Highest to Lowest (14,497ft to -282ft)

On April 28th Michelle and I left Teton Valley for Cali.  From that statement, most would presume that we were heading for sunny skies, warm weather, and maybe even some beaches.  Well, we did have sunny skies in mind, warm weather was a welcome thought but not the goal, and trade the beaches for more snow and peaks.  We had one thing in mind, climb and ski the highest peak in the lower 48 states, Mount Whitney.

110507 Highest to Lowest from Teton FreeRide on Vimeo.

View from the Lone Pine Ranger Station

After driving late into the night, sleeping somewhere in the middle of Nevada, waking up to a truck incased in an icy blizzard, and driving through the high desert of central Nevada, we pulled into Cali (April 29th).  With the snowy white peaks of the southern Sierras in the not too far distance, I was reminded how damn big that mountain range is.

Our camp in the Alabama Foothills

It was only about 60-65 degrees in Bishop and Lone Pine, but coming from the Tetons it felt like 80-85.  Once we locked down our permit at the Lone Pine Ranger Station we headed on up to the Alabama Foothills to set up camp, soak up some sun, and get our gear ready to start heading up Mount Whitney the next morning.  The Alabama Foothills, I might add, make for some sick camping, hiking and bouldering…… definitely wanna spend some more time there.

North face traverse from the Notch

Though Mt. Whitney is the highest in the lower 48, it is also one of the most traveled because of its easy access during the summer season.  Its winter travel can be fairly easy as well if you take the standard route up Lone Pine Creek (Mt. Whitney Tail).  However, we were a bit more attracted to the Mountaineers Route on the northeast side of the peak that can be accessed from taking the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek.

Summit of Mount Whitney (14,497ft)

The Mountaineers Route is a 1500+ft couloir that ascends from Iceberg Lake (approx. 12,500ft) to an area known as the Notch (approx. 14,000ft).  From here, there are several options to the summit.  We took the more straight forward approach which consisted of traversing a few hundred yards across the super exposed north face of the peak.  After traversing, we met up with the ridge and made our way to the summit (14,497ft/April30th).

The recent winds and late afternoon/early evening summit did NOT provide the best skiing conditions.  Our descent was comprised of solid ice and frozen over boot tracks.  This made skiing down the ever long Mountaineers Route couloir quite challenging and super sketchy.  Ski Mountaineering is not all about the snow condidtions….right?  Well, is wasn’t on this peak.  I have to admit, there are far better places to ski in the southern Sierras, but we wanted to ski the highest peak in the lower 48 and thats what we did.  After descending the couloir we made our way back down to our camp at the Upper Boy Scout Lake (11,500ft).  The sun was setting and we made it just in time to set up our tent/tarp and get camp situated in the dark, ha.  It was freezing.

Sunrise at Upper Boy Scout Lake

As the sun came up over the mountains to the east (5:30am May 1st), I noticed the wind had calmed down and the temps were not nearly as low as the night before.  I also noticed that I was surprisingly awake for not sleeping at all the night before.  We popped up out of our bags and packed up camp.  After talking with a few other campers/climbers we skied down to the snow line and made our way back to the car.

Death Valley

Now it was time to find the warm weather!  After a huge brunch in Lone Pine we set our sites toward Death Valley.  What better way to wind down and warm up after reaching the highest point in the lower 48 than to go hang out at  the lowest point in the US (-282ft/still May 1st/less than 24 hrs after summiting).  Though it was much cooler (only 85 deg) in Death Valley than average (105 deg) for this time of year, it felt GREAT!!!

There are a ton of additional photos from the trip so go to “Pics” above the check’em out!


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  • About Teton FreeRide

    Teton FreeRide is a content based blog founded and operated by Mike "Mikey" Leake. Mikey has lived in the Teton Valley region of southeastern Idaho and western Wyoming most of my life. He has also had the opportunity to live and play in the Lake Tahoe area, and now, Alaska too!

    After competing on the Freeskiing World Tour on-and-off for 10 years Mikey has transitioned to judging various events and become an advisory board member with the International Freeskiers & Snowboarders Association (IFSA). Over the past 13 years he has worked in the ski industry through skiing as an athlete, coach, guide, ski patrol, event coordinator, event judge, marketing consultant, team manager, videographer, and as an associate producer. Mikey has a true passion for the outdoor industry and tries to be involved in every aspect possible.