Mt Whitney Webcam
Mt Williamson Webcam
Feature Topics
Who's Online
1 registered (bobpickering), 24 Guests and 8 Spiders online.
Key: Admin, Global Mod, Mod
Forum Stats
4054 Members
10 Forums
5882 Topics
52794 Posts

Max Online: 1443 @ 07/29/19 08:40 AM
Topic Options
#13706 - 05/06/11 03:40 AM Mt. Whitney Back-up Plan Advice?
Bulldog34 Offline

Registered: 11/12/09
Posts: 1255
Loc: Atlanta
OK, all you Eastside Experts, I need some advice. In July my wife, 11 YO daughter, myself, and Joe Q (quillansculpture) plan to do a 3-day/2-night backpack of Whitney. Given my wife's history with dramatically bad AMS, and the fact that neither she nor my daughter have done any hiking much over 11K', I figured this would be the best way to get them up and down successfully. They'll have 5 prior nights sleeping at 8K', with several dayhikes to 11,500' or so.

The problem is that we do not have permits. I've scheduled our start for a Wednesday, 7/20, feeling pretty confident that we should be able to secure 4 walk-in permits near mid-day that day, leaving us plenty of time to get up to Consultation Lake for the first night. Summit and back to CL the second day, then back down the third. I'd be remiss, however, if I didn't have a Plan B ready to roll if we should find ourselves at the IA center at mid-day on the 20th, packs loaded and ready to go, but not in possession of overnight WZ permits.

Should that happen, what options would you suggest? Obviously, any other start would need to be close by, as the day would already be half gone. My first inclination would be to head up to Meysan Lake (assuming we could snag overnight wilderness permits at the IA), spend the 2nd day trying to tag some combination of Irvine, Mallory, or LeConte, then back down the 3rd day. My wife has her heart set on summitting something of consequence, and has pretty decent cross-country skills. In researching these peaks I'm not coming up with a lot of detail, but they appear to be pretty straightforward class 2 hikes, albeit with scree-ski, with maybe some minor class 3 near the summit. If that's the case, it's doable for both my girls.

The second option appears to be to Cottonwood Lakes the first night, and possibly Langley the next day. I've gone as far as Cottonwood Lakes, and the Pass, before, but not beyond.

Help your Bulldog Brother out!

#13707 - 05/06/11 04:31 AM Re: Mt. Whitney Back-up Plan Advice? [Re: Bulldog34]
KevinR Offline

Registered: 11/03/09
Posts: 595
Loc: Manchester, NH
Gary - I'd consider Langley or White Mtn as backups for Whitney. The issue with Langley may be the snow level in New Army Pass, especially potential cornices near the top of the Pass. My hunch is that Army Pass (or some call it Old Army Pass) will be impassable (short of technical gear) until well into August.

If you do Langley, climb the scree fields the last mile or so - these are on the far left as you approach it. A more direct approach often entails scrambling/bouldering and can become technical. And, there are lots of peaks in the Cottonwood area, including Cirque.

There's a nice campground at Grandview if you do White Mtn. Bring your own water though, as there's almost none up high. White Mtn is almost a sure thing, so to speak. Do watch out for t-storms, though. Sometimes they don't form on the Sierra, but do come over the Owens Valley and really whack that ridge.

#13715 - 05/06/11 07:05 AM Re: Mt. Whitney Back-up Plan Advice? [Re: KevinR]
wbtravis Offline

Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1253
Loc: Corner of Jack Benny and Roche...
Meysan Lake Trail is a beautiful under used trail but it is a mosquito factory...most of the camp sites are in or around a meadow.

Last year, I fell in love Cottonwood Pass-Trail Pass Loop. We based at Chicken Spring Lake, did Cirque our first day in and looped out and did Trail Peak. Cirque isn't all that hard to figure out...go down the PCT until you can see Cirque Peak on your right then head for it. Trail Peak is relatively easy get. look at your map for the easiest route up from the trail. We did it in June when there was still some snow around on Trail Peak but none on Cirque...just some snow fields along the way.

