Scottie (scottie4183) and I departed Atlanta, where we'd spent the weekend for a friend's wedding, very early Sunday morning (8/1/09) for California's High Sierra, with plans to climb the Venusian Blind Arete (5.7, 15 pitches, 1,500 ft.) on Temple Crag (12,999 ft), and the South Face (5.8, 12 pitches, 1,200 feet) of Charlotte Dome (10,690 ft.).
After a relaxing night by the fire at the Upper Sage Flats campground, we began the hike in to Third Lake on the Big Pine Creek North Fork trail on Monday morning. The approach is around 7 miles, with 3500 feet of elevation gain. Scottie entering the Inyo National Forest:
Our first glimpse of Temple Crag:
The red line shows the Venusian Blind Arete route:
A different angle, from above our camp, with Third Lake in the foreground:
The next morning, we got a very early start. After negotiating the very short, but very firm snowfield to the base of the rock, we tossed our axes and crampons back to the base of the snowfield for retrieval on the way back:
As most parties do, we simul-climbed the first 500 or so feet of the route, on mostly 3rd class terrain:
Scottie setting off on the first pitch of real climbing (Pitch 3 in the SuperTopo guide):
Me below, at the P3 belay:
Me somewhere up there leading P4 (I'd started out around the left side - encountered some sketchy loose stuff there - and worked my way back around to the "right crack"; probably should have gone straight up in the first place):
Scottie leading up:
Me leading up the "great pitch!" (SuperTopo guide) P6:
Looking out on the Palisades from on high:
If I had Photoshop, I'd have fixed this pic! Scottie crossing the "narrow gully" to the "bold 5.6" - haha! It was actually spectacular and nicely exposed climbing:
Me arriving at the belay:
Scottie enjoying the day:
We were starting to run short on time, so we chose to forego the non-descript tower weaving of the last few pitches and instead rapped in the gully below Pitch 9 -- oh wait, there is no rap and no gully below Pitch 9!!! The SuperTopo guide is WRONG. The rap is actually after Pitch 12, after you've crossed the sketchy, "no pro traverse," and climbed the "crack on slab" depicted as the second Pitch 10 in the book! At any rate, after some confusion, we eventually found the rap, beefed it up, and finished the climb in the 3rd & 4th class gully. We did not have time to tag the actual summit (that makes 2x I've been up there and haven't tagged it!). Heading down, looking for the rappel into Contact Pass:
Rapping into Contact Pass:
Heading down Contact Pass in the fading light:
It was an agonizing descent, made all the more so by the fact that I'd forgotten the guidebook warning to NOT descend straight down, but to instead go around to the right. We found ourselves on the death trap "loose and dangerous sandy slope" nervously picking our way down, knocking all manner of rocks, small and large, down in the process. We got back to camp after getting briefly lost in the talus-filled moraines in the dark, but nevertheless got back safely, though exhausted beyond words.
Next day, we packed up and headed out, to our next objective, Charlotte Dome. Part II, Charlotte Dome, to come.