The start to our week in the Sierra was what we hoped would be "Operation Unfinished Business," heading up to the Whitney zone and getting on the Harding Route on Keeler Needle as well as Western Front on Russell—the classic lines we hadn't yet completed up there. We approached Iceberg Lake on Saturday, taking our time and enjoying a beautiful sunset before a windy, chilly night. We woke at 5am on Sunday and headed for Keeler after a quick breakfast, reaching the base of the first pitch at about 6:30am.
The first pitch went well, but on the second pitch, a wrist injury from late May started to hurt a bit. We decided to try the third pitch, with overhanging 10b twin cracks. As I was pulling those moves, my wrist became too painful to grip, got swollen, and made my thumb go numb. It would have been crazy to keep going, so we did 3 raps back to the start and one more to get past the snow. We sulked back to camp at Iceberg and I proceeded to sleep for the next 16 hours, trying to get my altitude headache to go away and generally feeling down.
On Monday, we decided to get on the East Buttress of Whitney as a consolation prize. We'd climbed the East Buttress and the East Face in a day back in 2012 and both had fond memories of the buttress. We left camp around 9:30am after a leisurely breakfast and some conversation with fellow climbers. We soloed the first bit and then simul-climbed the rest of the way to the top, enjoying awesome rock and fun movement throughout. What a fun climb. We topped out about 3 hours later, had a snack and took in the view, and then descended to Iceberg for some (brief) lake swimming before packing up and hiking out, with the help of some whiskey, to the car. The burrito truck was open in Lone Pine and really capped off an awesome day.
Dale reminded me of a great climbing quote: "The goal is to come home safe, friends, and successful, in that order." While we didn't succeed in climbing either of our desired routes, we did prioritize appropriately and had a good time regardless.