance is almost a guarantee it will storm at some point during the day.

Hopefully we can get to Lee Vining before dark on Friday to see what it looks like. We will be leaving the Reno area by 3p hopefully.

I feel like the most likely bad scenario is we get the route done in clear weather, but get nailed on our descent back to the truck. Never been to the plateau, but it looks massive, with almost no topographic reliefs, which concerns me... Once we are off the Plateau it should be easier to find a place to hunker down if needed. I'm wondering if retreating back to a gully near the third pillar is a better option if we get hit less than 1/2 way on the plateau while descending.

FLAG
 
By Greg Barnes
Jul 15, 2014
Hanging out with Karin on the summit of Warlock Ne...
Keep checking the forecast in case it improves - it often does at the end of thunderstorm cycles.

If it doesn't, pick something else. The plateau is one of the worst spots you can imagine in a thunderstorm, and you may not be able to see buildup from the route!

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By Rohan de Launey
From South Lake Tahoe
Jul 15, 2014
Luther Spires
Just got back from day trip to tuolumne. Dana got creamed about noon by rain, thunder and lightning around 1. If you're set on it start pre dawn and be into the descent by noon. Storm came from south east and was the usual summer pattern as the east side heats up.

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By Andy Laakmann
Site Landlord
From Bend, OR
Jul 16, 2014
Racked and loaded... name that splitter behind me?...
This is my favorite tool for predicting precipitation in the the short or long term forecast. You can get down to 6 hour increments, and it is very accurate in the 24-48 hour window.

It doesn't differentiate between convective (thunderstorm) or stratus (normal) precipitation... but in Summer in the mountains, convective precip is the only kind! :)

You need to convert from ZULU to local time yourself. This is an aviation related site.

hpc.ncep.noaa.gov/qpf/qpf2.sht...

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By Fat Dad
From Los Angeles, CA
Jul 16, 2014
Have fun Tyson. My trip fell thru (for reasons other than weather) but the forecast appears to be improving. Third Pillar is an awesome climb. The Dana Plateau is a great place as well. Enjoy.

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By Tyson Waldron
From Reno, NV
Jul 18, 2014
Woodfords 5.10 aka Heaven on Earth
Weather report has since been upgraded to 40%... Hopefully we can make a day out of Tuolomne before the weather hits, Dana sounds like an epic in the making Saturday.

We'll see how she looks in the afternoon tomorrow when we get there.

Thanks everyone for your two cents.

FLAG
By Colonel Mustard
From Reno, NV
Jul 18, 2014
Colonel Mustard
Wrap yourselves in asbestos and climb only using soft goods (i.e. jammed knots, etc.). When it gets really bad, hold a marmot with a tinfoil hat over your head to absorb the blow! You will be safe from the fury of Thor!

But seriously, that sucks. Usually, you can squeeze mornings to early afternoon on a t storm day. You should get back to that Olmstead cragging, or visit Murphy Creek! Plenty of cragging options....

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By Tyson Waldron
From Reno, NV
Jul 18, 2014
Woodfords 5.10 aka Heaven on Earth
Mustard I was looking at Lucky Streaks, sounds like a fine line! I know you've raved about it to me before, but I hadn't really looked into it until last night surveying my options... Sounds awesome!

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By Ryan Williams
Administrator
From London (sort of)
Jul 18, 2014
El Chorro
Lucky Streaks is an awesome route. It's hard to compare to the Third Pillar though. Very different climbing. It's definitely harder.

I'm not sure being on the top of Fairview is any better than being on top of the Dana Plateau though. At least you can sprint to the forest if you're on top of the plateau. Literally, as soon as you top out, the terrain is a big meadow and you get back down pretty fast even if you're just walking. I don't really remember the descent off of Fairview but I'm sure it would suck in a thunderstorm. Also not an easy route to bail on… even when leaving gear.

If you start at 4 am you could be descending to the base of the Third Pillar at sunrise (which would be beautiful) and be headed down before noon. The position and the last few pitches of the route are worth it. The climbing is also easier than Lucky Streaks by a long shot. And there is a big chimney in the middle that is protected from above in case you need to ride out a storm.

FLAG
 
By Tyson Waldron
From Reno, NV
Jul 18, 2014
Woodfords 5.10 aka Heaven on Earth
Thanks Ryan, ya I haven't been on top of Fairview before, so I am also a bit unclear on how hard getting off it in a hurry would be, I just liked the short approach situation of it in comparison to Dana, and the fact that it doesn't go anywhere near the true summit (not that that spells safety in thunderstorms by any stretch!). Good to know that it might be difficult to bail off of though, I dont have a topo of it, but I see now on Blitzo's photo topo some traversing up high. I have no issue leaving gear if it's a dangerous situation... It can always be recovered.

