NE Ridge (full)
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looking back down the long ridgeline to the Owens ...
The NE Ridge of Lone Pine Peak is one of the 3 prominent ridges recognizable from the town of Lone Pine. The full ridge traverse is 3 miles long and rises 6900 feet. Many people spend multiple days on this route so be forewarned. There is no water once on the ridge, although there may be water on the descent depending on the time of year. An abbreviated option is to access the ridge midway from the Meysan Lakes trailhead (the standard guided version).
Secor bumped this up to 5.7 in newer editions of The High Sierra: Peaks, Passes and Trails. I did not encounter anything harder than 5.6 on the original route. The rock is frequently crumbly (unlike the N Ridge), but the difficult sections are short and route finding was not overly challenging. For me the crux was navigating and bushwhacking the E ledges descent for which only a vague description is available.
First winter ascent:
1994 Alois Smrz and Rich Henke
From the town of Lone Pine take Whitney Portal Road toward the portal. Make a left on Olivas Ranch Road Turn right at the T and an immediate right at a Y (left branch leads to a house). Note: on the descent you'll come in from the left-hand branch of the T). Stay on the left-hand branch of the road and continue to a small turnaround. There is another nicer parking area at the base of the route accessed from the road leading to the Lone Pine campground. I did not drive this, but according to the topo: From Whitney Portal road turn left at the Lone Pine campground road. Continue past the campground turn-off and stay left at the road branches.
From the turnaround there is a faint trail leading down to a stream. Cross the stream and head up the ridge (the righthand skyline). Hike up the sandy initial part of the ridge (class 2) until you get to the good stuff.
Per Secor: Pass the first tower mostly on the north side (5.7). Bypass the second tower mostly on its south side (5.5).
Basically, follow the ridge alternating sides as needed to fine the easiest line. If it looks harder than 5.6 check the other side. I had to backtrack twice near the end of the ridge, but overall I did not find the routefinding challenging. At the end of the ridge skirt the base of the steep walls to your left aiming for a large gully (see photos) that heads up and right to the summit plateau. It took me 9.5 hours to solo this and I was not acclimatized. Others have reported 11-12. If you are going to rope up plan accordingly to allow sufficient time for the descent.
5.7 Direct Finish Variation (FA: 2008, the pullharder crew - Scotty, Nate)
From the notch at the top of the Northeast ridge, climb straight up the headwall, loosely following a 12 inch wide dike from the bottom to halfway up the headwall. Where the dike veers left, go straight up, aiming for the left side of some big overhangs. Pull the final overhang at a splitter finger-size crack.
It is highly recommended that you spend a few minutes checking out the topography from the valley before you attempt the descent. To access the E ledges descent head down the class 2 sandy slopes keeping the E ridgeline in view. The key is to avoid getting sucked down to the steep cliffs to the S & SE. If it seems like you are too close to the cliffs contour left. Don't expect a trail or cairns. The ridgeline splits repeatedly and the gully is loose and shrubby. You'll eventually be able to see the Tuttle Creek access road. The hike back from the Tuttle Creek road to the Olivas Ranch Rd turnaround is ~3.2 miles.
Comment: I traversed over several ridges partway down to get a more direct line to the Olivas Ranch Rd. The gully I chose involved downclimbing a short class 5 chimney. In retrospect the extra mileage on the road probably would have been easier. The descent took me a whopping 5.5 hours. I have read if you have the route dialed expect 3.5-4 hours.
Alpine rack, rope (optional)
Ice axe and/or crampons for final gully (condition/experience dependent)
No fixed pro
BETA PHOTO: annotated topo
BETA PHOTO: N & NE Ridges
sandy lower section
early morning sun on the N Ridge
looking over to the N Ridge, home of Bastille Butt...
the fun starts
BETA PHOTO: crumbly traverse
BETA PHOTO: close-up of the crumbly traverse
one of the countless towers and mini-towers
steeper terrain with easier climbing on the N side
not as hard as it looks
BETA PHOTO: easy finger crack
and it continues
view to the north
back down to the valley
one of the many ramps
BETA PHOTO: looking down the most difficult section I found
BETA PHOTO: final gully to the summit plateau
valley from the gully
end of the snow
view from the summit plateau
keeping close to the E ridge on the descent
|Comments on NE Ridge (full)
|By Hamik Mukelyan|
Mar 14, 2012
This ridge is 4th or 5.0 for very, very long stretches--5.7 definitely doesn't accurately reflect the difficulty of this climb. You can climb around all cruxes with careful routefinding, thereby keeping difficulties to low fifth. If you're OK with exposure, soloing this route or taking a short, light rope for the occasional belay will make this one of the most awesome outings of your summer (or winter, at least in 2012!)
Dec 29, 2012
As is climbing, I have some slightly different subjective insight from this climb. Initially, finding the ridge and making your way to the first 5th class zones is pretty straight forward. But it seemed the higher we made it up the mountain, the trickier the route finding became. We ran into several dead ends with mandatory rappels, and found the ridge did this on more than one occasion, simply ending into a gulley. This could have been in part due to our wandering at some point unknown, but to our knowledge we followed the ridge the entire way (pretty hard to wander off a RIDGE route...). There were also slings and other bail hardware left from previous parties wherever we were shut out, so we couldn't have been the first! In the end, it was a fun climb, but I felt the need to post something here as we seem to have had a different experience from those posted above. The rock quality was decent, crumbly in spots, but left us with a desire to come back and try the North Ridge. Last thing is the descent wasn't too difficult to work out, but be forewarned that once back in the valley, the hike back to the turnaround is deceptively long. Hope this helps!