Forum Index > Trip Reports > A selection of peaks in the Southwest (Death Valley, Whitney, Vegas, Zion, etc.) - 12/26/17 - 1/2/18
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Jake Robinson
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Jake Robinson
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PostWed Jan 03, 2018 11:59 am 
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Steven (xuanxier) and I just returned from a quick tour of the Southwest, climbing as many interesting peaks as we could along our trip. The peaks we did (in chronological order) were Thimble Peak, Manly Beacon, Mount Whitney, Mount Muir, Telescope Peak, Mount Wilson, Charleston Peak, Moapa Peak, Angels Landing, and Lady Mountain.

Steven is a much better trip-reporter than I, and will be posting detailed reports on his personal website, so I'll try to keep this brief. (edit: I failed)

Day 1: Drive to Beatty
We drove 16 hours from Seattle to Beatty, Nevada (+ an extra 2 hours for Steven, as he came from Vancouver). When we arrived, we were so tired we slept in the front seats of the car in a parking lot.

A long Nevadan highway
A long Nevadan highway

Day 2: Thimble Peak and Manly Beacon
From Beatty, we drove the Titus Canyon road into Death Valley National Park and parked at Red Pass. Thimble Peak was a nice quick hike and provided great views of the Death Valley area. We also saw the east face of Mount Whitney, which looked remarkably dry. It beckoned to us. There on the summit of Thimble Peak, we changed plans and decided, "screw it, let's go for Whitney tomorrow."

Steven hikes up Thimble
Steven hikes up Thimble
Nice looking little peak
Nice looking little peak
Up this class 2 to the top
Up this class 2 to the top
Summit shot
Summit shot
Views to Death Valley
Views to Death Valley
Whitney peeking out to the west
Whitney peeking out to the west

After Thimble, we drove the remainder of the Titus Canyon road into Death Valley and headed for the Golden Canyon Trailhead.

A rough and narrow drive with interesting geology
A rough and narrow drive with interesting geology
Looking back up to the canyon
Looking back up to the canyon

From the trailhead we headed for Manly Beacon, the most beautiful pile of dirt I've ever seen. The route involves a little cross-country travel over dirt, through some washes, and up a narrow ridge with just a hint of class 3 at the end. The summit is surrounded by hundreds of feet of exposure on all sides, and the landscape is surreal. We hung out on top in t-shirts for over an hour enjoying the views. Awesome place.

Steven heads for Manly Beacon
Steven heads for Manly Beacon
Steep dirt cliffs
Steep dirt cliffs
Crazy place
Crazy place
The route climbs the ridge on the right
The route climbs the ridge on the right
Looking towards Zabriski Point
Looking towards Zabriski Point
Steven on a minor scrambly bit
Steven on a minor scrambly bit
Steven on top
Steven on top
Looking back toward the trailhead and Death Valley
Looking back toward the trailhead and Death Valley
"Hey mom, look at those crazy people up there!"
"Hey mom, look at those crazy people up there!"
Descending
Descending
Descending
Descending
Off route on the way back
Off route on the way back

After Manly Beacon, we left the lowest point in the lower 48 (actually, the lowest point in North America) and drove to the trailhead for the highest point in the lower 48.

Sunset over Whitney from the Lone Pine McDonald's
Sunset over Whitney from the Lone Pine McDonald's

Day 3: Mount Whitney and Mount Muir
Steven had found a conditions update saying the Whitney Trail was doable, but traction was highly recommended. We set off from the Whitney Portal Trailhead at 4:30 AM with microspikes, crampons, and boots, anticipating a long day. There was patchy snow and ice for most of the trail but we didn't find any sections that required traction, and we both made it all the way to the summit in our trail runners without ever donning microspikes. Pretty remarkable for this time of year. The High Sierras looked disturbingly bare, almost as if it was September and the first snows of the season had come a few weeks before.

