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#14652 - 05/30/11 09:11 PM First time @ Whitney - please critique my plan
Jeremy Offline


Registered: 05/30/11
Posts: 17
Loc: United States
Hi All-

I am planning a trip with 4 guys, in good shape, all experienced summertime backpackers with virtually no winter mountaineering experience. I myself spent a month in New Mexico with NOLS but only winter stuff is skiing/snowshoeing...I have never used crampons/ice axe.

Our permit dates are Jun 26 & 27. We are planning to bring crampons and ski poles. I am going to try to forego the ice axes due to weight, extra expense and the fact that we are going to avoid climbing ice chutes or glissading in general. I suspect that most of the terrain is mixed and we are not going to have to break any major slides down a snow covered mountain if we take it relatively safely and stick to the MMWT.

our itinerary with acclimatization is

6/24: drive from LA and camp at Whitney Portal or nearby
6/25: hike to lone pine lake and camp
6/26: hike to trail camp and camp there
6/27: summit (with day packs) in the AM and then hike back to Whitney Portal and drive back home

I would greatly appreciate any feedback you might have on the feasibility of doing this hike WITHOUT ICE AXES and WITHOUT specific winter mountaineering skills @ this time of year. What do you think about the quality of the itinerary?

Thanks so much for any help you can provide!

Best,

Jeremy

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#14653 - 05/31/11 02:32 AM Re: First time @ Whitney - please critique my plan [Re: Jeremy]
+ @ti2d Offline


Registered: 10/22/09
Posts: 825
Loc: Oh Cursed, USA
Great plan, but...

You will be climbing the ice chute adjacent the switchbacks...the SBs will be covered in snow and ice during your journey...crampons and ice axe will be needed...

Remember, getting to the top is optional, getting down is mandatory.

Safety first, last and always...

Go as far as you safely can...

Hope this helps...



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#14654 - 05/31/11 06:38 AM Re: First time @ Whitney - please critique my plan [Re: Jeremy]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1553
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
Jeremy:

I like the LPL strategy: one I would use myself. TO make the most of that time, I would also climb to at least LPL the first day and return to the portal to sleep. Second day, from LPL, climb another thousand or two, and return to LPL to crash.

AS for your equipment plan, not so much.

Take it from one who should have known better (and what do you think your NOLS instructors would tell you?)

My last trip to Whitney was in late June in a lighter snow year. I did the chute up and down w/o crampons or ice axe. I now think that was completely irresponsible of me and I would never do it again. Near the top of the chute, I was kicking and hand-scooping steps. If I had slipped just about anywhere below Trail Crest I would have been an integral part of the moraine in about 20 seconds.

You have plenty of time to pick up ice axes and spikes and learn how to use them.

Weight? Maybe half that of the water you should be carrying above Trail Crest.

Expense? Compared to the rest of your gear and what the trip is costing you? Look into rentals.

I would urge you to think about the weight and expense of getting an injured climber down the hill, too. The SAR folks in my part of the planet, known as the Coast Guard, have to live by a slightly different ethic from +@'s expressed above. For them, "Going out is mandatory; coming back is optional."

Which means you are putting others as well as yourselves at risk by going unprepared.

Hey, its not even an expense: its an opportunity to gain new skills, new experience, satisfaction in having done it right. Take the training. Basic walking and self arrest is about an hour lesson, and you will have plenty of opportunity below Trail Camp or at the base of the chute to practice safely. Get a good start from LPL and you will have a couple of hours that PM at Trail Camp to practice, check out the route, and observe and get TRs from those descending that day.

Have a great climb
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#14655 - 05/31/11 06:39 AM Re: First time @ Whitney - please critique my plan [Re: Jeremy]
bobpickering Offline


Registered: 02/07/10
Posts: 349
Loc: Reno, Nevada
Bring the ice axes. The extra weight and cost won't kill you. You might get by without an axe, but you are screwed if you need it and don't have it (or know how to use it).

