East Vidette (N#85) and West Vidette (N#86)
Nathan Day 65
We snoozed late into the morning, finally stirring when the warm sun rose above the treetops. Our late-night epic returning from Clarence King had taken its toll, and another huge linkup was not in the cards for today. Inevitably, the 6 day trip would become at least 7.
Travis looked tired and haggard – I’m sure I did as well. Fortunately, the bluebird skies and warm day quickly re-ignited my stoke, and within minutes I was itching to go slog up more hills.
I could tell Travis felt a little less enthusiastic, but before long we were both packed up and ready to go. Just before we set off, Travis realized that he’d lost his sunglasses. They may seem like a minor piece of equipment, but traveling on snow under the blaring alpine sun without them is a nightmare. At best, your eyes get sunburned and itchy. Headaches and nausea are probable. At worst, complete blindness is possible: “snow blindness”. I could sense his frustration.
The tough travel of the previous days had been hard on both of us, but for Travis, unaccustomed to winter mountaineering, it had been an especially brutal journey. It was clear that losing his glasses was a tipping point, the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
We started walking towards the peaks for the day, deeper into the wilderness, but within minutes we were having the tough conversation about bailing. I was feeling focused and determined, and chose to continue with the linkup. Travis would return to Onion Valley, climbing the roadside peaks there, which I had already skied. After a tough goodbye, I was alone, the silence palpable.
I dropped towards Vidette Meadow, sights set on East and West Vidette, both fairly small but stunningly beautiful peaks.
I studied the peaks and my map, constructing a nice, aesthetic loop that would take me up and over the summits of both peaks.
I began by climbing the east ridge of East Vidette, which provided a mix of pleasant scrambling and gnarly snow slogging.
A couple of hours of blue-collar work put me on the summit.
From my vantage point, I scouted my next segment – the 4th class south ridge.
It looked blocky, loose, and convoluted, with multiple towers and deep notches. Fortunately, I had plenty of day left, and launched into the challenge eagerly. While loose rock did abound, all of the key crux sections were reasonably solid, and, with careful route finding, I found myself enjoying the tricky terrain immensely. Progress was slow and engaging, but it still ended sooner than I would have liked. I boot-skied down the slushy exit chute, then traversed a lovely alpine basin to the base of West Vidette.
The standard route looked snowy and exposed, so I opted for the steeper but rockier east face. The lower part is mostly vertical, impassable rock, but thanks to Secor’s succinct and precise route description, I quickly located the steep chute that provides access to 3rd class terrain above.
Here, I found the best climbing of the day, with a mix of gullies and ribs providing an interesting and engaging route.
I studied the now familiar surrounding terrain from the summit, eyes tracing the routes on nearby peaks, many of which I’d already taken.
The rest I would experience in the near future. A steep, powdery couloir provided a fast descent, and I laughed with glee as I ran down.
As I neared camp, wispy clouds above glowed pink as the sun slipped away.
Meanwhile, Travis went for Mount Gould and Dragon Peak.
View the activity here.