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Ascent of Mount Tyndall on 2019-07-13

Climber: Marcus Lostracco

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Saturday, July 13, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Mount Tyndall
    Location:USA-California
    Elevation:14019 ft / 4272 m

Ascent Trip Report

Tyndall has escaped me on a couple occasions - once when I did Williamson last year (thought I could do it in the same day) and once at the beginning of this year (lackluster New Years Day snow attempt), so I vowed to bag it my first opportunity I could.

I arrived in Lone Pine, CA on Thursday night so I could avoid driving up on a Friday. My plan was to do Tyndall in a day-hike, like I did for Mount Williamson last year. I had not found much information on the snow levels at Shepherds Pass, so I prepared for the worst and packed microspikes, ice axe, and the standard emergency gear (first aid kit and e-bivy). I also packed several warm layers. I would end up not needing any of this gear and could have saved a good 10 pounds of weight.

My alarm went off at 1:30am at Shepherds Pass trailhead. I made espresso and had a quick breakfast and was on the trail at 2:00am on the dot. I jogged up the all too familiar start to the trail, knowing well that this small initial portion is the only runnable section in the first 3.5 miles. After my first few steps I came across a scorpion in the middle of the trail. Yikes! I took a closer look, but not too close. First time seeing a scorpion - I took it as a good sign for the day. Not another 5 minutes later I came to the first stream crossing. This is normally easily passable by jumping some stones, but there was no way to avoid getting wet. I knew I had a lot ahead of me, so to avoid having soggy, wet socks and shoes, I removed them and forded the rushing stream. Cold! But invigorating. There were 3 more crossings, only one of them did I find a way to cross without fording. I reached the top of the first ridge in just over an hour. I ran the downhills and hiked swiftly the uphills. I felt slow due to the weight of my pack. All this gear which I sort of knew in the back of my mind would be unnecessary - but hey, I was prepared for the worst. Nothing was going to stop me from summitting this time.

Before I knew it the sun was coming up, as I hit the first section of snow, just past Anvil camp (there was 1 guy bivying there - I always get startled when I see one of those bodybags on the ground). The 5am sunrise in the High Sierra is something to treasure. Spectacular lighting all around, the staggering Mount Keith was lit in a glowing deep amber-red. Next I reached "the Pothole" section where I kind of lost the trail, but the direction I needed to head in was obvious - it's best to skirt the big pile of boulders in the direct path, as the trail actually follows the lower sections as it was sort of covered by snow. Again, no microspikes needed - plenty of cuffed-out rivets to get easy footing on. My Salomon Speedcross 4 GoreTex shoes are perfect for this stuff. Then I reached the snowfield at Shepherds Pass - again, many treaded out areas from previous ascents, and I made easy work of the snow - it wasn't even hard, I don't imagine it even froze overnight. I reached the top of the pass around 7:30am.

This is the moment when you get the first glimpse of Tyndall. Well, you only get to see its ugly backside, the Northwest Ridge. I eyed it as I approached its base. I couldn't really tell where the actual "North Rib" route was, and there looked to be some snowy sections near where I thought it was. The Northwest Ridge route actually looked more appealing to me. I thought it even looked easy. Boy was I fooled. It's a very tricky route. I opted to drop my pack at the base of the Northwest Ridge - only going forward with my poles, a full 24oz Gatorade bottle, a synthetic middle layer tied around my waist, 3 gels, gloves, warm hat, and windbreaker. Didn't need the gloves, middle layer, or warm hat - but I guess it was good insurance. I moved swiftly up the ridge, but not long into it I realized this was a way more complicated route than it looked. An hour into it I looked down and had made some good progress, but a large gendarme on the ridge blocked my path. I heard some voices in the distance which I assumed they were descending. I heard them say "go left" - so I checked out the approach from the east side of the ridge. Some class 3 stuff for sure, but relatively easy. I got around the gendarme and made it to the point where the North Rib and Northwest Ridge routes meet up. There I found two other climbers who were on their way down. They were impressed I had started from the beginning that day. They gave me a couple pointers for reaching the summit - mainly, stay sort of to the right and look for a "trail" and it takes you right to the top. Well, I did find this trail, but I deviated from it to what I thought was the summit, which was in fact one of 3 false summits. The actual summit has a pretty exposed summit block on top. It was a bit nerve racking to stand on top of, but totally worth it! Amazing views all around. I had reached this point at 10am (2 hours after I started from the bottom of the Northwest Ridge). I think this is my favorite summit I have stood on in the Sierra range. Incredible panoramic views including the Palisades, the Whitney group, and the frightening 2,000 foot straight drop down to the Williamson Bowl to boot - super exhilarating! I spent almost 40 minutes on the summit, then began my descent.