The grade of Lucky should be in my wheel house though. Trust me I still really want Dana above anything else! An alpine start is still a possibility, we'll see what the weather does this afternoon. We are headed out in a few.

FLAG
By Ryan Williams
Administrator
From London (sort of)
Jul 19, 2014
El Chorro
Hope you're asleep right now! I woke up this morning to tstorm forcast in most of England as well, so I'm going to work instead and taking Monday off, hoping that it will be warm and dry enough for a DWS trip!

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By Colonel Mustard
From Reno, NV
Jul 19, 2014
Colonel Mustard
Uh, I don't think I raved about Lucky Streaks? Good, but not great like OZ. Worth doing, just overhyped, in my opinion. But you may love it. Get ready for a calf pump!

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By Fat Dad
From Los Angeles, CA
Jul 19, 2014
Bit of thead drift, but I think Lucky Streaks is a great route. Certainly OZ is better, but if that's a 10 then Lucky Streaks is a 9. Still not a good place to be in poor weather though.

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By Ryan Williams
Administrator
From London (sort of)
Jul 20, 2014
El Chorro
Ha, if Lucky Streaks is 5.9 then the Third Pillar is 5.8!

So… what happened?

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By Fat Dad
From Los Angeles, CA
Jul 20, 2014
I meant quality not rating.

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By Tyson Waldron
From Reno, NV
Jul 21, 2014
Woodfords 5.10 aka Heaven on Earth
So, we went for it.


We decided that Tim and I both needed a break from real life... regardless of whether or not we got to tick a big line over the weekend. So we loaded up my Ranger with all the requisite beer and camp stuff and set off for our ninja camping spot just outside of Lee Vining.

The drive out Friday afternoon included heavy rain and lightning at times (even a few fires caused by said lightning), but the Lee Vining and Tuolomne areas appeared to not have gotten any of it. We asked around once we got into town, and everyone said it had been dry all day, but had been full conditions just a day before on Thursday.

On our way to to climb at 11,500ft!
On our way to to climb at 11,500ft!


We discussed our options:
1.We don't even make an attempt, and just see whats good in the Meadows.
2.We go for it, true alpine start, hiking by 4am.
3.We take a warm up day, and then go for it on Sunday, since the report was slightly better.

Option #2 was decided on at 2:45am the next morning. A quick breakfast jetboil style, and the drive up, put us at the parking spot by 4am. Right on time.

I was worried about finding all of these things in the dark... the parking spot, the climbers trail, the talus field on the way to the plateau, etc, but everything went incredibly smoothly, we didn't turn around once. Stoke levels were very high.

Tim was hiking fast, and I was sweating and gasping my ass off to keep up, even my trekking poles against his "jack shit" didn't help... He was moving, and leading the approach in the dark without any missteps.

We met the plateau right as headlamps were becoming unnecessary, probably about 5:30am.


Tim on DP at dawn
Tim on DP at dawn


As Ryan said earlier in the thread, the Plateau at dawn was incredible. Thursday's rain didn't hurt that situation at all.

Dana Plateau nalgene.
Dana Plateau nalgene.


I know we were on a major time crunch, but I couldn't stop enjoying where we were!!

The Third Pillar summit at dawn
The Third Pillar summit at dawn


But, there was a mission at hand, we started our, "deproach" to the climb by about 6:00am.

Sights set on the objective.
Sights set on the objective.


I think the rain from Thursday had washed away all of the foot tracks to the start of the deproach. We hemmed and hawed over how to get down, and nothing looked really obvious. Perhaps we missed a cairn, but we were looking. Anyway, we decided on taking a line down into the bowl North of the third pillar and then crossing over a ridge back towards it.

The view from the deproach route we took.
The view from the deproach route we took.


It was loose, but not too sketchy, and eventually we crossed over into what is probably the gully we should have started down, and we finally got the full glimpse of our objective:

Our first look at her. ~6:30am
Our first look at her. ~6:30am


Some how we were able to navigate the treacherous snow field from the wicked 2013/2014 snow year

I can't believe Tim made me leave the ice axe...
I can't believe Tim made me leave the ice axe...


We were on route by 7am.