You should have problems getting bp permits for either. If Cottonwood Pass is a full, just go up Trail Pass Trail where there are no quotas.

Langley is an easy get via Army Pass made somewhat harder by using New Army Pass. We usually head up to a Long Lake basecamp via the South Fork's on USGS map and the message board at the CL/NAP Trailhead but not the Tom Harrison Map. Just go ~180' past the SF crossing and look for a trail on your left. Taking this will eliminate the roller coaster ride and most of horses... However, there is a big climb to the South Fork Lake Basin and a cross country trip through the basin to meet up with the NAP Trail just before your reach Long Lake...the best camping there is at the lake's west near the outlet from High Lake.

BD - message me if you need more info.

#13721 - 05/06/11 07:45 AM Re: Mt. Whitney Back-up Plan Advice? [Re: Bulldog34]
tdtz Offline

Registered: 08/26/10
Posts: 511
Loc: CA
Hey Gary,
you've probably seen my plans. I'm going to try for the Whitney permits, but if I don't get them, I am planning on bringing my son and a couple of friends up to Meysan Lake and do what you suggested.

I'm planning on going up Memorial weekend and doing a day hike as far up Meysan trail as I can go without needing any special snow equipment (cramps, shoes, axes etc....).

I'll let you know how my scouting trip goes.

#13724 - 05/06/11 07:50 AM Re: Mt. Whitney Back-up Plan Advice? [Re: Bulldog34]
bobpickering Online

Registered: 02/07/10
Posts: 472
Loc: Reno, Nevada

You get two chances at snagging a permit each day. When people call in and cancel their permits, they re-issue them in the morning. When people simply don't show up to claim their permits, they re-issue them in the afternoon. Show up early, not "near mid-day" so you will have a chance at both "lotteries."

There are literally hundreds of peaks worth climbing in the Sierra. Many have trailheads within 90 minutes of Lone Pine and have reasonable approaches. However, some of them are more technical than what I think your family would enjoy. Class three can be pretty scary when you're a day's hike from the car, you're above 13,000 feet, and one route-finding mistake brings the difficulty to class four or worse. (LeConte is a perfect example of this.) I would study R J Secor and Summitpost for ideas and compile a list of possible trips using several different trailheads. Print out a map and route descriptions for each trip.

I'll repeat my suggestion that you do Dana as a day trip while you're here. I think Agassiz would be perfect for your family. Nearby Mt. Goode is also worth considering. With the exception of LeConte, all of the suggestions in the above posts are good ones. Lone Pine Peak has a class two route from the Meysan Lake trailhead.

#13728 - 05/06/11 08:34 AM Re: Mt. Whitney Back-up Plan Advice? [Re: bobpickering]
Anonymous1 Offline

Registered: 10/18/10
Posts: 453
Bob, I asked the board about Agassiz about two months ago I believe. Isn't there high avalanche danger right now? I've only been once last October and it was a bit eerie listening to loose rocks roll down.

If you've been up there recently, a conditions report would be appreciated as I want to head back up there. Thanks.

#13734 - 05/06/11 09:58 AM Re: Mt. Whitney Back-up Plan Advice? [Re: Bulldog34]
CMC2 Offline

Registered: 11/04/09
Posts: 161
Loc: CO
Gary, the main goal is success on climbing a 14er. Thus if you don't end up with permits either way as Bob P mentions, I would strongly recommend White Mt as this would be the easiest way for Barb and Bri to bag a high peak. Climbing White would give them alot of confidence for the next attempt at Whitney and show them that they can handle the altitude OK & besides, the road is alot easier to hike than a rocky trail.

Of course Cottonwood and Langley would be possible too and probably alot more scenic, but White would be easier and not as challenging as Langley or Whitney for that matter.

