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Jul 29th, 2019
Mountaineers Route discussion
Posted by Trekker T, 02-01-06I would like input on the wisdom of hiking the Mountaineer's Route -- for the first time -- without a guide. My son & I, and possibly two other guys, would like to hike Mountaineer's Route in July or August of 2006. My son & I have completed a one-day Main Trail hike in each of the past three summers. The other two guys have each done the Main Trail twice (in one day).
1. Would it be safe and reasonable to do Mountaineer's with only a written set of instructions, like chapter IV.B in "Mountain Lore From the Whitney Store"?
2. If it takes us 7-8 hours to ascend to the summit via the Main Trail, how long do you think it would take us via Mountaineer's Route?
3. How risky is the last 400 ft.?
Posted by Tony B, 02-02-06I did the MR after once on the main trail. It was in September (2004) with my son (49 and 16 year olds) using the written directions in "Mountain Lore From the Whitney Store." Doug's directions are excellent, but I took a wrong turn at UBSL and ended up near Mt. Russell. I went back up the next day by myself, and it worked out great -- about 5 hours to summit -- and about 6 hours to descend (didn't take a flashlight -- fortunately there was a full moon); the following year, I made it down (the MR)in about 3.5 to 4.0 hours -- almost at a jogger's pace. Some say that the ledges and the last 400 or 500 feet are risky -- the opinions vary widely; I loved it, and felt comfortable at all times -- I was very careful though on the ledges and the last 400 to 500 feet.
Posted by Matthew, 02-02-06The description in the book you refer to is very good. Spend some time looking at the Mountaineers route pictures before you go and it will help you stay on track.
Mountaineers Route info links within...
Posted by spiderman7238, 02-02-06It's really hard to give advice about this route not knowing your level of experience i.e. route finding, how comfortable you and your son are with exposure,et. I found the exposure to be not as bad as some people suggested, but then I'm a rock and ice climber. Others have reported it to be worse than expected. Always bear in mind that coming down the 400 ft above the notch and coming down the ledges is going to be a lottle more sketchy than going up.I did it with a 16 year old who at the time had somewhat of a fear of heights and he faired very well.The only instructions we had with us were notes from Dougs' book. Another good thing to do is: "Plan the climb, and climb the plan.I would say route finding will be your biggest obstacle.One last piece of advice.....never let summit fever overtake your ability to know when to retreat. Know yourself and know your limitations as well as your partners. Have fun,be safe.
Posted by Mountain Impulse, 02-02-06Pay particular attention going back on the Ebersbacher ledges. If you miss the spot where you're supposed to drop down off the ledges to the creek, you'll be getting into some very dangerous terrain.
Posted by Steve C, 02-02-06> 3. How risky is the last 400 ft.?
Each person has his own fear factor. I have done very little rock climbing, but it is no problem for me -- I feel perfectly at ease both ascending and descending that part.
However, last summer, I did the route with three others. One quit at the top of the notch, and crab-crawled most of the way back down to Iceberg. A second who I thought would be quite comfortable due to prior experience was really nervous and slow, especially descending to the notch.
So... you won't know until you get up there and try it yourself.
As for the ledges, it would be a good idea to climb up to LBSL and back the day or so before, so that part is more familiar.
Mt. Whitney Hikers Association
Posted by Trekker T, 02-02-06Thanks very much! to all who have responded so far. Some great tips and links.
I'm still looking for some feedback from an experienced hiker/mountaineer on my question #2:
"If it takes us 7-8 hours to ascend to the summit via the Main Trail, how long do you think it would take us via Mountaineer's Route?"
Posted by Bob R, 02-03-06To answer question #2, it should take about the same time. While the distance traveled is only a third of that via the trail, the main driver is total elevation gain. There is some exposure in a few spots, so--depending on your comfort level--you may or may not take extra time to get past them. The descent will probably be a little quicker than the trail.
My first time up the MR, I took my 10 year-old son. There were no guides back then, and no real information: just three sentences in the then-current guidebook. Of course, I had map and compass and knew how to use them. The trip was eventless.
For negotiating the Ebersbacher Ledges, see the pictures about 1/3 of the way down in this album.
The same album has pictures of the last section, from The Notch to the summit, about 2/3 of the way down.
There are pictures of other Whitney climbs on this site, if you want to cruise around for them. Just click "View All Albums" in the left column.
Posted by Matthew, 02-03-06I asked my father about question #2. He said his experience matches that of Bob R. Although the MR is shorter, it still takes about the same time as the regular trail going up.
On the way down the MR is definitely faster then the regular trail.
Posted by Andrew, 02-03-06If you follow the board you will notice that some people are bothered by the exposure on the Mountaineers route and some are not. Mostly this exposure happens at the Ebersbacher Ledges and the chute above the notch to the summit..
The forest service handout says that the MR is not for everyone. It is for a person "seeking greater adventure" and one that is comfortable route finding and doing cross country.
