After not climbing anything significant for a while due to a certain Mongolia trip, orthopedist Nate and I decided to jump right into the Sierra alpine season with an ascent of Michael Strassman’s If At First (V 5.10+) on the East face of Mt. Whitney.
The route was put up by Strassman and Seth Dilles in 2004 after 7 attempts and lots of bad luck. As far as we could tell, unhealthy no one had yet repeated the route and we were stoked on doing something adventurous. To add to the challenge (and because we are too lazy to carry heavy packs) we decided to attempt the route car-to-car. Thus, illness on Monday (8/17/09) morning we found ourselves charging up the N. Fork trail at 2:30AM after acclimatizing at Whitney Portal for the later part of Sunday.
Using Strassman’s route description and route photo we easily found the start of the route. The climbing consisted of nice cracks with a lot of steep layback moves on pretty good rock. Unfortunately, we suspect that somewhere in the middle of the climb we went off route only to join back up with it higher on the face. We were led to this conclusion by the “memorable” offwidth that wasn’t mentioned in the route description. Perhaps if Seth reads this, he can provide some input.
After finishing the route we descended toward Iceberg Lake where we stopped to enjoy our AMS symptoms and to study their interaction with dehydration and malnourishment.
Gear: Single set of nuts, double set of cams from blue TCU through #3 camalot, lots of slings.
Also, props to the couple from Tahoe we ran into on the approach and right before the summit. It was their first alpine climb and they were doing the E. Buttress Car-to-Car. Proud.