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Trip Report for 7/2/2011
#16002 07/03/11 08:00 PM
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my wife and i had a successful summit up the MWMT yesterday. earlier in my planning, i had thought about doing the Mountaineers Route.... but scrapped that idea since there was so much snow, and my wife wasn't keen about the potential conditions with a more technical hike/climb. in fact, until this past Tuesday, we had been thinking about canceling our Whitney trip altogether since neither of us have had much time to "train". DISCLAIMER NOTE: we live in Tahoe at 6,000 ft and are both pretty active doing things typical of the mountain lifestyle ie. triathlons for my wife and 24 hour endurance mt bike races -or- century+ road rides for me.... daily 4-9 mile trail runs for both of us etc. in any case, we had a great trip and were totally psyched to pull this trip off with minimal training... or as we like to joke... "off the couch"!

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some details...

we drove to Whitney Portal campground Friday arriving around 4pm after picking up our permits around 3pm. we found our campsite, dumped our stuff and then went up to explore the Old Main Trail. we found it and did a quick hike up to where it merges with the current Main Trail. we made some mental notes for finding it the next morning in the dark. back at the campground, we setup camp, made dinner... went for nice stroll around the campground and went to bed around 9pm.

we woke up around 2:05am the next morning... had a quick bowl of oatmeal and hot chocolate... drove up to the MWMT trailhead. snapped a couple of pictures weighing our packs (with 2Ls of water each, my pack weighed 19lbs and my wife's 17lbs). we finally took off at 3:10am. i can't remember exact times to each of the major landmarks for the hike except i know we reached Trail Camp by about 6:45am. we then watered up, put on our Micro-spikes (no full crampons for us since i figured the Microspikes were lighter and guessed the snow would be soft enough by the time i was estimating we would be hitting the chutes).... and we started up the chutes around 7:10am. i think we topped out to Trail Crest by about 8:45am. we took a long break there and were back on the trail to the summit by 9:10am. we summited at 10:40am (and my wife actually had the toughest part of the hike between the JMT Junction and the last "window").... she was getting a little tired and didn't like the trail surface with the scree. in any case, it tools us 7.5 hours to summit.

including a 45 min rest stop at the summit and an extended 25 min break at Trail Camp to water up, change into shorts, new socks etc. ... it took us 6 hours to come down. we were in flip-flops enjoying our burger and cokes at the Whitney Portal Store by 5pm.

total up and down time.... 13.5 hours which i thought was pretty good since this was the first time for my wife. my one and only other time summiting Mt Whitney was up the Mountaineer's Route... 5 years ago with some very slow and somewhat inexperienced buddies of mine (16.5 hours).

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some thoughts on the hike...

leaving at 3:10am was nice, and allowed us to cover a lot of ground before it got warm.

at Trail Meadows i accidentally got off trail and went up on an older worn snow trail. this was the BEST mistake that i made since the snow was nice and firm and FAST compared to the winding switch backs of the main trail. i think this saved us 10-15 mins.

going up the chutes was nice in the Microspikes and worked out well (this was my first experience with the Microspikes). however, the way the "route was set" on the chutes, significant parts of it went straight up. having true crampons with front points would be easier for going up in this case... but fortunately the snow was soft enough at 7:30am that it didn't matter. where the slope was more moderate, i was able to use the french technique with the Microspikes which was definitely faster and more efficient. from Trail Camp to Trail Crest took us ~1:35hours... and it was HARD. for me personally, this was the toughest part of the climb... especially the top 1/3.

for the glissade down, the top part of the established glissade track is FAST. it actually took me slightly by surprise as i was the third person of the morning to go down. i was able to flip over and self arrest easily, but the rate at which I gained speed initially surprised me. for the rest of the glissade, i was fine and more comfortable with the speed. just make sure if you decide to glissade, you get your braking ice axe nicely planted so you control your speed over the bumps and undulations of the glissade track.

by the time we were back at Trail Camp at 12:30pm, no one was ascending the chute and everyone was going up the switchbacks. i have never gone up the 99 switchbacks, but i am glad we were on the snow early enough to do the chutes even though it was a tough slog. switchbacks generally drive me crazy smile

finally take lots of stops, drink lots of water, and eat lots of calories. i took over 50 pics and lots of fun videos of the hike and even of my wife glissading by me.... overall a great day in the Sierra!
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if folks have any specific questions, i will do my best to respond. i am still sorting through photos.... but i will try and post some photos soon

Last edited by onehotchili; 07/04/11 06:00 AM.
Re: Trip Report for 7/2/2011
onehotchili #16022 07/04/11 03:52 PM
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so; you are saying that since other hikers are taking the switchbacks - we can assume that the switchbacks are now passable?

