We were able to make the push all the way up past Upper Boyscout Lake, just below Iceberg Lake. We were feeling good. We setup base camp, ate, and melted snow for water for the next day. I did not suffer any altitude sickness other than a headache, which 2 Excedrin Migraines took care of. We met 4 guys, who we camped near. They were all super cool guys, great sense of humor, and who would later become heroes of 2 stranded climbers on the summit.
The next morning we got our gear together for the assault. Our neighbors got a head start on us. We were on the move around 8:30 am. The weather was awesome!! Couldn't have asked for better! We slogged up to the bottom of the chute and took a short break. I wasn't too thrilled for the chute as I knew it was going to be a long slog. For me, it wasn't a matter of strength, rather it was the endurance, lack there of, that prolonged the struggle. I knew I would make it up, and I did.
We got to the notch around 1:00 pm, if I recall correctly. The team of 4, our neighbors, were coming across the traverse back to the notch. They yelled for us to wait up, which was rather puzzling at that moment. That's when we got word that there were 2 stranded climbers on the summit.
Turns out 2 guys were going up the notch to the summit (600ft). It's pretty steep, like the cables on Half Dome around 50 degrees or more. The guy was wearing double boots, boot insulator with a hard, removable shell. The shell came loose and flew about 2,000+ ft. to the bottom of the north side. So this guy gets the bright idea to take the other off and scramble up 4th class rock to the summit, leaving his pack (with camera, cell, water, e-blanket, whistle, etc.) behind.
The 4 person team gave the guy their SPOT tracker, a down jacket, and a pair of socks. No doubt that their generosity saved this dude's life!! Jared and I were contemplating initiating a rescue operation, since I had a rope, harness, prussiks, belay, lockers, etc.
The notch, the last 600ft to the summit, was partially snow covered with a lot of exposed rock. This was to be my first time mixed climbing! I lead up, found the fixed rope, and used it to help me get up over the sketchy areas of rock. It was hard for me to get used to trusting my front points of my crampons on rock. We found the guy's pack and just shook our heads for the poor decisions that this guy made to abandon essential survival gear. Jared packed up his stuff and put it in his pack. Jared then led the way up as we free soloed (no ropes) the last several hundred feet. This was the first time I've done anything this steep in snow with crampons and an ice axe, and I was feeling awesome! I knew the danger that was present, if I slipped and couldn't self-arrest, I'd meet my fate at the bottom, 2,000 feet below. I never felt the fear as I do when lead climbing on rock. Here I felt solid in my footing and safe, burying my axe with each step as I progressed up. Jared was surprised I was following up so quickly! Haha. I suppose I just needed some adrenaline to get my ass moving!
When we got to the top and checked the shack, no one was there. I looked down to the Whitney Trail and couldn't see any movement. Jared and I were pretty baffled at that moment. We proceeded to take pictures, snack, and I melted snow for water. I never leave camp without my cooker!
We headed west to the start of the descent to the traverse to get back to the top of the chute. We then descended the chute to Iceberg Lake. I was going slower than Jared until he glissaded on his butt to the bottom. Having never have glissaded or practiced self-arrest with the ice axe, I was hesitant to do so. However, the steep descent and a heavy pack made me reconsider. So I sat down, picked a line on rough snow (to keep my speed down) and began to slide. When I would get going too fast for comfort, I would spread my legs to a V and I would slow. As I progressed, I began to practice self-arrest. Once I got that down I began to go faster and eventually got to the bottom.
Jared was over at the base camp of the 2 missing climbers and returned the gear to their tent. They were no where to be found, so they must have gone down the Whitney Trail. We then made our way to base camp. There was a nice steep slope on the way where I practiced self-arrest more with more speed. When we got to base camp it began to snow. Just in time! We ate and melted more snow for the next day. It got really windy that night to the point I had to wear earplugs.
I finally got up and out around 7:30, snacked, and was observing the incoming weather system. I woke Jared and suggested getting a move on. So we broke camp down and began our trek down to the truck. We passed a few parties on the way up. The wind was picking up and the snow was still coming down. When we got to Upper Boyscout Lake, I took off my crampons so we could glissade the rest of the way down. We did so all the way to Lower Boyscout Lake.
From there we headed down through the willow trees as I didn't know the ledges route. I wish I would have read through the SuperTopo book more, which had the needed route beta. DOH!! Wacking our way through the willows was a pain. We finally made it through them to find an avalanche had come through. The huge chucks of solid ice would have done some serious damage to a person. We got down to the truck around noon. It felt great to change clothes and put my sandals on. We then headed over to the Portal Store to see if we could find out what happened to the 2 climbers.
We talked to an older gentleman and he said that they duct taped the guy's feet with socks on. Then duct taped his partner's crampons on to get his feet off the snow. They hiked all the way down the Whitney Trail, 11 miles!!! They made it down ok. F'in LUCKY!!!
All they had to do was duct tape the booty and descend from where he was at. Then just glissade down to their base camp. All his gear was rental gear, so it is my presumption that he was rather inexperienced.
Anyways, we headed down to Lone Pine to Pizza Factory for some refreshing pizza and beer!! Mmmmm, that hit the spot!! We then made our way back to Fresno, planning our next adventures!