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#14657 - 05/31/11 06:52 AM Re: First time @ Whitney - please critique my plan [Re: bobpickering]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7524
Loc: Fresno, CA
For ice axe use, here's a great starting point:

    How to ice-axe self arrest, from the British Mountaineering Council
    ...and this one: Ice Axe Technique

For what it's worth, last year, people finally began using the switchbacks on July 1. I marked that on the 2010 Unused Permits calendar.

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#14658 - 05/31/11 07:03 AM Re: First time @ Whitney - please critique my plan [Re: Steve C]
Jeremy Offline


Registered: 05/30/11
Posts: 17
Loc: United States
Thanks for all the honest advice.
I will discuss with my friends...If this is the case, I will definitely get a quick training course arranged with the folks and get ice axes. We may also look into changing our permits or just hiking elsewhere. I definitely agree with safety first. I was mis-informed when I picked my dates and didn't realize that there was going to be such a snow issue!

Another option we were considering is the possibility of hiring a guide to help us with the winter mountaneering. Does anyone know how to go about doing this??

Much appreciated,

Jeremy

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#14659 - 05/31/11 07:04 AM Re: First time @ Whitney - please critique my plan [Re: Steve C]
quillansculpture Offline


Registered: 11/13/09
Posts: 558
Loc: Murrieta, CA
Can't say more than above. Just make sure you guys have a blast and can come back safely to tell your stories and remember for the rest of your lives.

And Please post a Trail Report after your hike.
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#14660 - 05/31/11 07:15 AM Re: First time @ Whitney - please critique my plan [Re: Jeremy]
wbtravis Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1251
Loc: Corner of Jack Benny and Roche...
Most anyone who has used an ice axe and crampons for any length of time will tell you the axe is the more important of the two tools. Those trekking poles will not belay or arrest a fall or stop an out of control glissade, I have personal experience with the latter.

Is your safety worth a couple of pounds of rented ice axe?

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#14663 - 05/31/11 08:01 AM Re: First time @ Whitney - please critique my plan [Re: wbtravis]
KevinR Offline


Registered: 11/03/09
Posts: 591
Loc: Manchester, NH
In the interests of accuracy - it's not a chute. Rather, it's a rather broad snowfield, especially at this time of year. It's at least a hundred yards wide - that's not a chute. It can be icy in places, especially early/late in the day, when the sun isn't on it.

Having said that - I would agree with what others have said re: crampons and ice axe.

Note (edit) - whether an axe or crampons are more important is a personal matter. For me, crampons are far more important. Much better to prevent a slip/fall before it occurs, rather with the fall itself. Knowing how to use an ice axe by NO means guarantees that you will be able to stop.

Here's a pic Tracie posted on the WPSBB:



Edited by KevinR (05/31/11 09:15 AM)

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#14664 - 05/31/11 08:32 AM Re: First time @ Whitney - please critique my plan [Re: KevinR]
GandC Offline


Registered: 03/21/11
Posts: 250
Loc: SoCal
You can pick up ice axes this time of year for $60 on sale. REI had the BD Raven on sale this last weekend. And if you're a member, and you don't use the axe (or really even if you do and just don't like it) you can take it right back for a refund.

Heck, I'd go as far as to say that if I could only have one on me, I'd take my axe over my crampons...
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#14665 - 05/31/11 08:39 AM Re: First time @ Whitney - please critique my plan [Re: KevinR]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7524
Loc: Fresno, CA
That is a great shot of the "snow slope" below Trail Crest.

Here is a link to the full-size picture (taken May 7) from TracieB flickr's photostream, in the album titled Whitney Zone May 2011. Pictures 24-27 show the snow slope, taken from Trail Camp.

Full-size picture.

Thanks to Tracie for making the pictures available!

