California Institute of Technology

2008 Winter Trip to the Sierras

You may be looking for the 2009 trip or the 2007 trip.

Recent updates:

3/27: The trips are over! A collection of people's pictures:

Summit shots (click for larger size):

Whitney Left to right, top: Nick, Annelen, Mike, Sean, Kostya, Josh; bottom: Stephen , Jeandrew, Peppermint (aka Sean), Adam

Palisades [left picture] Left to right, top: Stephen, Stefan, Sean, Kedron; bottom: Mary Laura, Eric, Dan. Members of the second group not pictured (i.e. Jeandrew, Justus, Brett and Bill)

Whitney trip: Nick, Annelen, Mike, Sean, Kostya, Josh, Stephen, Andy, JoHanna, Denis, Irina, Jeandrew, Justus and Adam. A bunch of us summited. We took our first camp at Lower Boy Scout Lake, where 7 of us crowded into a giant snowcave that we built. Next camp was at Iceberg Lake (windy, as usual), then summited on Sunday March 9th and returned to the cars that evening.

Palisades trip: Stephen, Stefan, Sean, Kedron, Mary Laura, Eric, Dan, Jeandrew, Justus, Brett, Bill. We split into two groups for this one: the first group spent Friday night at 3rd Lake, and both groups spent Saturday night at Gayley Camp at the base of the Palisades Glacier. Some of us tried to do Thunderbolt that afternoon, but only made it as far as the ridge. On Sunday, those of us with the energy (and lack of blisters) made an attempt on Sill's N. Couloir, and then scrambled up the 3rd/4th class rock to the ridge and then the summit (on Sunday, March 23rd). We made a single rappel down the nasty 4th class section. Then, in a club record, everyone made it down to the cars before 4 PM!

2/21: We decided the dates for the main trips. Whitney: Mar 7-9, Palisades: Mar 21-23. Both trips will be leave Thurs night, return late Sun night. Sign up on the Google groups site!

2/5: A scan of the recent climbing magazine article on mountaineering boots [requires a Caltech/JPL ip address, or the club's username/pasword -- email alpine to get this]. This is from the February, 2008 issue so it is very current. Any of these boots would be excellent on our trip. We recommend these types of boots; uninsulated leather boots are OK, but use them at your own risk.

2/4: The trip to Baldy on the weekend of the 9th and 10th will be held Saturday (the 9th) to Sunday (the 10th), i.e. Sat-Sun, NOT Fri-Sat as originally planned.

2/1: Practice trips to Mt. Baldy. There will be one on Fri Feb 8th, leaving in the evening, returning Sat mid afternoon (led by Stephen); another on Fri Feb 15th, leaving in the evening, returning Sat mid afternoon (led by Sean). These trips will be more-or-less identical. You only need to come on one of them. Also, you must fill out the "participant information form" and return it to Sean by e-mail (tulin@its) or snail-mail (MC 452-48) -- or else you can't come on any training trips or on the main trip.

1/30: We held our mandatory interest meeting at the Y. We discussed gear, what the trip would be like, and what dates for the training and main trips. We also saw that there are a lot of people who want to come on the trip! We will hold two identical training trips to Mt. Baldy, one the weekend of Feb 9th and the other the weekend of Feb 16th. You MUST attend either one of these trips, unless you have special permission from Sean. This a good way to get a taste of mountaineering without committing to the full trip. More info on the training trips will be forthcoming soon.

In regards to the date and destination of the main trip, things are still up in the air. The trip will be three full days, either on the weekend of March 7-9 or 14-16. Also, people were split on deciding where to go, so both options are still on the table. We are considering going to Mt. Whitney or the Northern Palisades.

First practice trip to Baldy (2/9 and 2/10) Baldy Group 1 (click photo for larger size)

From left to right: Voltaire (seated), Stephen, Tucker, Aaron (seated), Kim, Nick, Garrett, Adam, Justus (seated), Josh, Greg, Denis (seated), Andrew, Irina (seated), Om, Kostya, Hareem (seated), Brett, Kedron

Second practice trip to Baldy (2/15 and 2/16) Baldy Group 2 (click photo for larger size)

Here are some of the participants. From left to right: Hamik, Eduard, Elena, Julian, Annelen, Mary Laura, Jack, Andrey, Bill, Michael, JoHanna. Picture by Michael.