Crappy alpenglow shot from Trail Camp
Crappy alpenglow shot from Trail Camp
Steven at sunrise
Steven at sunrise
Golden hour from the "99 switchbacks" section
Golden hour from the "99 switchbacks" section
Up the endless switchbacks
Up the endless switchbacks
There are actually 99, I counted on the way down
There are actually 99, I counted on the way down
Steven at Trail Crest
Steven at Trail Crest
Dry
Dry
Nearly bare at 14,000 feet
Nearly bare at 14,000 feet
The aptly-named Guitar Lake was frozen
The aptly-named Guitar Lake was frozen
Upper reaches of the Whitney Trail
Upper reaches of the Whitney Trail
Steven on top
Steven on top
Summit hut
Summit hut
the Dry Sierra
the Dry Sierra
Looking back to Trail Crest
Looking back to Trail Crest
East
East

After Whitney we took a minor diversion to the summit of Mount Muir, another 14er about 15 minutes off the main trail. It was a fun class 3/4 scramble on dry rock to the exposed summit.

Steven approaching Muir
Steven approaching Muir
Scrambling
Scrambling
More scrambling
More scrambling
Whitney
Whitney
Obligatory shoe shot
Obligatory shoe shot
Steven atop Muir
Steven atop Muir
How many switchbacks can you count?
How many switchbacks can you count?

The way down was a bit icier than the way up and I nearly ate it a few times. We were back to the car by 3:30 and drove to the Telescope Peak trailhead for another parking lot bivy.

"Microspikes recommended"
"Microspikes recommended"
Back at Trail Crest
Back at Trail Crest
Down...
Down...
...down...
...down...
Almost Patagonian
Almost Patagonian
Out to the Portal
Out to the Portal
Back to Whitney
Back to Whitney
Beautiful rock
Beautiful rock

Day 4: Telescope Peak
We started hiking from the Mahogany Flat Campground at dawn and caught the sunrise over Death Valley.

Dawn
Dawn
Sunrise
Sunrise
Telescope in the morning
Telescope in the morning

The hike to Telescope Peak was really pleasant - never too steep, no wind, perfect temperature, and great views (although smoke from the fires near L.A. was visible to the south).

Hey, there's Whitney...
Hey, there's Whitney...
Summit views
Summit views
Steven near the summit
Steven near the summit
Looking down on below sea level terrain from 11k
Looking down on below sea level terrain from 11k

After Telescope, we headed to Las Vegas. We drove down the strip just to do it, then got the hell out of there. Adam was kind enough to offer us much-needed showers and food. Thanks Adam! We spent the night on the side of the road at Red Rock.

Day 5: Mount Wilson
We started hiking at sunrise bound for Mt. Wilson, the highest point in Red Rock Canyon NCA. We decided to take the "Scramble via Oak Creek Canyon" as outlined on Summitpost. The first part of the route was a boulder-hop/scramble up a deep canyon, which led to multiple class 4 dry waterfall steps, followed by a hike to the summit. Fun route, highly recommended, although we should have brought a rope to rappel some of the exposed class 4 steps.

Why is this so red?
Why is this so red?
Wilson from the approach
Wilson from the approach
Starting up Oak Creek Canyon
Starting up Oak Creek Canyon
Boulder-hopping
Boulder-hopping
Steep canyon walls
Steep canyon walls
Awkward scrambling
Awkward scrambling
Steven climbs one of the easier waterfall steps
Steven climbs one of the easier waterfall steps
Start of the trickiest step
Start of the trickiest step
Crux section, class 4 and a bit downsloping/exposed
Crux section, class 4 and a bit downsloping/exposed
Summit above
Summit above
Steven beelines it for the top
Steven beelines it for the top
Nearing the summit
Nearing the summit
Change of scenery
Change of scenery
Vegas
Vegas
Rainbow Mountain
Rainbow Mountain
Summit shot
Summit shot
Descending the "batman rope"
Descending the "batman rope"
Awkward downclimbing
Awkward downclimbing

After eating as much food as possible, we headed for Charleston Peak and spent the night on the side of some dirt road (again).