Re: Trip Report for 7/2/2011
dethMarch #16024 07/04/11 04:59 PM
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Originally Posted By: dethMarch
so; you are saying that since other hikers are taking the switchbacks - we can assume that the switchbacks are now passable?


the bottom third/quarter of the switchbacks still have snow on them... but based on the several groups hiking the upper part of the switchbacks, they are definitely passable.

it was so warm at noon on Saturday.... going up the Chute in slush would have been a hellish slog.... smile

Re: Trip Report for 7/2/2011
onehotchili #16038 07/05/11 10:05 AM
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If you do the switchbacks and not the chute, do you still need an ice axe? I'm going up with teen agers on July 17th and although we have crampons and treking poles, I'd rather not have them use an ice axe. Any thoughts?

We are thinking of starting at 1 to 2:00 AM but I'm afraid of getting lost in the dark. Any advice? I don't think we'll be as fast as you were and I'm a little concerned about crossing over the streams. Is the water level very high relative to the rocks or logs used to cross them?

Lastly, what kind of food did you bring with you to eat? The kids think that jerky would be great along with other candy bars and oranges etc. Any suggestions?

Thanks.

Re: Trip Report for 7/2/2011
Terry #16040 07/05/11 11:39 AM
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Thanks for this. I take it there's no real snow climbing to get to Trail Camp? I have the idea of reaching perhaps Wotan's Throne or Trail Crest in a day hike on 7/17. I'm returning for a 3-day summit trip 8/20 and am hoping the snow is pretty well gone by then.

Also, is there much snow on the back side up to the summit?

Cheers,
-K

Re: Trip Report for 7/2/2011
Terry #16041 07/05/11 11:59 AM
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Terry -

RE: switchbacks. i am not sure about your comfort level moving over snow and ice (or the teenagers that will be with you). if *i* were going back on the July 17th, *i* would be comfortable leaving the ice axe in the car and just using crampons (if needed) and trekking poles to go up the switchbacks. please note: i am talking about me and my comfort level of being on snow. in the winter i am ski instructor/coach and so my comfort level might be different than other folks.

RE: the trail is very well marked and melted out below Trail Meadows. it started getting light around 4:30am-4:45am at which point i stopped using my headlamp as i prefer to hike by natural light whenever possible. so i don't think you should have any problem with getting lost in the dark. hiking by headlamps gives some folks "tunnel vision" since they only "see" what is lit up by their head lamp. Just make sure you look around! smile.

RE: stream crossings. they were all fine... at least for us. definitely utilize trekking poles for balance as you pick your way across the rocks to cross them. i am not sure if rivers and creeks have peaked for that area.... i know i was talking to some rafting friends yesterday, and rivers around me in N. Tahoe peaked this past week.

RE: food. this is a personal thing... and what works for your stomach. i brought 1 1/2 bagel sandwiches with cream cheese and salami; home made gorp with nuts, pretzels, raisins, m&m's, banana chips, cheerios; a tube of Pringles potato chips; a couple packs of Clif shot blocks and 2 clif bars. i am sure jerky would work for calories and candy bars too (although you might want the kids to think about Clif bars or shot bloks or something along those lines.) oranges would normally be great, except they weigh alot since they are mostly water and you would additionally have to pack out the peels. again it is a matter of preference, because my wife loves having fruit on hikes and doesn't mind the extra weight.

RE: water. i know you didn't ask about it, but..... i had 2 water bottles or 2Ls and filled them up as needed and used purifying tablets... i don't bother with water filters, especially on an alpine hike like this. you might consider having 3Ls (at least for the hike from Trail Camp -> Trail Crest -> Summit and back. obviously it is at a higher altitude, you are in the sun, and i found myself drinking much more water on this part. just a thought....

in any case, hope that helps and good luck on your hike.

