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By randy88fj62
May 29, 2012
Thunderbolt Peak in the Palisades
This past weekend I attempted Sun Ribbon Arete on Temple Crag in the Palisades. We turned around after the first pitch because I was climbing too slowly. I have the utmost respect for mountaineers after trying to climb with a pack on and completely numb fingers. Experiencing the screaming barfies for the second time in my life while watching the sun rise on the top of the first pitch was memorable.
Other than getting formal training through SMG in Bishop, what do people do to train for technical mountaineering? What tips or tricks do you use on your outings?
I was surprised by some of my partnerís little tricks. He was sipping water all through the night. It had never occurred to me that I should be continually hydrating while sleeping. It makes sense to stay hydrated at altitude.
What comments would you offer to an aspiring mountaineer for weekend excursions into the Sierra? I will be reattempting Mt Sill in July and I want to do everything I can to make the bid for the summit successful.

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By Wannabe
May 29, 2012
Buy Extreme Alpinism by Mark Twight and give it some thought. His style can be a little "in your face" peppered with what might be braggadacio (I'll never know) and the material may be somewhat dated at this point as well-- BUT-- its a good place to start. Its pretty comprehensive I think. But then again I'm not really a mountaineer so what do I know?!

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By kenr
May 29, 2012
randy88fj62 wrote:
Other than getting formal training through SMG ...

My reaction from your story is that you should indeed get formal training from expert guides with lots of experience teaching people new to mountaineering ... before more climbing in serious mountains.

Reading a book or two about different ways people die in the mountains could also be helpful.

Tip: If you live near sea-level and intend to climb in the high Sierra in a weekend basis, obtain a real serious understanding of the biochemistry of altitude acclimatization - (hint: The biochemistry of altitude symptoms + acclimatization is pretty complicated, and the features most relevant to quick weekends in the high Sierras are not obvious).

Ken

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By randy88fj62
May 29, 2012
Thunderbolt Peak in the Palisades
JLP,
When both climbers are carrying packs for an all day climb with crampons, ice axe, 2L of water each, etc; How do you expect to fit this all in one pack for the follower? It would be really heavy. I did what you are describing for Snake Dike and that was fine for such an easy 1 day route.

Ken,
I agree with you on understanding AMS and the symptoms. My knowledge of altitude related illness is pretty basic. I have felt the basic symptoms when I did whitney in a day (nausea and headache.) Luckily I usually avoid altitude sickness when I go out into the Sierra. I do my best to get good sleep all week before as well as tons of healthly meals with carbs and protein (i.e. pasta and chicken.) I hydrate well all week and stay away from diaretics like caffienated soda, coffe, and alcohol. So far this regimen has worked well.

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By FrankPS
From Atascadero, CA
May 29, 2012
Randy,

My fingers get cold quite easily and it is an unpleasant, if not impossible, task for me to climb with numb fingers. So I know that if I'm climbing a shaded route with temps less than 40 degrees, that I won't do well. I watch the forecasts and consider the aspect I am climbing on. And realize my limitations. Although you can read many books, attempt to drink while sleeping (?) and take blood thinners, the bottom line may be that your fingers aren't suited for barehanded climbing in freezing temps. Plan your climbs accordingly.

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By Eric Fjellanger
May 29, 2012
Me on top of Chianti Spire
Making a 16-pitch 5.10a your first alpine climb is so over-ambitious that it almost seems like this post lies in troll territory.

But assuming it doesn't- yes, you see that climbing in the alpine is far more complicated than cragging. It is all that plus more navigation, logistics, routefinding, fitness, weather, snow, ice, extra weight... Do something much easier for your next attempt. Consider making it something that is shorter and does not require boots/crampons/axe. Bite off more difficult climbs as you gain skills.

One of the most important things you can work on to be successful is cultivating a sense of urgency in yourself while you're climbing. You are always racing against time and you should never be wasting any. If you ever find yourself standing still doing nothing, kick yourself and figure out what you can do to move yourself forward. Eat and drink while you're belaying your partner. Make your gear transitions at belays as fast as you can. Lead decisively. Follow as quickly as you're able. Pull the rope up as rapidly as you can and only flake it once, not two or three times. Start breaking down the anchor as soon as your leader says "off belay".

I agree that reading a book, hiring a guide, or taking a class can be really helpful.

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By Davi Rivas
From Ventura, CA
May 29, 2012
Davi Rivas on the U-Notch, Palisades, 06/06/2011
Eric Fjellanger wrote:
One of the most important things you can work on to be successful is cultivating a sense of urgency in yourself while you're climbing. You are always racing against time and you should never be wasting any. If you ever find yourself standing still doing nothing, kick yourself and figure out what you can do to move yourself forward. Eat and drink while you're belaying your partner. Make your gear transitions at belays as fast as you can. Lead decisively. Follow as quickly as you're able. Pull the rope up as rapidly as you can and only flake it once, not two or three times. Start breaking down the anchor as soon as your leader says "off belay".


I agree with everything already stated, but especially this^^^
This "sense of urgency" that Eric is talking about is what helps keep you and your partner safe. The less time you spend on an alpine route, technical or not, the less of a chance there is for something to go wrong(weather, fatigue, ect). Duh...I know.

Id like to recomend a book for you called The Mountaineering Handbook by Craig Connally. You can prolly pick it up used for about 20 bucks. Connally highlights a "new school" alpine philosophy with a focus on moving quickly, training, nutrition/hydration and tons of time saving, weight saving ideas.