Descending the Northwest Ridge was super rough. At least when you are ascending and there are some loose rocks, you haven't committed your weight distribution yet, so it is easy to adjust. Going down is another story. Every step has to be very calculated and careful. I found myself descending what I though was the Northwest Ridge, and it was actually some other ridge to the West. Whoops. I had to make some adjustments, including a downclimb which was sort of perilous. After this error I re-ascended back to the notch of the intersect with the North Rib, and continued down the never-ending boulder field down the Northwest Ridge. I was getting super fed up of the loose-ish rock and the descent was taking forever. It was past noon and I still had a ways to go. Perhaps sitting down and taking a break at this point would have been a better option than opting to descend a snowfield that was much too steep to attempt without microspikes. But this is what I chose in the moment. Halfway down the snowfield I realized it was getting steeper and there was no way I was going to make it down. I carefully managed my way across back to the rocks. But before I could make it all the way to the rocks, one of my feet gave way in the soft snow and I started to slide. I slid maybe 10 feet - not too far - and caught myself on the rocks. Wow - this was a controlled unplanned glissade - but it just goes to show, if it was 20 feet sliding, could have caused an injury.

Following this incident I vowed to avoid all snow and take it slow (even though I felt like I was moving slow as it was). After descending the ridge I found my pack and then took a drink of my remaining fluids and began the hike out. At this point it about 2pm. I considered doing Polychrome Peak, as I had plenty of time, but I didn't feel like I had the energy. I was in need of an extended break. I descended Shepherds Pass, noticing a lot of small green bugs in the snow. I checked to see if they were alive, and yes, they moved. Really strange, they just sat there in the melting snow. I noticed a medium/small dark red bird having a joyful time hopping around and eating up all the small green bugs. Easy pickings. I was able to ski/run down the soft snow on the pass and make it down in no time. I could have practiced my glissade with my new ice axe, but I didn't feel like messing with my gear at this point. I reached Anvil Camp around 3pm and decided to take a nap in the shade. I was lulled straight to sleep by the relaxing sounds of the rushing high-alpine stream.

I was awoken by the sun. The shadows had shifted in the matter of only 30 minutes and it was the perfect duration for a power nap. I got up and got going down the descent, the remaining 8 miles or so. I jogged when I could, but for the most part my legs were dead. I resorted mostly to long strides and power hiking. There were a number of people ascending at this time, slow as molasses with their huge overnight packs in the heat of the day. It baffles me that this would be a better approach. I much prefer the dayhike if possible!

I made it back to my vehicle just before 7pm - almost a 17 hour day. I took a bath in the nearby stream, downed what calories I had lying around in my car, and headed back down Foothill road back towards Independence. One last glance back at the Williamson group, lit up by the evening glow. I could just make up Tyndall, staring back down at me. That's the thing with these big mountains, even after you climb them, they don't lose their intimidation factor. It's almost like, I survived, and the mountain allowed me to do so. So I gave a motion of gratitude to Tyndall. The High Sierra is a place like none other. Very fortunate to be able to experience it up close and personal.

“If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”
-Vincent Van Gogh
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:9710 ft / 2959 m
    Extra Gain:500 ft / 152 m
    Round-Trip Distance:23.2 mi / 37.3 km
    Route:Northwest Ridge
    Trailhead:Shepherd's Pass Trailhead  5309 ft / 1618 m
    Grade/Class:Class 2/3
    Quality:6 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Stream Ford, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
    Gear Used:
Headlamp, Ski Poles
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Clear
perfect day in the high Sierra
Ascent Statistics
    Time:8 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Time:8 Hours 
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip


 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Marcus Lostracco
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Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. Peakbagger.com accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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