Day 6: Charleston Peak
This was a nice hike, but it felt like a bit of a slog. I think we were both starting to feel the cumulative fatigue of the trip. Still, it was a nice hike along an interesting trail that skirts a series of exposed ledges to the summit. I thought it was interesting how such an alpine landscape could exist 45 minutes from Las Vegas. Like Whitney, this hike was entirely snow free.

Cliffs of Mummy Mountain
Cliffs of Mummy Mountain
Heading up the North Loop trail
Heading up the North Loop trail
Summit, way over there
Summit, way over there
Closer
Closer
Ledge traversing
Ledge traversing
Hi Adam!
Hi Adam!
And there's Telescope...Deja vu...
And there's Telescope...Deja vu...
Steven on top
Steven on top
Mummy Mountain and clouds
Mummy Mountain and clouds
Taking photos
Taking photos
Mummy again
Mummy again

By now we had the post-hike routine down to a science: Stuff face with food, drive crappy dirt road to the middle of nowhere, re-pack backpacks, set alarm for 4:30 AM, pass out. Rinse and repeat.

Day 7: Moapa Peak and Angels Landing
We started for Moapa Peak really early and caught the sunrise from a little over halfway up.

Dawn from Moapa
Dawn from Moapa
Morning on Moapa
Morning on Moapa

Moapa is very cool. The route starts off in a wash, takes you into a canyon, then traverses a series of improbable ledges across the steep south face before depositing you on the final exposed ridge leading to the summit. The ridge has a touch of class 3 but is mostly a walk. Overall, there is definitely enough routefinding and scrambling to make this peak a fun adventure. This was one of my favorite hikes, despite a dumb routefinding error (my fault) and some vicious cactus attacks that occurred during the descent.

Steven with summit
Steven with summit
Traversing a ledge
Traversing a ledge
A bit of scrambling on grippy limestone
A bit of scrambling on grippy limestone
Precarious walking in spots
Precarious walking in spots
Traversing the ultra-cool but all too short summit ridge
Traversing the ultra-cool but all too short summit ridge
Near the top, heading back down
Near the top, heading back down
Exposure off the ridge
Exposure off the ridge
Downclimbing some stuff lower down
Downclimbing some stuff lower down
Moapa's south face - believe it or not, there's a non-technical route up there
Moapa's south face - believe it or not, there's a non-technical route up there
Steven descends
Steven descends
Moapa from the car
Moapa from the car
Cactus attack aftermath
Cactus attack aftermath

After Moapa, we drove to Zion and hiked up Angels Landing for sunset.

The Landing
The Landing
Beautiful Zion Canyon
Beautiful Zion Canyon
Steven joins the masses
Steven joins the masses
Steven on Angels Landing with the Great White Throne
Steven on Angels Landing with the Great White Throne
Looking down Zion Canyon near sunset
Looking down Zion Canyon near sunset
Looking up Zion Canyon near sunset
Looking up Zion Canyon near sunset

Day 8: Lady Mountain via the "Cable Route" and drive home
On our last day we climbed Lady Mountain in Zion. Apparently the Park Service used to maintain this route, complete with fixed cables and ladders, but they've long since removed all the hardware. What's left is an adventurous scramble route that zig-zags pretty much straight up a 2700 foot cliff to the top of Zion Canyon, with two short pitches of 5.6 climbing where ladders were once installed. Great scrambling and climbing, interesting routefinding, and spectacular views - a perfect way to end this trip.

