Saturday, August 7, 2010
Split Mountain 14,058'
Earlier this summer Billy McCullough and I were cragging at Donner Summit when Billy suggested we climb Split Mountain (14,058') in the High Sierra. Although the "classic" Southeast Arete is only rated IV (5.8) it is not a route (as we found out) to be taken lightly. We meet up at Paola Accusani's home in Bishop to rack and pack. Paola was kind enough to lend us here Toyota 4x4 truck for the drive in. The hike from the Owens Valley up to Red Lake is well known to Sierra climbers as being long, hot and steep. The next morning as we hiked the remaining distance to Split Mountain I couldn't help but notice the exceptionally poor rock quality of the lower third of the route. The SW Arete looked pretty cool, but how to get there? A strange bulging snow formation, left over from the huge Sierra winter was blocking direct access to the route. Rocks had now started falling down the huge 2000' gully that divides the twin summits that give Split Mountain it's name. In order to start the route we would have to walk out into the firing zone. This was an unacceptable risk to a couple of family men so we began to look for alternatives. Precious time was being wasted, and in the end we had to bail. This was a difficult pill to swallow because of the amount of time and effort required to get there. Billy returned to his restaurant in Truckee and I joined my family camping on Tioga Pass. A few days later as I belayed my two year old daughter Oona on her first rock climb, I knew we had made the right decision. Walk away and live to climb another day.