Re: Trip Report for 7/2/2011
kurt765 #16042 07/05/11 12:02 PM
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k -

yeah, no real snow climbing to get the Trail Camp... especially by 7/17. 8/20... you should definitely be fine.

on the backside, there was one small snow field to traverse.... with a very good boot track set in so no crampons were needed. my guess is that it will be virtually melted out within 2-3 weeks... if not sooner.

Re: Trip Report for 7/2/2011
Terry #16044 07/05/11 01:23 PM
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Originally Posted By: Terry
. . . and I'm a little concerned about crossing over the streams. Is the water level very high relative to the rocks or logs used to cross them?

Thanks.


Terry, the only stream crossing of any real concern is the first one (going up) over the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek. It's a long crossing with a cascading drop-off about 5 feet to your left. Excellent rock hops are placed just right, so normally the biggest challenge is avoiding getting your feet wet. The next one of any significance is Lone Pine Creek at Outpost Camp, and it's relatively shallow and level.

Just be aware of the stream levels throughout the day as melt occurs. When you begin at 2:00 am or so, the North Fork should be running pretty low and not present any great difficulty - not a lot of snow melt going on at that time. Later in the day, however, as the snow above melts out in the temps and sun, it will very likely be raging and the hops could be well-covered. This is when it's just no damn fun - and you're tired, to boot.

The best move on your return - assuming daylight hours - is to stop at the John Muir Wilderness sign below Lone Pine Lake and take a sharp right - and follow the Old Trail back down to the Portal. This bypasses the North Fork crossing and actually cuts 15-20 minutes out of your return hike. The Old Trail is a bit rugged and steeper than the primary trail, but makes an excellent alternative to crossing flooded rock-hops when you're whipped, or have concerns about the balance/stability of others in the group. It comes out just above the wooden bridge at the Portal driveway loop.

Re: Trip Report for 7/2/2011
onehotchili #16072 07/06/11 10:29 AM
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Thank you for your in-depth reply. I really appreciated all the insight and advice. And yes, I was planning on bringing a bladder which holds 2 liters and then an extra canister for another liter of water and I planned on using the tablets to purify the water. My two sons are 14 and 17, both boy scouts, so I'm thinking that this trip will be okay. We all snowboard so we're all comfortable with the snow.

Regarding the oranges, I was going to bring the small clementines and peel them ahead of time so I don't have to worry about the peels. I like your recipe for gorp too. Thanks for sharing.

As the mom, I want to make sure that I'm as prepared as I can be and that I keep my kids and me safe. Thanks again for your detailed response to my inquiry.

Re: Trip Report for 7/2/2011
onehotchili #16073 07/06/11 10:30 AM
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Just called the ranger station today and they also said that they thought that the snow was melting rapidly. Thanks for your comments. I really appreciate it!

Re: Trip Report for 7/2/2011
Bulldog34 #16074 07/06/11 10:35 AM
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What wonderful advice. Thank you so much for this tip!

I'm pretty confident that we'll be back during daylight hours so this might be a great alternative.

Thanks for taking the time to give me this information. I'd feel so much better if there were more than just the three of us but it is what it is. I'm sure we'll do just fine. I'm very resourceful plus I have my two boy scouts with me! We'll be prepared!

Re: Trip Report for 7/2/2011
Terry #16076 07/06/11 10:57 AM
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Originally Posted By: Terry
Thank you for your in-depth reply. I really appreciated all the insight and advice. And yes, I was planning on bringing a bladder which holds 2 liters and then an extra canister for another liter of water and I planned on using the tablets to purify the water. My two sons are 14 and 17, both boy scouts, so I'm thinking that this trip will be okay. We all snowboard so we're all comfortable with the snow.


good luck Terry.... i am sure your sons will do well on the hike.

this was my wife's first trip to Whitney and she is already making plans for returning with our 10 and 8 year old daughters. we have a 12 mile backpacking trip scheduled July 16/17 into Haleakela National Park in Maui with the girls, so we'll see how they'll do with that first. but i am sure in a few more years, we'll be looking at a Whitney summit attempt....

Re: Trip Report for 7/2/2011
onehotchili #58469 04/09/21 02:16 PM
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Just re-reading my TR from almost 10 years ago. With kids, soccer, good and bad life things taking priority.... my wife and I are finally getting back for another day hike this Sept.

We are thinking MR for the up and MWMT for the down. I did the MR in 2006 which was super fun.

Anyhow, looking forward to a fun summer of training... and keeping my fingers crossed for a minimal fire/smoke season.


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