Bony Fingers, Whitney Portal, CA

June 25, 2008 - 5.10c (5.8 PG), 3p, trad.

After a week of cragging in the Needles, we drive to Lone Pine. Having dome most of the classic Eastern Sierra alpine routes on previous trips, the plan this time is to sample the very good summer crags around Lone Pine and Bishop. Whitney Portal is our first stop.

We decide to get up early as the Whale is South facing and we want to climb in the shade. We get up at 6AM, have a quick Bfast and drive to Whitney Portal. We park the jeep on the gated dirt road that marks the start of the approach to the Whale. Easy walk, first following the closed dirt road, then dropping slihtly down and right onto another old roadbed. This leads to pretty flats at the bottom of a large boulder field that heads straight up to the Whale. We start from the left side, then traverse right and do most of the steep ascent along the right edge of the boulder field. We find the face still in the shade. The crack (Bony Fingers) looks great: sharp and steep but with a peppering of black inclusions for footholds at close intervals.

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Camping at Tuttle Creek Campground...
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... a cheap BLM campground with a great view.
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The Whale from the approach gully.
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"Bony Fingers" follows the striking finger crack near the left skyline.
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In view of the bad landing, stick-clipping the first bolt may be a good idea.

We have a bite and a drink, and get ready to go. I stick-clip the first bolt to be safe (actually fairly easy to get to - maybe 5.7/5.8 - but not a pretty landing). A 5.10c move leads past the bolt on thin slab and to a narrow mantle "ledge". The next 30ft are very runout, not hard (up to 5.8?), but have ground fall potential. Not really scary but dangerous (solo terrain). One goes right up a ramp to grab the right end of the top edge of a large (2x3ft) black inclusion, then hand traverses back left and mantle onto the black inclusion. Another 2 moves (slabby 5.8) up and left to a flake with a good placement for an orange Alien (or .75 green Camalot). Up and left some more to a bolt, then a long (25ft) very slabby 5.8ish traverse horizontally to the left, before one can place a yellow Alien in a crack. Exciting but not dangerous. Another couple of moves left and you reach the bottom of the finger crack. The crack starts thin and rounded (slabby climbing), but soon turns to a sharp finger crack. Up this for 60' or so to a small belay on the top of a black inclusion (5"x18"). The last 6ft are the crux (mellow 5.10c), where footholds disappear. Absolutely classic. The anchor uses a medium nut, a yellow, and a gray Alien. One could also sling a large chickenhead if standing on another inclusion 3ft lower.

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Eric starting pitch 1 (5.10c, 5.8 PG).
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After a tricky slab move, the route traverses right...
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...before traversing back left to gain the base of the finger crack.
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What you came for: a stunning finger crack!
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Eric setting up the belay.

Pitch 2 continues up the crack and around the arete. Sustained, tricky/balancy 5.9. There is a good "ledge" (6"x2ft) on another inclusion, about 4' left of the crack, at about 80ft or so and a good anchor 8ft higher with small nuts and a green alien.

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Lucie following the first pitch.
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On the exposed traverse to the finger crack.
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Climbing up the steep finger crack.
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Almost at the belay.
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Eric leading pitch 2 (5.9).

From here, the third pitch is 190' to the rap anchors. It starts as a finger crack (maybe one 5.9 move), then progressively narrows to tips then a seam. Some 5.9 along the way, in the tips section. Great pro. At the end, the crack turns to a seam and easy slab climbing leads to the anchor. Good small nuts all the way, except for a 20' easy runout past a shrub.

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Lucie following pitch 2.
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Incredible views from the belay are another reason to do this line. The mountain in the background is Lone Peak.
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Eric starting pitch 3 (5.9).
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Higher on pitch 3.
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Looking back at the incredible knobs on the formation.

A long, steep rap (190') down the west face brings you back to the gully.

A very high quality route. Well worth the hike. We go back down to the car and drive to the Whitney Portal store for burgers and fries (which Peter Croft raves about). They're pretty good indeed, and at $9 including fries, not a bad deal. We buy another guidebook for the area, this one about rock cragging around Mammoth. Some more good stuff to do!

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Views of Keeler Needle and Mt Whitney from the summit of the Whale.
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One double-rope rap on the west side brings you down to the gully, 2 minutes from your packs.
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Pretty cactus flower.
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A burger at the Portal Store makes a fitting end to a good day of climbing.
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Warning sign about bears breaking into vehicles at the Whitney trailhead.

We'll move on to Bishop tomorrow. Dark storm clouds are forming above the peaks in late afternoon. A welcome relief from the intense heat!

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...and no, they are not kidding!
       

Guidebook: "The Good, The Great, and the Awesome" by Peter Croft has some of the long classic Eastern Sierra alpine routes as well as a selection of the best roadside cragging in the area. It also includes a few classics in Tuolumne Meadows.

Gear Note: both bolts on the route, and the rap anchor are very nice, modern SS. Double rack from tiny nuts to gray Alien; 1x red Alien, 2x orange Alien or green #.75 Camalot, 1x yellow #2 Camalot (no need for #1 Camalot). If you'll be at your limit, you may want to add carry triples of green and yellow alien.

 

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