Sometimes you have to start with lower expectations and you know how you felt after trying Whitney and had to come back the next year to finally reach the summit. Barb and Bri need success on this trip in July !! Still I am betting you get your permit OK and with Joe along everyone will have a good shot at the Whitney summit.

#13761 - 05/06/11 05:13 PM Re: Mt. Whitney Back-up Plan Advice? [Re: CMC2]
Bulldog34 Offline

Registered: 11/12/09
Posts: 1255
Loc: Atlanta
Kevin, Bill, Tom, Bob, Ernie - thanks guys! A lot of good suggestions to think about and research. We're still about 10 weeks out from leaving, but I wanted to get a sense of what others thought might be accessible and do-able for my girls. I like plans. Plans are good. Back-up plans are even better. It's just the way I roll.

Just to be clear, this is a worst-case scenario Plan B. I'll be calling the Bishop NFS office twice daily beginning about two weeks out from our departure looking to snag 4 Whitney overnight cancellations (both times I've been up Whitney, it was with either a walk-in permit or cancellation pick-ups). I'm betting I'll pick up at least 2 overnight permits that way. That's how I got the permits for Joe and I last year - about 48 hours out. If I haven't secured all 4 before 7/20, then I'll roll the dice on walking in the morning of the 20th for the remainder. My mid-day what-do-we-do-now scenario was based on being skunked in both the 8 am and 11 am opportunities at the IA center day-of. Statistically, Wednesday was the best day last year to secure walk-in permits - ergo, we're shooting for Wednesday! I feel pretty confident we'll get the permits and be heading up the MMWT that day, but I gotta have a Plan B.

The other piece is that this Whitney backpack actually wraps up a 13-day Sierra trip for us. We'll be spending several nights in Mammoth Lakes prior to moving south to the Portal, and are eyeing several hikes in the Yosemite area. We did the same thing last year and got in Little Lakes Valley, Mono Pass, the Ancient Bristlecone Methuselah Walk, and a couple of other nice hikes before heading for Whitney. Bob - Dana and Agassiz are high on the list for this year. We'll probably attempt to tag at least one of them before you and I hit Cathedral on the 18th. They're coming along that day to hike to the base of Cathedral - and then watch the show.

My daughter is an exceptionally strong hiker for her tender years, and my wife is actually pushing me pretty damn hard on the trails right now. She's been training for a 28-mile dayhike in the Blue Ridge mountains for about 3 months - "The Ultimate Hike for the Cure" next weekend - and is really in great hiking shape, while I've been laid up healing this broken big toe for most of a month. I hiked with her last weekend, my first real trail time since taking my fall 4 weeks earlier. My most common refrain that day: "Barb! Slow down, dammit!"

They've both matured greatly as hikers the past couple of years, and are ready and eager to tackle some of the harder stuff (Jeez, am I a lucky guy or what?!). They both want to get up something in the Sierra higher than their previous best of about 11,500 feet but, other than having their hearts set on Whitney, aren't hung up with specifically getting a Fourteener under their belts. A good Thirteener will do if Whitney is a no-go. Like you said, Ernie: success is a confidence-builder that's good for the psyche. Neither has done any class 3 before, so I do need to be careful with that, along with watching them closely for AMS. I think my daughter will acclimate well, since she's been to 14K' several times in Colorado with no issues, but my wife had a disasterous episode of AMS on Pikes Peak a few years back. Completely incapacitated within 30 minutes. Diamox has been in her backpack ever since.

#13772 - 05/06/11 08:03 PM Re: Mt. Whitney Back-up Plan Advice? [Re: Anonymous1]
bobpickering Online

Registered: 02/07/10
Posts: 472
Loc: Reno, Nevada
My last ascent of Agassiz was mostly on skis on January 25, 1998. My last trip over Bishop Pass was August 11, 2009. I was doing North Palisade, Starlight, and Thunderbolt as a day trip. (Sorry, I just had to throw that in.)

