Peak(s):  "Fancy Pk"  -  13,192 feet
Whitney Pk  -  13,276 feet
Date Posted:  08/09/2017
Date Climbed:   08/06/2017
Author:  SnowAlien
 A Fancy Boulder  

After my last semi-successful foray in the area, I had a couple random 13ers left there - Whitney and Fancy peak. I had so much trouble route finding on PT 13,768 last time, in part due to the fresh snow, and combined with the wrong boots, it really cost me an extra summit that day. The Sunday weather wasn't looking particularly promising (40% chance of rain after noon), so I was content with just one peak, but in case the weather did cooperate, I would try to do a traverse to Whitney. After using Gaia for 3 more years, I was hoping to redeem my dismal route-finding skills. Having a general familiarity with the area, I approached it with caution, expecting to get cliffed out at any time, but hoping for the best (and trusting the contour lines on the app).

Date: August 6, 2017
Distance: ~ 9 miles RT
Elevation gain: ~5,100 ft
Time: ~9.5 hours
TH: 0.5 miles past the Fancy Lakes TH

Normally, I'd drive to the TH the night before the hike, but I was so concerned about the weather, that I decided to sleep at home and check the radar in the morning. I ended up sleeping in and finally got on the road around 7.30 am. Although I'd already driven down the Homestake road once before, I didn't remember it at all, since it was in the dark. I did remember the TH, but drove past it. Since there was a (small) chance I'll still do a loop, starting from the TH proper would add extra mileage. I parked right next to the old 4WD road, and after sorting the gear, finally set out around 9.30 am. I figured I probably still had time for one peak, since it wasn't very far and the trail is excellent. I motored up to the Fancy pass, running into several backpacking parties on the way. This area seems to be almost as popular as a 4-pass loop in the Elks. From the top of the pass, I left the trail, and headed up the ridge proper. The beginning of the ridge presented a couple class 3-4 moves, which can probably be bypassed if desired. It went rather quickly, and 2.5 hours after leaving the trailhead I was on the summit, just as it was starting to drizzle lightly. After a few minutes, the rain stopped, and I fondly looked towards Whitney. I was already set on the traverse. Frankly, it probably would have taken me the same amount of time to run down Fancy peak to the car, move the car 1.5 mile up the road, and hike Whitney from Fall creek pass trail. But the traverse was very scenic and went down with minimal obstacles, and it was fun to figure it out. The high traverse - staying ridge proper - looked fun and possibly doable, although very time consuming.

Approaching the Fancy pass

Initial section of the ridge

Looking back at Savage peak from the summit

Looking towards Whitney

My first order of business was to descend towards the Cleveland lake. Although I couldn't really see the route, the map showed a break in cliffs. It turned out to be a beautifully steep snow gully. However, lacking any snow gear, I descended by grabbing the rock wall on my left side, which worked great.

Descending the snow gully - Cleveland lake is to the right

It got steep in couple sections - but it worked!

Between rock and snow - hard to pick sides


The next step was to descend towards the Hunky Dory lake and to catch the good Fall creek trail. Remembering the steep terrain around the lake from last time, i.e. vertical cliffs, I was rather apprehensive of the descent, but the map showed a couple of options. Although not entirely obvious (and looking worse than it is from afar), the gully provided a safe passage and I even escaped the lower cliffs without any issues.

Descending into the Seven Sisters basin - Hunky Dory lake and its vertical cliffs to the right

The gully I descended

Whitney is to the right

The traverse took about 1.5 hours, but then I was on already familiar trail, admiring the Seven Sisters basin. All what's left was a steady climb to the pass and then a grassy stroll to the summit of Whitney, where I arrived by 4 pm, with weather miraculously still holding up. I was happy that I wasn't carrying climbing shoes all day for nothing, and I was happy to have them. Not much of a boulderer (I prefer ropes), but this was a fun little boulder to solve. Getting up it wasn't a problem, but getting down took some thought, as I didn't want to jump. After a few tries, I finally figured out a sequence and was able to lower myself on the ground on the north side. All in, I was on the summit close to 40 minutes. To save on mileage (but not necessarily time), I descended a gentle SW ridge of Whitney, eventually merging with the 4wd road by the diversion dam. All that left was a jog down the road to the car, arriving by 7pm.

Holy Cross Ridge as seen from Whitney

5.6 summit boulder - I ended up downclimbing it on this side (north)

Climbing shoes were useful

I found it easiest to step into the face on the right, but downclimb on the left

Descending easy grassy slopes of Whitney

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

 Comments or Questions

you are a rock star
08/10/2017 08:10
nice, I sort of remember doing that rock myself a while back, now that I see it again

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