Great hike! I loved the trail. It was so much more colorful and lovely in person. I left at 3:25am from the Portal. Pleasant hike by headlamp. No need for lamp after about 4:30am. I enjoyed the great sites. Little snow on trail-about 200 yards total. The trail went right over the snow and no need for crampons. "Cables" no snow, and only about a 10 foot drop to a shelf below the very secure cable rails. Scary at first from Trail Crest although great view. Crest would not be as good if wet or icy.. In spite of some steep drops, I got used the trail fast and it was nice. There were 4 windows. Window Sequoia side 60% grade, Owens side 10 foot drop, shelf, then 1000 feet down. No problem going by the windows. I stopped and took photos between the windows-not really scary to me. Clear day. My thermometer read about 32 the whole way to the summit. Hiked to Trail Camp and ran to the Portal. Ironically, I finished 12 hours to the minute round trip from Portal (3:25am-3:25pm).
Trip Report- Mt Whitney, CA-14494’
Highest point in lower 48
via standard route
21.4 miles RT, 6850’ gain (w/ attempt of Muir)
Day 1 (6.0 miles to Trail Camp, 3640’ gain, 5hr 10min)
The day had finally come to climb the big one in the lower 48. Since obtaining our permit way back in Feb, my wife and I were looking forward to this hike. We both felt well conditioned for the long hike, but the added weight had us dreading the first day. We stayed in Bishop after two days in Yosemite, just an hour’s drive from Lone Pine. We arrived in Lone Pine around 7:30am and got some laundry started before the ranger station opened at 8, where we would get our permits. Since another guy and myself were the only parties with reservations, I was out of there pretty quick after the obligatory lecture about bears, human waste disposal, etc.
We finished our laundry, swept out the car of all remnants of food, and headed up the steep 12 mile road to the Whitney Portal at 8360’, nearly 5000’ above Lone Pine. The parking lots were still pretty full on a busy Sunday, one day after the celebration of the 100 year anniversary of the construction of the trail. We stored our food in some nifty storage bins in the parking lot that were crammed with all kinds of stuff that bears would be interested in. We got our gear together in 30 minutes or so and were on the trail at 10:35am. My overnight pack weighs nearly 8 pounds by itself, so add water, sleeping bag & pad, clothes, bear container w/ food, and cooking assesories, filter, etc., and the pack was probably close to 60 pds. I thought I was bringing the essentials, but I guess not! Everybody else seemed to have a lighter load. I kept Jenni’s load under 30 pounds. My body was in shock the first mile, but my breathing was good, so we both felt the 6 miles wouldn’t take as long as expected. The switchbacks throughout this trail are short and gentle, easier than Barr Trail on Pike’s in my opinion. Most people were coming down as we only came across a couple parties going up. We guessed that the party had already started without us at Trail Camp.
We finally got into a groove after the first mile or so, coming to Lone Pine Lake which is beautiful from above. A ranger passed us before entering the Whitney Zone where permits are required. He said there had been heavy rains the day before and a couple we met who were coming down had to go back to Trail Camp to retrieve there gear as they were too soaked to stay. We were blessed by excellent weather both days. At Mirror Lake (4 mile mark), we took a much needed lunch break. My hips were starting to get hammered, but we both felt reasonably well considering the weight. Above Mirror Lake, the trail breaks out above treeline and the switchbacks become shorter and steeper. There is a maze of rocks and steps to negotiate, but this trail was well engineered. We didn’t have any problems following it.
At mile 5, Trailside Meadows afforded tremendous views of Lone Pine Creek cascading through the snow. That inspired us to press on for the last mile up to Trail Camp, where as expected there were probably 50 tents in the vicinity of the unnamed pond at 12000’. We arrived at 3:47pm, a little earlier than I had expected. It looked like it could rain at any time, so we quickly picked a spot about 400 yards from the pond and setup our tent. The rock shelters and smooth sites were excellent. I could tell that water could be a problem with a heavy rain, as erosion ruts were present in the dirt. We filtered water, had a nice chicken and rice meal, and hit the sack at 8pm. It was a little difficult to fall asleep with the late arrivals, but we slept fairly well at 12K.