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#14666 - 05/31/11 09:05 AM Re: First time @ Whitney - please critique my plan [Re: Jeremy]
Harvey Lankford Offline


Registered: 11/10/09
Posts: 1007
Loc: Richmond, Virginia
Originally Posted By: Jeremy
Another option we were considering is the possibility of hiring a guide to help us with the winter mountaneering. Does anyone know how to go about doing this??


http://www.sierramountaineering.com/

http://www.sierramountaincenter.com/bio_sp.html

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#14667 - 05/31/11 09:29 AM Re: First time @ Whitney - please critique my plan [Re: Harvey Lankford]
Tomcat_rc Offline


Registered: 11/05/09
Posts: 49
Loc: Ridgecrest
By the end of June, there may be an open boot path through the switchbacks. I don't think it is automatic that one will be hiking up the snow chute.

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#14670 - 05/31/11 10:36 AM Re: First time @ Whitney - please critique my plan [Re: KevinR]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1553
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
Originally Posted By: KevinR
In the interests of accuracy - it's not a chute. Rather, it's a rather broad snowfield, especially at this time of year. It's at least a hundred yards wide - that's not a chute. It can be icy in places, especially early/late in the day, when the sun isn't on it.

Having said that - I would agree with what others have said re: crampons and ice axe.

Note (edit) - whether an axe or crampons are more important is a personal matter. For me, crampons are far more important. Much better to prevent a slip/fall before it occurs, rather with the fall itself. Knowing how to use an ice axe by NO means guarantees that you will be able to stop.

Here's a pic Tracie posted on the WPSBB:



Technically accurate. But. There is one important feature here that may be good reason to continue to refer to it as the Chute. It acts like one. See those rocks down the center of it? That's a raised moraine in the otherwise low contour of the field. Both sides of the field are pitched toward it (presumably why the moraine is there) just steeply enough that an uncontrolled fall, slide or glissade from the top on either side -- even from the far edges -- will end up there.

Far deadlier, as I recall, than the moraine at the bottom of the slope, where there is at least slight runout.
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#14728 - 06/02/11 05:11 AM Re: First time @ Whitney - please critique my plan [Re: GandC]
wbtravis Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1251
Loc: Corner of Jack Benny and Roche...
Originally Posted By: GandC
You can pick up ice axes this time of year for $60 on sale. REI had the BD Raven on sale this last weekend. And if you're a member, and you don't use the axe (or really even if you do and just don't like it) you can take it right back for a refund.

Heck, I'd go as far as to say that if I could only have one on me, I'd take my axe over my crampons...


Yes, you can pick up all the tools at a discount this time of year; however, the most important part of this was supposed have been purchased on an installment plan starting last November...that is experience with these tools.

I have found going up any slope is the least of your worries. On this trip, it is the decisions that have to be made on the west side and the descent. You don't pick that up on sale at REI.

I suspect, someone is going to die early this year doing something they have no business doing.

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#14749 - 06/02/11 10:09 PM Re: First time @ Whitney - please critique my plan [Re: wbtravis]
Jeremy Offline


Registered: 05/30/11
Posts: 17
Loc: United States
Thanks for all the helpful advice.
Definitely looks like ice axes are a must. Fortunately, a friend came out of the woodwork with lots of winter mountaineering experience and whitney experience that will accompany us. We had some drop outs and have some open permit spots. Can anyone guide me to some better information about specific issues we might face as you mention - the west side and descent issues...obviously nothing is more valuable than experience but reading about these issues and looking at video/photos is helpful for us to get a sense of the issue.

Also - how windy and uncomfortable is trail camp? is consultation lake a better choice?

Jeremy

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#14791 - 06/04/11 06:02 AM Re: First time @ Whitney - please critique my plan [Re: Jeremy]
wbtravis Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1251
Loc: Corner of Jack Benny and Roche...
The west side issues are knowing when to change in and out of gear. In May 2007, we must have changed out 3 or 4 times between Trail Crest and the summit. I hate mixed conditions, you don't get a lot of traction on rock with 12 points of steel on both feet...not mention catching a point.

The descent issues are experience related. Basically, knowing when it is safe to glissade and when it is not. You cannot go on cruise control when descending in these conditions. If you cannot glissade, you will work almost as hard physically as you did ascending and harder mentally during your descent to Trail Camp.

Oh, postholing is no stinking fun.

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