Ascent of Upper Cottonwood Cirque High Point on 2010-08-08

Climber: William Musser

Others in Party:Ben Musser
Wayne and
Nate Lundberg
Hernan Lopez
and Marc Holder.
Date:Sunday, August 8, 2010
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Upper Cottonwood Cirque High Point
    Elevation:13386 ft / 4080 m

Ascent Trip Report

This was meant to be our acclimation camping and hiking to prepare for summitting Mount Whitney on the Mountaineers Route later that week. The plans had problems from the start. The idea was to fly from Florida and drive to the TH and start hiking immediately and set a base camp as high as possible, get up early and do Langley and get down spend another night up high and then get up early to break camp bust to the car and drive to the Whitney Portal and meet guides by 7 AM. Things did not go that way!

We pulled permits, rented the bear canisters and repacked for the bears which gave us a very late start. We left the trail at 6:20 PM and headed a quick pace to try to reach the upper shelf of the glacial lake area to camp and acclimate for two nights. We busted up about 1,200 feet of vertical in 4.7 miles and reached the first small lake on the bench at around 8:30 PM and set up as the sun setted. Ate in the dark went to bed early and woke up at the crack of dawn to ice covered tents. Leaving as early as possible and carrying around 3 quarts of water each we set out to climb as high as we could for altitude adjustment. The bear deal talked us out of taking our Gatorade which was not a good idea as some of us hydrate better chugging Gatorade than straight water.

The hike began fine - the climb up New Army Pass was as expected steep class 2 switchbacks to the top of the ridge crest. We were treated with amazing views of all the glacial lakes below and best of all the grantie columns were nearly vertical at the pass. We all enjoyed the scrambling and photo opportunities at this very exciting cliff edge. Then we descended down to Old Army Pass and that is when things started to go wrong. First of all - Ben started to loose his sole on his boot. Secondly, the effects of his high blood pressure treatment were kicking in. About 2 weeks before we left we realized Ben was going to be like his older brother and have adult onset hyper tension and we measured his blood pressure at 165/80 after he complained of daily nose bleeds and headaches. The treatment we put him on before the trip dropped his blood pressure to acceptable limits but used some diuretics that caused him to need more water than usual.

After passing Old Army Pass I used up my second quart trying to keep up with the the other 4 in our party and Ben used up all of his quarts plus one borrowed from others. He complained he was getting nausea so i gave him my third quart. He drank 5 quarts in all to my 2 and then said he was done. I encouraged him to get up the high point in the cirque above 13,000 feet where he would have a great view of the valley below and jsut hang for a while to have some acclimation time. Thus this highpoint in the Cottonwood cirque was not our intended target but it served as a spectacular place to acclimate while we waited for the others to summit Langley and return. Ben fell asleep for an hour and I hung with him at the sheltered outcropping of rocks and ended my bid for the summit of Langley knowing i was now too far behind the others and we still had to get down and pack up our camp and move it closer to the car this evening or miss the Whitney guides. After an hour nap, I scrambled the high point of the cirques and enjoyed the views and Ben ate some but still felt nauseated. He wanted to go down Old Army Pass without water and navigate his way back to camp and i made him stay knowing some water was on its way with the down climbers.

I awaited to see our team come off the summit before scrambling part way up to the summit to take pictures of their scamble descent and borrow some water for Ben. We went down old army pass and filtered water to all that were feeling poorly. THE GOOD NEWS WAS we all acclimated the next day and had no trouble climbing the mounaineers route up Whitney the following days and Ben felt good enough to do the fresh air traverse.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3986 ft / 1214 m
    Total Elevation Loss:626 ft / 190 m
    Round-Trip Distance:10.3 mi / 16.6 km
    Grade/Class:1 and 2
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Scramble
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles, Tent Camp
    Weather:Cool, Breezy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:3986 ft / 1214 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 3486 ft / 1063 m; Extra: 500 ft / 152m
    Loss on way in:500 ft / 152 m
    Distance:10.1 mi / 16.2 km
    Route:Cotton Wood Lakes Tr. to New Army Pass
    Start Trailhead:Horseshoe Meadow TH  9900 ft / 3017 m
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:126 ft / 38 m
    Distance:0.2 mi / 0.3 km
    Route:Langley Trail to Old Army Pass to Cottonwood Lakes
    End Trailhead:same  13260 ft / 4041 m
Ascent Part of Trip: Langley (2 nights total away from roads)

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Upper Cottonwood Cirque High Point2010-08-08 a3986 ft / 1215 m
2(Attempt) Mount Langley2010-08-08 b480 ft / 146 m
Total Trip Gain: 4466 ft / 1361 m    Total Trip Loss: 4466 ft / 1361 m

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