Day 2 (15.2 miles, 3210’ gain, 9hr 41min)
We awoke at 5am with visions of the summit dancing our heads, at least mine. Jenni didn’t want to get up so early, but I quickly reminded her that we didn’t want to have to ascend the 99 switchbacks twice! Our daypack was pretty much ready, so after a breakfast bar, sunscreen, bugspray, etc., we were heading up the infamous 99 switchbacks at 5:37am. We saw only two parties leave before us after 5am, so we felt the journey up would be free of major traffic. The switchbacks are not too bad in my book, going back and forth at a gentle grade. We came across a party who had left at midnight from the portal just below the cables. In retrospect, we probably should have done the same thing. It would mean fewer miles of pain and faster hiking. The cables section is not a big deal in summer. There was a thin band of snow to the left of the trail, but it was plenty wide. This section would be dicey in winter though. We made it to 13777’ Trail Crest in about 1hr 45min, and got our first view of the skies to the west. Dark cumulus clouds were building, but I felt we still had a reasonable window to make the summit.
My secondary goal was to summit Mt Muir, an impressive spire along the ridge to Whitney that is on the CA 14’er list. I plotted a waypoint where the use trail to the summit broke off to the right. The summit is only about 200’ vertical above the trail, but it involves some class 3+ climbing on the summit block. We made our way across the windows section, which I thought was a little overhyped. Yes, there are 1000’+ drops to your right, but you aren’t going anywhere to your left. Even I was comfortable with that section. The trail quickly loses elevation after Trail Crest, which is a little disconcerting, but it is not the typical 14’er grunt from the saddle that is experienced on so many of them. Other than the elevation loss, the final 2 miles are slow but doable. I would not want to traverse this in a storm though.
We made our way across a 100’ snowfield just below the summit, which the trail easily cut through. We finally saw the summit hut and I topped out at 8:45am, with Jenni soon to follow. Standing on the flat summit boulder on the edge of the east face was exhilarating. A group of marathoners were up there with us and they came all the way from the portal in under 5 hours! They were training for the Pikes Peak marathon. Another father/son team from Boulder celebrated the dad’s 65th birthday on top of Whitney. What an accomplishment! Jenni signed us in the large register at the hut for state highpoint #34 and 32 for Jenni. The clouds continued to move in, so we set off after the obligatory pics, video, and yells.
We made our way over to the Muir use trail and Jenni waited for me on the trail. She was not comfortable with me going up there by myself, but I knew my limits. My first mistake was I left my route photos and description in the car. I remembered to ascend the boulders by climbing to the right, then pick the path of least resistance. I quickly arrived at the class 3 section and gave it a shot. After climbing about 40 feet or so, it quickly turned to class 4 terrain and I was worried if I would be able to get down, since it was always harder for me to do that. I came to a point where a risky lunge to the left was required, so I backed off and tried another route. I found a crack system further to the left, but I was not sure how hard it got just below the summit. I was not comfortable attempting this with my limited experience by myself, so I bailed on Muir and headed back down,
Jenni and I came across quite a few people on their way up. We made good time moving through the switchbacks, and were back down to Trail Camp in 2hr 52min including the Muir side trip. I refilled the water bottles, we packed up camp, and began the dreaded death slog down the final 6 miles. Even though we were descending, we plodded along pretty sore as the weight was a problem on the rocks and steps. Many people blew by us with their day packs. We took a snack break at Mirror Lake, then staggered through the final 4 miles. With visions of pizza and showers dancing through our heads, we finally saw the trailhead kiosk some 3hr 41min after leaving camp. Jenni took a shower at the portal, while I just rested in the car and retrieved our food stash. On to LA for a few days to visit family, then Humphreys in AZ!
Sept. 1st, Made the climb with my son Mike and his friend, Jake. Started at 0430 hrs. and made the summit at 1630 hrs. The boys were a big help. The weather was perfect. Once is enough for me. Should be experience for those who have the desire. T. Davis..
It was a great experience for a group of 7 guys. In our party were three PhD.s in Geology from USC a MS grad student and another guy who had completed his masters. They were of course California guys. Myself and the other member of our party were from Chicago and work in the financial industry. The big reason for this climb was Steve's bachelor party, we opted for this instead of going to Vegas. We had actually started to plan this trip shortly after the first of the year getting the necessary permits. We had great weather even tho a front had gone through a few days earlier and left some new snow. It did get cold quickly once the sun dropped behind the mountain top. And perhaps the strangest thing of all was watching people come down the 97 switchbacks at night with headlamps on. We broke camp around 7:30 on Labor day and made the summit by 11:00. Took the ususal group pictures and had a snack. We were off the mountain by 6:30 and man did the burgers at the portal store taste great. It was a great time for all of us and Steve got married the following weekend with out a hitch.