Steven starts up the unmaintained trail
Steven starts up the unmaintained trail
3rd classing on chopped steps
3rd classing on chopped steps
Painted arrows mark the way
Painted arrows mark the way
Steven at the top of the first technical pitch
Steven at the top of the first technical pitch
Steven climbing the second technical pitch
Steven climbing the second technical pitch
Up "the staircase"
Up "the staircase"
Ever-present exposure on this route
Ever-present exposure on this route
Summit
Summit
Looking up Zion Canyon from the summit
Looking up Zion Canyon from the summit
Zion Lodge, where we parked
Zion Lodge, where we parked
Fire?
Fire?
Descending
Descending
First rappel
First rappel
Second rappel
Second rappel
Downclimbing
Downclimbing
Zion Lodge
Zion Lodge
Lady Mountain from the parking lot. The route starts on the bottom right, climbs the first cliff band, traverses left above and through the cliffs, then gains the right-trending gully and follows it to the summit ridge
Lady Mountain from the parking lot. The route starts on the bottom right, climbs the first cliff band, traverses left above and through the cliffs, then gains the right-trending gully and follows it to the summit ridge
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awilsondc
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awilsondc
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PostWed Jan 03, 2018 1:05 pm 
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I've been looking forward to this trip report. Looks like you guys had an awesome time! What a way to cap off an epic 2017! I like the failed attempt at keeping the trip report brief.  lol.gif  up.gif  up.gif  up.gif
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Gimpilator
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PostWed Jan 03, 2018 5:37 pm 
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What a blast of a trip!  You guys covered some ground I haven't seen yet.  Really a great story and I can tell you had a lot of fun.  It was good to see you both briefly.  Next time, when I'm not in the middle of moving, we'll coordinate so I can join you.

--------------
http://www.summitpost.org/user_page.php?user_id=25744
http://www.peakbagger.com/climber/ClimbListC.aspx?cid=2650&sort=elevft&u=ft&j=-1&y=9999

Keep climbing mountains and don't slip!
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geyer
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geyer
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PostWed Jan 03, 2018 6:31 pm 
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Nice trip! Is Whitney normally that dry in the winter? Heck if I'd known it looked like that back around thanksgiving I might've changed my roadtrip to be more like yours
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Jeff
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Jeff
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PostWed Jan 03, 2018 7:38 pm 
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The scramble up Muir is really nice. The rock and features are just great to climb on.
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xuanxier
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xuanxier
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PostWed Jan 03, 2018 7:58 pm 
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That's a great write up and sums up really well. Felt like I'm going back through the trip for a second time. Jake's an excellent partner. One of the strongest I've ever hiked/climbed with.

There actually wasn't a lot of planning going on (spent a day to search up and that's about it) and instead we chose to let the story unfold itself, day after a day. Some objectives require timing (such as Whitney) that you simply can't fix the date. Another thing we tried was to mix things up and try seeing different stuffs each day. There's so much more to explore down in that corridor.

Re: Whitney. No it's not. Usually it's very snowy. Snowshoes, boots and windchill down to -20 F is probably the norm. That road is not technically maintained in winter too so if it snows down to low elevation then there's added distance. I just saw a post on Facebook that some parts of CA mountains have only 3% of the average snowpack right now.... Taking advantage of this dry conditions we figured it made sense to tag Whiteny, Telescope and Charlston the three higher altitude peaks.

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http://stevensong.com
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silence
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silence
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PostThu Jan 04, 2018 7:18 am 
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Great trip and report. The lack snow in the Sierras is surprising and a little alarming ...the amount you encountered on the upper reaches of Whitney is about the same as it was when we did it in mid-Sept, 2003, particularly on the switchbacks.

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PHOTOS: https://www.flickr.com/photos/33792231@N00/sets
FILMMAKING: http://www.crestpictures.com/

Keep a good head and always carry a light bulb. – Bob Dylan
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Jake Robinson
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Jake Robinson
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PostFri Jan 05, 2018 10:54 am 
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Gimpilator wrote:
It was good to see you both briefly.  Next time, when I'm not in the middle of moving, we'll coordinate so I can join you.

Good to see you too, the shower and food was much appreciated. Thanks again!

Steven, thanks for the kind words. I had a great time on this trip! Your planning, routefinding, and technical skills are superb - much better than mine. I look forward to learning from you on future trips.

