Friday, September 9, 2011

Mt Williamson in the Sierras

For years I've driven up the Owens Valley and looked up at 14,375' Mt Williamson's west faceWilliamson, and wondered about climbing it - the 2nd highest peak in the Sierras. After Inyo NF changed the rules this year to permit climbers access to the area in late summer, we discussed it and got a permit for Labor Day Weekend this year.
It's a far tougher climb than Mt Whitney, owing to:
1. Mt Whitney has a maintained trail constructed to its summit, while Williamson has a CL2-3 route;
2. Mt Whitney's trailhead is at elev 8000', while access to Mt Williamson is by the Shepherd Pass trailhead at 6300'; and so
3. Williamson's distance, terrain, and elevation gain are all much more demanding.
Our permit was for 5 days. While some experienced climbers can cover the 29 miles / 8000' of gain in a single day, we're not them. So this trip's schedule was two days each way, with a long summit day in the middle. Our foursome camped at 12000', as close as practical to the mountain, and we STILL spent 13 hrs to summit and return to camp.
Photo above shows the Williamson bowl and the mountain's spectacularly irregular and intimidating west face. Photos below: opposing Mt Tyndall, with its much more organized geometry (and ominous Batman shadow), the view down the west side chute; and Mark, Nina, Michelle and me on the summit.
You can view the video here.