I hiked up Mt. Whitney at the end of a John Muir Trail thru-hike last august/september. It was my first highpoint. At the time, highpointing was not a familiar concept but since then I now hope to highpoint 48 or 50 state highpoints. What a great HP to begin this new goal. I just recently completed the southern eight state HPs. Hopefully Rainier and others this summer. Here is a brief photo article of my JMT hike with Mt. Whitney pics at the end. Enjoy, I sure did. http://www.worldisround.com/articles/74948/index.html
The summer 2005 highpointing trip would take on added significance for me. I would be climbing one of the peaks on this trip, Mt. Whitney, as an “Ascent for Autism Research.” As the father of a six-year-old autistic daughter, I wanted to put my climbing efforts to a good cause, and committed to raising funds for the National Alliance for Autism Research. Despite getting a rather late start on publicity, something I hope to remedy if I do any subsequent AFARs, I still had two nice newspaper articles done about the effort, in the Boston Globe and the Attleboro Sun Chronicle. All donations went directly to NAAR, making them tax deductible for the donors and eliminating the hassle of creating a charitable entity to accept donations.
Joining me on this trip was fellow highpointer Kevin Sweeney. Our plan going in was to fly in to Oakland on Monday August 22nd, tackle Boundary Peak on Tuesday as an acclimatization hike for Whitney, climb Whitney on Thursday and fly home on Friday. A word of warning to anyone flying in to Oakland and renting from Alamo: despite what you may hear, Alamo is NOT located at the airport. They are in Berkley, which, I’m given to believe, is either a train ride or a $35 cab ride away. Luckily Enterprise was able to give us a 4x4 Jeep Liberty with no advance reservation for about the same price we would have received from Alamo. Minor emergency resolved, we were on our way to Boundary Peak a little after 1 p.m.
Hoping to get to the Trail Canyon trailhead for Boundary Peak before dark, we opted to go the more Northerly Sonora Pass, instead of the more popular and possibly more crowded Tioga Pass through Yosemite. Taking time to stop for food, we found ourselves approaching Benton, CA, looking at Montgomery and Boundary Peaks at dusk. There is no lodging in Benton, though there is a B&B about 5 miles West in Benton Hot Springs. When we discovered this fact at the little gas station/diner at the intersection of Routes 120 & 6, we opted to head towards the Boundary Peak trailhead in the dark and get an early start instead of backtracking on Route 120 to try to crash at the B&B. From Benton, CA, it’s 7 miles along Route 6 to the CA-NV border, 12 more miles to where Route 360 (which you don’t want) breaks off to the North, and another 5 miles to the intersection with Route 264, which you want to head South on. The road to the Boundary Peak trailhead is well marked on your right-hand side and appears just after Route 773 comes in from the left to meet up with Route 264.
Armed with waypoints I had uploaded to my GPS unit from my mapping software, we decided to try to get to the trailhead in the dark. I was using a Garmin Rino 120 GPS unit with data from MapSource’s US Topo software. We did well until my waypoints took us off the road to the trailhead. What I didn’t realize until the next morning was that the road I followed on my mapping software detoured through an abandoned mine. After rounding a pretty steep, narrow corner and arriving at a plateau in the dark, we decided to camp there and figure out where we were in the morning. The area was littered with sharp, brittle rock that made sleeping tough even with a sleeping pad. Not having brought a sleeping pad, Kevin opted to wedge himself diagonally in the back of the Jeep.
The next morning it was easy to see the actual road to the trailhead, and we broke camp, headed down and over towards the trailhead. A pleasant surprise was that despite the fact that my waypoints changed from “road” to “route,” we were still driving along, not having hit the trailhead yet. It turns out the road extended farther than my mapping software indicated. We ended up starting up the trail around 9 a.m.
Our plan was to try the “East Ridge Route” described at summitpost.com. This route starts out on the Trail Canyon Route, but then once you cross the stream and are on the South side of it, you bushwhack to the right of a drainage up towards a saddle approximately 1,000’ above you – or so that’s what the description said. We followed the Trail Canyon trail and found the stream crossing fairly quickly. Somewhat surprised at having crossed to the South side so quickly, we continued on along the Trail Canyon trail for a little longer, to just past a point where it crossed the stream again. Not wanting to backtrack, we opted to start heading for the drainage from there. The route description does say that there is no trail, and that you’ll be bushwhacking up along the drainage, but for the most part I think we missed the boat. The low scrub was annoying and scraped against my legs, but the more difficult sections had short trees with low branches, around 3’ – 4’ off the ground, that we had to lean/limbo/crawl under. Kevin’s decision to wear long black pants in the Nevada heat actually saved his legs from the fate mine suffered.