Snow avalanches may be a concern right now, especially in the afternoon. By the time Gary gets there, the danger of snow avalanches should be gone. A big rockslide buried parts of the trail a few years ago. There are signs warning hikers not to dawdle in the area of the rockslide. I wouldn't stop to take a leak or eat lunch in that area, but I don't think it's a big deal.

#13784 - 05/07/11 06:42 AM Re: Mt. Whitney Back-up Plan Advice? [Re: Bulldog34]
wbtravis Offline

Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1253
Loc: Corner of Jack Benny and Roche...

Plan Bs can be better than you your Plan A by a large margin.

Another thought, if you are look for fun trip with your girl and its a process hike. Cross NAP head for Lower Soldier Lake camp there...there is great hidden campsite just before the lake away from crowds. The following day hike to the end of the lake climb and cross a low rise head north toward the Miter and Sky Blue Lake. This is an absolutely gorgeous trip.

We did this crossing Cottonwood Pass in late June in a dry year. My preferred crossing point is Army Pass.

There are so many great easy to moderately easy trips in the Sierra.

#13824 - 05/08/11 05:45 AM Re: Mt. Whitney Back-up Plan Advice? [Re: Bulldog34]
catpappy Offline

Registered: 03/06/10
Posts: 120
Loc: acworth, ga
Gary, the Army Pass, Langley, Miter basin trip will not disappoint. I did this route on my first Whitney trip a few years back. Langley is a worthy peak to scratch off your peak list, and the views are great. Lots of pretty lakes and campsites. You might even try some fishing. We had good luck. You'll also still be in the Portal/Lone Pine area so that urge to fulfill a burger and beer feast at trips end can be met.


#13887 - 05/10/11 08:56 AM Re: Mt. Whitney Back-up Plan Advice? [Re: wbtravis]
Bulldog34 Offline

Registered: 11/12/09
Posts: 1255
Loc: Atlanta
I'm coming to realize that, Bill. I've gone up Whitney each of the last two summers, but have managed to squeeze in dayhikes of Mono Pass, Cottonwood Pass and Lakes, Little Lakes Valley, the Ancient Bristlecones, and a few shorter Yosemite routes during those two trips. Getting my wife and daughter up the blonde is definitely the centerpiece of this trip, but other hikes and peaks in the Sierra are beckoning as I become more familiar with the area. Going with Bob P's advice, I plan to take my family up Mt. Dana this trip, along with a few other shorter dayhikes.

I'm sure we'll continue to make this annual family expedition centered around Whitney into the forseeable future, but I'm also sure we'll try very hard to hit a couple of new peaks each trip as well. Guess I'll have to break down and finally buy a Secor guide.

The problem is: so many hikes and peaks available, but so little time! One two-week trip to the Sierra each year doesn't begin to scratch the surface. John (catpappy) has described to me at length his ramblings back in the Miter Basin, and it sounds like something I'd like to do if I can get the opportunity. Laura M has also prompted me to hit that area, as well as Kearsarge and Bishop Passes.

I'm sure that whatever we come up with for a Plan B will make a Plan A in most other areas pale in comparison. For eight years we spent our summers visiting and hiking in almost every major national park east of the Mississippi. After visiting everything but the Yellowstone/Glacier/Tetons area, we've found the Sierra to be our favorite.

#13889 - 05/10/11 09:02 AM Re: Mt. Whitney Back-up Plan Advice? [Re: Bulldog34]
quillansculpture Offline

Registered: 11/13/09
Posts: 566
Loc: Murrieta, CA
Gary, All those problems can be solved by you checking the Real Estate listings in Lone Pine, Bishop :-) I mean, aren't you getting close to the age of retirement? I know Barbara would be fine with it. Maybe you'll need a roomie!
"Turtles, Frogs & other Environmental Sculpture"
twitter: @josephquillan

If less is more, imagine how much more, more is -Frasier