Route finding became an issue right away, but especially on p2, as I was trying to find the "flared 5.10a fingers" left of the more direct "flared 5.9 chimney" option. I started about 30 feet up some stuff that had no protection, and looked like it had even less higher up. I finally admitted to myself I was totally off route, and down-climbed to a ledge and talked it out with Tim. I decided to go waaay left, probably a good 50ft laterally of the belay, and found what had to be the correct variation. It was tuff! solid 5.9 jamming in a tight corner, leading to shallow, insecure fingers and pro through the crux. Even higher up in the easier OW sections I thought remained fairly sustained and physical. Altogether, we thought p2 was probably the most sustained part of the entire route. I used up essentially our whole rack (I'll admit, I stitched through the crux, but many other sections I was doing anything but) in a long 180ft pitch, and belayed at a very small ledge. By the time Tim made it up to me, we had spent 1.5 hrs on pitch 2. OUCH.

Top of Pitch 2
Top of Pitch 2


Tim led pitch 3, and turned it into a monster. Not only did he lead past the belay about 50ft (he belayed on top of that giant ominous looking flake with the .10a fingers or chimney option) but lower down on the pitch he unknowingly took the ".10c LB poor pro" variation, which was very stout and very insecure. Liebacking on a relatively sloping edge with grainy smears for your feet. He nearly took a big one as he struggled to place protection where there wasn't any, right at the crux, but he ended up pulling through like a champ.

Tim on his mega P3
Tim on his mega P3


By the time we were on top Tim's pitch 3, we were both way more exhausted than we thought we would be, and the route was shaping up to be way harder than we thought it would be. An uncharacteristic route-finding error by me, .10a giving me a real fight, and Tim's .10c deviation had gotten me a bit out of my head. And the "cruxes" of the route were mine and just about to begin!

I had been overly confident I could just do this route off-the-couch without any worries, and I was getting a bit of a wake up call. Even though the onsight was still intact, it felt really far from it at that belay.

I had to find another gear.


Tim looking up the P4 "crux"
Tim looking up the P4 "crux"


Right off our belay, was the .10b face section that used to have pitons, that everyone talks about. I had it built up in my head that this was going to be the routes' crux, and I was losing steam, a bad combo... I shook it off best I could, found the good nut placements, and flowed through it. We both thought a section a little higher on the pitch was probably harder, but no way was either .10b. This was just the confidence boost I needed!

I had the last pitch as well, and again it went smoothly. The first .10 section was awesome, and the second .10 section was short but super beta intensive on tiny pro.

Me starting the money 5.9 section of p5
Me starting the money 5.9 section of p5


finishing up the climb! ~11:40a
finishing up the climb! ~11:40a


We reached the awesome summit at 11:40am and found nothing but clear skies. Time for a well deserved summit beer, a breath of relaxation that we had cheated the weather report, and photo ops the whole way down!

Tim stoked on the summit
Tim stoked on the summit


Mt. Dana, with some clouds starting to form.
Mt. Dana, with some clouds starting to form.


The plateau's beauty was the highlight of the clim...
The plateau's beauty was the highlight of the climb for me.


Incredible space.
Incredible space.


In the valley just below the plateau, we could see that the clouds were finally starting to look like they meant business, other than just making awesome clouds for photos.

Dana Valley.
Dana Valley.


We got to the truck just before full conditions were upon us, and even had a few scary lightning strikes a bit too close and loud for comfort on the last 20 minutes of the descent, but nothing bad at all given the weather report.

We drove into Tuolomne to watch the Saturday tourists scramble for cover in what developed into a torrential downpour/hail/intense lightning storm.

We absolutely could not have timed our climb better. We stayed on target with our goal times the whole day, and got it done. We were really pumped up about our success... Our luck with the weather, our staying on schedule, and of course: the onsight.

The next day,(Sunday) ended up forming storms incredibly early. By 9:30am rain and lightning had already started in Tuolomne, just as we were racking up for the West Crack on DAFF Dome. It got nasty fast, and so we assisted some people in bailing off the route by letting them use our rope to double rap form the p1 station, and then we got the heck out of the meadow. It was an intense storm the whole way home, flash flooding in many parts.... We were in awe at how well we had timed the weather.

We know we got away with a big one here, but she is in the bag and ticked!

Thank you everyone for all the help in our mission.

FLAG
By Austin Baird
From SLC, Utah
Jul 21, 2014
Me scaring years off my mom's life
Awesome TR. Well-done! And rad pictures.

FLAG
 
By Colonel Mustard
From Reno, NV
Jul 21, 2014
Colonel Mustard
Psyched for you and Tim, Tyson!

FLAG
By Cor
Jul 21, 2014
black nasty
Good job guys! And as the story goes… Ya don't know until ya go! Great photos!

FLAG


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