When the path finally opened up a bit, we saw a bit of a saddle to our left, while my GPS unit indicated that the summit was generally straight/to the right, past a false summit. We headed up and towards the right of this false summit. I think this is where we really got off the East Ridge Route. When we emerged high enough to look into the Boundary Peak bowl, we realized that we probably didn’t need to have climbed this high on that false summit. Worse, the East Ridge Route proper appeared attainable only by traversing sideways along some fairly steep, scree-filled slopes. We noted the time, considered that we still had a 22-mile hike coming up on Whitney, and chose a zigzag course down the scree into the Boundary Peak bowl. This turned out to be an approximately 1,500’ scree descent. I couldn’t help but think that after I return to claim Boundary Peak I’m going to have a t-shirt made up that says “I screed Boundary Peak.” One bright spot was the animal skull with 2 holes in it (like it was once worn as a necklace) that I found on the way down this seldom-used chute. Looks like a Native American artifact, though I’m no expert, nor can I even identify the animal it came from. In any event, we met up with a few older hikers from Utah on the way down and couldn’t help but think about the fact that we, just over half their age, failed while they succeeded. I guess standard routes are standard for a reason. Our hike back from the bowl to the trailhead also proved an annoyance, given the overgrowth and poor quality of the Trail Canyon Trail (most of which we had skipped on the way up) and the multitude of zigzagging animal trails along the way. By the time we got back to the trailhead, my legs looked like I had walked through barbed wire. Anyway, on to Lone Pine, CA.
Rather than backtracking through Benton, we headed South from Trail Canyon on Route 264, which becomes Route 266 (once you cross into California, if I’m not mistaken), and then headed West on Route 168 towards Big Pine. It was early evening by the time we made it into Lone Pine. We found the ranger station in Lone Pine and discovered a motel with vacancy literally across the street. Lone Pine is only around 3,000’ above sea level, but we opted to sleep there, within easy reach of restaurants, the ranger station and a shower, rather than seeking out altitude to retain our acclimatization.
The next morning I walked over to the ranger station, hoping to be able to pass up our dayhike permits for Thursday in exchange for overnight Wednesday-Thursday permits. Fortunately for us, there were plenty available. By mid-day we were headed up the road to Whitney Portal.
The bear situation was something new to us. We got mixed responses to whether plain water had to be kept in the bear canisters and whether our large duffel bags looked too much like coolers and should therefore be kept in the storage bins available at the parking lot. Ultimately we chose to err on the side of caution, cutting back on the water we brought along & putting it all in the bear can and stuffing all our belongings in the storage bins in the parking lot. As we later discovered, some of our neighbors at Outpost Camp had left water in the open, outside their tents, with no problems.
It was mid-afternoon by the time we hit the trail. We started out hiking with two women from the San Diego area at an easy pace. After a brief discussion with a ranger, we opted to stay at Outpost Camp, 3.8 miles in and 2,000’ up, that night. We arrived at Outpost Camp, pitched our tent and still had plenty of time to meet some of our neighbors and eat before dark. Despite the fact that the tent location was much better than on Boundary Peak, we still didn’t sleep all that well. Maybe it was the altitude – or the potential of bears roaming through the campsite.
The next morning we were on the trail by 5:45. For the most part we hiked with a native Aussie named Mark now living in the Bay area. He and his group were dayhiking, having started well before dawn. Mark was well ahead of his group and, though we were able to keep up with him most of the way to Trail Crest, when we met up again there we encouraged him to press on at the faster pace he was clearly able to maintain. We next saw Mark coming down as we were ascending the never-ending dirt path just below the summit.
I was surprised at the amount of exposure at several points along the trail. The cables section didn’t seem to really need cables – at least at this time of year – but near Trail Crest and at quite a few points after that the consequences of a fall off the trail would have been disastrous.
