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"!
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).
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
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!
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