I was recently speaking with a woman who has summited Whitney up the regular trail. We discussed the Mountaineers route. I asked if she felt she was a "trail person" or if she liked to scramble to peaks off trail. She responded she was a trail person, so I recommended she might not feel comfortable with the Mountaineers route.
Certainly if you are careful and watch were you are going you should be ok. Most of the real danger would come from being off route or attempting to climb something icy or wet.
I personally love the Mountaineers route and feel it is much more of a wilderness experience.
Posted by Sierra Sam, 02-04-06Beyond the route descriptions in the book, you should also look at pictures and route drawings that have been previously posted on this board. My favorites are Bob R's, but there are others as well. I always suggest that people bring a 30 - 50' length of rope on this route if they haven't done it before. It can be used to belay people on tricky sections or lower packs (say on the E ledges coming down).
There is not a real trial up the MR, so finding the right path is one of the biggest challenges. Be sure to turn a sharp left before you reach Upper Boy Scout Lake or you will find yourself way off route. Picking the right path up the final section (above the notch) can make that part either challenging or simple. You also need to remember how you did it, and your exit point, for the way back.
In terms of timing, 2 hours up to LBSL, 2 hours LBSL - Iceberg Lake, 3+ hours Iceberg to the summit is a rough rule of thumb, but your mileage may vary. I've seen people make it in much less and in much longer.
Posted by Trekker T, 02-05-06Thanks! to the four gentlemen who responded to my last question.
With the hope that there are still some experienced hikers/mountaineers checking my post, I'll ask a follow-up MR question:
What are your opinions regarding a preferred path from The Notch to the summit?
[NOTE: We've heard some scary things about the "Easy Walk Off" crossing. A couple of individuals have recommended the first chute -- easternmost(?). Also, we would be doing the MR for the first time, and probably in August 2006.]
Posted by tomcat_rc, 02-05-06if you made it to the notch - the hard part is over - as to which route from there it is best dictated by ever changing conditions. i always take the first chute up but still a variety of ways to go up that chute. usually staying to the left provides a ice free accent and some nice class3 rocks - but some nice routes - never be afraid to turn around - especially on your first attempt
Posted by Kashcraft, 02-05-06Trekker, I prefer the chute for two reasons, safety and distance. When you get to the notch you will be at 14100 feet and tired, feeling the altitude effects. At that point I prefer to take the shortest most direst route, the chute. When you can see the summit ridge that close, why would you want to walk the extra distance? The easy traverse can be covered with ice patches late into the year. By middle to late summer those ice patches can be icy and dangerous, walking across them with no crampons and winter safety gear. If there is no significant snow, it can be loose and more tedious then the solid rock available in most of the chute.
The chute is fun and perhaps the best part of the MR. You can climb up the left side almost to the top and then cross over. You can also climb up the left side for about 50-75 feet and then cross over to the right side and make your way through the easy boulders to the top.
I find great comfort being at the notch. You know you are close and you can see the top ridge. Emotionally I know "another 20-25 minutes" and I will be on the summit plateau. And in the absence of a recent rain storm, that rocks are usually dry by August, except for the ever present snow field up in the top center of the chute.
The nice thing is you have the choice. The most difficult thing about the chute is getting up the first ten feet. There are two ways, one toward the left and one toward the right. Pick the one that seems the easiest to you.
Posted by bola, 02-05-06where did they come up with the discription
as far as climbing, is it exposure to falling ?
I did the MR 3 years ago and the final climb from the notch was very interesting.
Very icy even in sept
Posted by Ken, 02-05-06One note of caution. When you get to the notch, you are still on the optional part of the climb.
When you get to the summit, you are now on the part of the climb that is mandatory, getting down.
It seems that the part from the notch to the top is the most dangerous, this is where both deaths occurred last year, and both on the descent, as I recall.
I imagine that there are a number of contributing factors: fatigue, altitude, summit fever (the only factor which training does not help, and may even make worse), dehydration.
Good judgment comes from experience,
and experience, of course, comes from poor judgment.
Posted by Trekker T, 02-08-06The gentlemen who responded to my 2/5/06 post gave me some more great info and insights. Thanks, guys!
[I apologize for my delayed response, but I've been very busy -- including helping my 18-yr-old son buy a used car.]
One additional bit of info from our end: if we complete the MR summit, we'll probably descend from the summit via the Main Trail, so I'm hoping to get our foursome's lottery application faxed before 2/15/06.
I really appreciate all of you who have given me the wisdom I was seeking in this series of posts.
On behalf of our foursome, including my son and our two buddies, I'd like to give sincere thanks to all of you who have offered your input and insights!
Thank you very much!!!!
Edit: A Main Mount Whitney Trail Dayhike permit is required to dayhike the Mountaineers Route. The permits are made available via the February permit lottery. Some are available after the lottery due to cancellations and no-shows.