May I also recomend a couple of climbs;
Mt Ritter, North Face, class 3/4, very fun, FA by John Muir,
and Middle Palisade, Northeast Face, class 3/4, not exposed but really "airy", also lots of fun, FA Norman Clyde. Both are easily done in a weekend.
I'm not saying you should tone down your ambitions, only suggesting you take a couple steps back and focus on and get really good at the basics first. There is more to alpine climbing than....climbing.

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By randy88fj62
May 30, 2012
Thunderbolt Peak in the Palisades
I have been climbing class 3 and 4 mountains since I was a kid. Most of these have been in Glacier National Park growing up. I have successfully lead groups up Mount Wilbur, Going to the Sun Mountain, Bishopís Cap, Mount Reynolds, Ptarmigan Spire, and Mount Allen to name a few. The difference between GNP climbs and the ones I am now looking to do is that the GNP climbs were done in one day. The logistics of backpacking in and not being 100% acclimatized makes my goals in the Sierra unique and new to me.

To be honest, I am not interested in climbing class 3 and 4 peaks in the Sierra. I am interested in moving my way into technical mountaineering. I am new on steep snowfields with an ice axe and I am new to trad at altitude with a pack. So I guess the point of this thread is for me to hear from more experienced mountaineers on how to make this transition and maybe someone can recommend some super easy low 5th class routes for me to consider doing this year.

Eric,
I am not trolling for shits and giggles. My friend had already done the sun ribbon arÍte. Our plan was for him to lead the crux, bypass to the right of it, or worst case take the 4th class escape to the top. I had no intention of leading a 5.10 at altitude with a pack and we both knew that. I was however surprised at my inability to follow the first pitch in an appropriate amount of time.

An example of one of the easier climbs Iíd like to attempt this year is Mt Humphreys. The approach is not difficult for a weekend excursion and not too technical.

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By Scott McMahon
From Boulder, CO
May 30, 2012
Bocan
I'm sure this thread will fill up with great recommendations, but one of my favorites besides proper hydration and nutrition is proper acclimitization.

The weekend before or even closer to the trip, go up high on a hike or a camping trip etc. I've found that anytime I go up 10-14K within 7 days or less of my next trip I perform noticeably better.

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By csproul
From Davis, CA
May 30, 2012
Summit of Wolf's Head with Pingora in the background
On trick I used on Sun-Ribbon Arete to lighten the load was to only take one ice axe/pair of crampons. The leader was able to make it up to the rock and belay the 2nd up (without axe/crampons). We also then just chucked the axe and crampons back down the snowfield and picked them up on the way down. Neither of us had to climb with the extra weight of axe/crampons, basically we just had one pack with light rain jackets, some food, and we carried about 3L of water for the day. Of course, we knew ahead of time that we'd not need anything for the descent...but that kind of knowledge/pre-planning saved us from carrying much of anything on the route.

The first pitch(es) of that climb are the hardest, so it is not surprising that is what stalled you. Remember too, in alpine climbing, if you are starting to slow down and you need to get going, it might be better to start pulling on gear to speed things up, or haul the pack on harder pitches if it is straight forward (ie it won't get hung up on something).

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By Princess Mia
From Vail
May 30, 2012
Chillin' at City of Rocks
Any mountaineering has some aspects if suffering. Teaching your body and mind to deal with the extreme goes a long way. Do you really need all that extra gear??? Water??? Food??? Etc etc
The human body is remarkable and can do amazing things if you let it. Mountaineering and climbing long serious routes is a way of pushing the limit.

A few years back I climbed the Keeler Needle, a long pretty hard route topping out at 14,000 feet. We each had a camelback with water and only brought a couple of space blankets, bars, GU, headlamps and a bagel sandwich each. Topped out at sunset and couldn't find the descent in the dark so we spent the night sleeping at the top of Mt Whitney. Cold-yes- but with the space blankets and spooning we did ok. Hungry and thirsty-yep- but we rationed our supply and woke up to a glorious sunrise on the highest peak in CONUS sharing a bar and a little water. It was a very satisfying experience and it made me realize I can do so much more than I think my body can handle.

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By Cory
From Boise, ID
May 30, 2012
Relaxing in the Tuttle Creek Campground after a fun day in the Hills
First, do you really need 'pons and an axe for the approach to Sun Ribbon? Seems like you could ditch the axe and get away with only crampons, especially if you are camping at 3rd lake as you can kick steps up the soft afternoon snow the night before and then walk a virtual frozen staircase to the base of the route in the morning. I suppose this time of year you may want an axe for the descent, I'm not sure what the snowpack is like right now up there . . .

Second, chug a bunch of water before you go, and then bring just 1 liter. Those two things should lighten up your pack, which now should only contain a jacket, 1L water, crampons, headlamp, and some small snacks. You can fit all of this in a very tiny pack.

Third, the first pitch, while only 5.7, is the most sustained pitch on the route and does go a wee bit slower than the rest since it's kind of a chimney. The rest of the route is "mostly" 4th class with some short bits of 5th class mixed in, so you should be able to haul after the first pitch. Just start early and power through.

Fourth, Learn to enjoy getting shut down and what you can learn from it. It's going to happen a lot due to weather, botching the approach and not arriving at the route with enough time to climb it, unexpected postholing, conditions, or just not moving fast enough. Just go home, figure out how you can do better next time, then come back and give-er again!

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