We arrived at the summit a little after 1. Surprisingly my fairly fresh digital camera batteries died immediately after taking a shot of my name in the register. For some reason I still had the old batteries in the case and tried those – they worked! I wonder if it was some bizarre form of altitude effect. Those supposedly-dead-but-replaced-at-altitude batteries are still working today. We took quite a few pictures and headed down after about a half an hour, knowing we still had to make it all the way to the Portal tonight. Not to mention that we were flying out of Oakland just before 11 the next morning!
We got back to Outpost Camp in the early evening, and broke camp as quickly as we could. We hiked out with 2 guys that had just completed a 20-day backpacking trip from Yosemite and offered them a ride to their car parked inside Yosemite, since it was on our way back to Oakland. What a way to see Yosemite – in the dark! Our sleep that night consisted of about an hour and a half at a roadside scenic overlook, but we made our return flight with time to spare.
After all was said and done, we batted .500 as far as highpoints were concerned, but we had a successful Ascent for Autism Research on Whitney. Thanks are due (in no particular order) to my wife, Laura, who watched the kids for the week, to all those who donated to NAAR on behalf of our climb, to Stony Burk, who provided us with some great photos of the Boundary Peak area, Mike Gelbwasser and Christine Wallgren for the great articles about the climb, Jack “cyberfool” from the forum and all those who responded to my inquiries on the Whitney Portal and mt-whitney.info forums, including “bearbnz,” who took aerial shots of Montgomery / Boundary for a new route we didn’t have the time to try; hope I didn’t miss anyone!
Good for a snore...lots of pictures though! Even if you're not going to do the whole JMT, i highly recommend the approach from the west, either from Kearsarge Pass/ Onion Valley or whatever the south trailhead is.
If anyone has had something come up and will not be able to climb Mt. Whitney during the August 1-August 4th period please contact me (a posting on this website would be fine) as I am very interested in trying to secure a few Mt. Whitney Zone permits during this period.
Just returned from climbing Mount Whitney on Thur/Fri last week. We went up the main trail (lots of snow still) except we bypassed the 99 switchbacks to Trail Crest by taking the snow slope to their right. Had the summit to ourselves on Thursday afternoon - no one had even signed the register since Sunday. Perfect weather and a near-full moon completed the trip. This trip completes the 48 contiguous states for me. I'll have to give a lot of thought to whether or not I want to attempt Denali in the future.
This is a short description of my guided climb with Mr. Chris Simmons of Sierra Mountain Center in Bishop, California, via the Mountaineer's Route from August 13, 2007, through August 15, 2007. If you are looking for the best guide and tired of being subjected to the Mt. Whitney Trail Lottery System, this is the best option for you.
Day 1 begins at the Trailhead of the Mt. Whitney Trail about 7:30 A.M. and embarks on the Mt. Whitney Trail for only about 3/8 of a mile before leaving the trail at the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek to follow the Mountaineer's Route. The beginning of the Mountaineer's Route travels through trees, bushes, willows, and crosses the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek numerous times before arriving at the Ebersbacher Ledges. This is a very narrow trail that traverses up the rock face with only a couple of short Class III moves. After the ledges, the trail continues upward through trees and bushes before arriving at Lower Boyscout Lake; this is where you will see the first glimpse of Mt. Whitney. After Lower Boyscout, it is another one mile and one thousand vertical feet of hiking through boulders and up a rock slab that parallels the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek to reach Upper Boyscout Lake. I consider myself a slow climber, and this day took five hours.
Day 2 begins about one hour prior to sunrise to ascend the surrounding foothills to reach Iceberg Lake. After Iceberg Lake, climb the chute to the right of Mt. Whitney that requires numerous Class III moves. After reaching the top of the chute, it is time to rope up for safety requiring Class III and Class IV moves and ascend the North Face of Mt. Whitney to reach the summit. The time for this day was four hours to the summit, fifteen minutes on the summit, and three hours forty-five minutes to descend for a total day of eight hours.
Day 3 is the descent day via the same route described in the Day 1 paragraph. It is best to start early before the heat of the day especially in August. The descent took me about four hours and thirty minutes.
I want to convey my sincerest appreciation and highest recommendation for the services of Mr. Chris Simmons of Sierra Mountain Center. He has the highest enthusiasm for his work, dedication to safety, and is willing to teach better climbing techniques and facts about the local environment. Mr. Chris Simmons has had a very successful record of reaching the summit and returning over the last five years since the date of my climb; give him a call when you are ready to climb Mt. Whitney.