As for the snow situation: Steven already touched on this, but it's far from normal. Hiking bare trails all the way to 14,000 feet this time of year is pretty much unheard of, as far as I know. Quite disturbing.
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ree
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ree
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PostSun Jan 07, 2018 4:51 pm 
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Wow - that's quite a trip!  How cool to go from lowest to highest spots.  I wanna do that too.   up.gif
Nice trip report!
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silence
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silence
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PostMon Jan 08, 2018 8:21 am 
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Good news, though we were thinking of heading down that way based on your report

URGENT - WINTER WEATHER MESSAGE
National Weather Service Las Vegas NV
333 AM PST Mon Jan 8 2018

CAZ519-521-090000-
/O.CON.KVEF.WS.W.0001.180109T0000Z-180110T0600Z/
Eastern Sierra Slopes-White Mountains of Inyo County-
Including Aspendell, Whitney Portal, Westgard Pass,
and Bristlecone Pine
333 AM PST Mon Jan 8 2018

...WINTER STORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM 4 PM THIS
AFTERNOON TO 10 PM PST TUESDAY ABOVE 7000 FEET...

* WHAT...Heavy snow expected. Travel will be very difficult to

impossible. Total snow accumulations of 10 to 20 inches, with

localized amounts up to 3 feet for the Sierra Nevada, 5 to 10

inches in the White Mountains.

* WHERE...Eastern Sierra Slopes and White Mountains of Inyo

County.

* WHEN...4 PM today to 10 PM Tuesday.

* ADDITIONAL DETAILS...Be prepared for significant reductions in

visibility at times. Mountain roads will become dangerous to

travel as they become slick and snow covered.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A Winter Storm Warning means significant amounts of snow are
forecast and severe winter weather conditions are expected or
occurring that will make travel dangerous. If you must travel,
keep a flashlight with extra batteries, food and water in your
vehicle in case of an emergency. Call 5 1 1 for the latest road
conditions.

--------------
PHOTOS: https://www.flickr.com/photos/33792231@N00/sets
FILMMAKING: http://www.crestpictures.com/

Keep a good head and always carry a light bulb. – Bob Dylan
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John Morrow
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John Morrow
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PostMon Jan 08, 2018 12:47 pm 
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What a classy and aesthetic set of objectives you chose!  Some there I hope to do someday but are on the edge of my comfort level.  Nicely done.  Was the routefinding pretty logical and straightforward on Lady?  Hard to believe it was a maintained route by NPS at one time.  Looks harder, but reminds me of the once maintained "Government Route" off the Island in the Sky, Canyonlands.

--------------
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”-Mary Oliver

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.”
― MLK Jr.
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Jake Robinson
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Jake Robinson
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PostMon Jan 08, 2018 1:22 pm 
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Silence - thanks for forecast update. They need all the snow they can get, so it's good to hear there's finally some headed their way.

John Morrow wrote:
What a classy and aesthetic set of objectives you chose!  Some there I hope to do someday but are on the edge of my comfort level.  Nicely done.  Was the routefinding pretty logical and straightforward on Lady?  Hard to believe it was a maintained route by NPS at one time.  Looks harder, but reminds me of the once maintained "Government Route" off the Island in the Sky, Canyonlands.

Thanks John! The routefinding on Lady isn't too bad if you bring a description. All the most confusing spots have arrows painted on the rock that point out the way to go. There are a few spots higher up that are sort of confusing, but not bad if you take your time.

And yes, it's hard to believe it was once a maintained and popular hike. There is a lot of exposed scrambling and it's really steep. I think people were just tougher back then.
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silence
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silence
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PostTue Jan 09, 2018 7:43 am 
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Unfortunately NOAA is now downgrading the storm this morning ... saying it's warmer than predicted and amounts will only be 3 to 6 inches, with only 10 inches along the Sierra crest.

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PHOTOS: https://www.flickr.com/photos/33792231@N00/sets
FILMMAKING: http://www.crestpictures.com/

Keep a good head and always carry a light bulb. – Bob Dylan
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xuanxier
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xuanxier
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PostSat Jan 13, 2018 12:59 am 
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All trip reports are updated on my site. All of the 10 peaks we did have good quality.

A few selective ones:

http://stevensong.com/lady-mountain
http://stevensong.com/mount-whitney
http://stevensong.com/mount-wilson-2
http://stevensong.com/manly-beacon


--------------
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Forum Index > Trip Reports > A selection of peaks in the Southwest (Death Valley, Whitney, Vegas, Zion, etc.) - 12/26/17 - 1/2/18
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