Participant Information Form: Please fill this form out and return to Sean by mail (MC 452-48) or e-mail (tulin@its). I tried to make it so that you edit the form electronically in Acrobat Reader. If you have problems, let me know.

Please read this warning message.
Whitney vs. Palisades -- We're doing both!

Mt. Whitney: approach via NF of Lone Pine Creek, ascent via Mountaineer's Route from high camp at Iceberg Lake at 12,500 ft

Dates: Leave Thurs evening March 6, return late Sun night.

  • More glamourous since it's the highest.
  • Ice climbing on the approach.
  • Trip leaders have ascended this route several times in winter.
  • The climbing route is possibly more skiable than routes in Palisades
  • Avalanche danger is relatively low
  • Route gets progressively harder, so easy to turn around.

  • Some people already climbed it last year.
Caltech climber at high camp at iceberg lake below
E. face of Whitney. The route ascends the
shaded couloir to the right of the peak.

Palisades: approach via NF of Big Pine Creek, high camp at North Palisade Glacier. From here the options are: Sill via the NE couloir, Polemonium or N. Pal via U-Notch, or possibly Thunderbolt.

Dates: Leave Thurs evening March 20, return late Sun night.

  • Largest glacier in the Sierra
  • Many climbing route options
  • More beautiful view from the summit. The view from Sill is the "best in the Sierra" according to some.
  • This is the most rugged spot in the Sierra
  • Potentially worse avalanche terrain
  • Less chance of summiting
Two Caltech climbers at the bottom U-Notch,
with the Palisade glacier below.


  • Info on where to get equipment (i.e. what the Alpine Club owns, what the Caltech Y has, what REI has, ...
      REI and Sports Chalet will rent most non-technical items. UC-Riverside's "Outdoor Excursions" (analogous to the Caltech Y) does rent crampons and ice axes. Also, I hear rumour that Adventure 16 does also. List of Adventure 16 stores in LA -- click on the store to get more info.
      Sierra Elevation is a mountaineering store in Lone Pine. They rent the Mad Rock Alpinist '07 boots for $35/weekend in sizes 10, 11 and 12. They rent snowshoes and crampons, and don't rent ice axes, although they sell inexpensive ice axes for $59.
  • Here is what you can rent at the REI in Arcadia
  • Packing list
    • Other items not on list: pack straps for strapping on snowshoes, etc. Make sure you can attach an ice axe to your pack. If you want, you can take sports drink mix such as gatoraid, endurox, gookinaid, etc. Also, don't bother bringing tent stakes, although you could bring snow stakes.
  • Gray-scale map of Whitney Basin, 500 KB PDF file, 8.5" x 11"
  • Some general suggestions for winter and high altitude mountaineering in California.

  • Added Sun, Feb 10th:
  • Self-arrest youtube video (comment: if you don't have crampons on, then you should dig your feet in).
  • Self-arrest guide, taken from "Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills"
  • Overview of climbing knots, MS Word document
  • Overview of friction knots, MS Word document

  • Here are some web resources. If this all seems a bit Whitney-focused, that's because it has been copied from last year's Whitney trip website.

  • Avalanche Advisories from ESAC (Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center).
      The cyberspace snow and avalanche center (CSAC) and use the ESAC forecast here, but also have good general information.
  • NOAA weather, for Mt. Whitney Summit, for Whitney portal (i.e. trailhead), and for Lone Pine. NOAA also has a written discussion of the upcoming forecast, which mentions the uncertainties in the predictions, etc. The discussion for the Las Vegas area and the discussion for the San Joaquin Valley / Hanford area and the discussion for the Reno area. Mt. Whitney is on the border between the Las Vegas and the San Joaquin forecast areas.

  • Some online forums:

  • Mt. Whitney Reports forum from The user dmatt provides weather updates often (twice a day?).
  • Whitney Weather links from
  • is another forum, for the entire Sierras, and perhaps a bit less active than the whitneyportalstore forums.