Posted by mrcs, 12-06-05
I'm planning to climb the standard route of Whitney in January. The trip may approximately take 3-5 days depend on the snow and weather conditions. You are welcome to join me, regardless if you are experienced or new to mountaineering. You must, however, be in a good shape and have the right gear: warm cloths and sleeping back, crampons and standard ice-ax, and most likely snowshoes and ski-pools. This message board has covered the gear topic many times, so do the search if you are not sure. You must be prepared for a cold, snowy, and stormy weather (rough conditions).

This trip may provide a challenge and adventure even to experienced mountaineers. I do this trip every year (mostly solo) and learn something new each time. So if you up to join me, drop a note.

Posted by Manley Klassen, 12-08-05
Have you picked dates for the trip yet?

Posted by Adrian, 12-08-05
I read your post from your trip last winter and it sounded interesting. I'd love to be involved in something like that this year, but here's the deal: I doubt I could keep up with you.
I have past experience in this sort of thing and I have equipment and am relatively fit. However, all things being relative, I am almost 59 years old and not in the same league as younger climbers. I am slim and all that, but slow by comparison to many younger guys. I like doing things like this, but my opportunities are limited because most of my peers think you gotta be nuts to do this sort of thing and the younger guys don't want to be burdened by the old guys.

I've been up Whitney in the Summer and on other mts. in the Winter. Anyhow, feel free to contact me on this. Maybe Bob R. would get involved and it could be a senior climber trip!!

Good luck on this thing.


Posted by Kashcraft, 12-08-05
I am considering the weekend of Jan 14-16 (Saturday to Monday), if the weather cooperates and there is enough snow to be a real winter trip. I would bring along my son Matthew and nephew Brent, driving up Friday night for an early start Saturday morning.

We will probably head up the regular Mt. Whitney trail, since the chute above the notch can be quite dangerous if icy ( having read the "So you want to climb the Mountaineers route in Winter" a few too many times.)

I remember your interesting solo winter adventure last January....snow so powdery it gets in everything. It was one of the highlights on the board that month.

Posted by mrcs, 12-09-05
Just to make it straight, I always "wanted" to climb MR in winter after I did two times the standard-regular route several years ago. The first trip, I was introduced to winter climbing by my friend and climbing partner John Z. After that trip I realized I could climb in winter safely (I had always had that crazy image of deep and powdery snow and avalanches that kept me away from such beautiful scenery.) and went the next year alone. The snow conditions were so perfect that I regretted I did not go MR (I did it before in summer and knew what to expect). Unfortunately, since then the snow conditions were not too friendly for me to solo it (I tried once).

Anyway, I do Whitney trail every winter as my tradition (not necessarily all the way to the top) and planning to do it this winter as well. I have not set the definite date yet and am quite flexible as long as it would be in the first three weeks of January, 2006. I do not, however, expect doing it over 2-days weekend. I would be very disappointed if the snow and weather conditions would allow for such a quick winter ascent. I expect to do it in about 2-3 days up and 1 down (or longer if caught by storm:). However, I plan to stay there about 5 days but be prepared for longer. My ultimate goal is to sleep somewhere on the ridge or summit (and before that, of course).

This is not a race. I do not care about how fast one can summit but about the whole winter climbing experience and anything that comes with it. I would like to have a nice weather on the first and last day but otherwise would welcome surprises. I know it may sound strange but from my experience one can really learn if the conditions are unfavorable. So anyone who would like to try such an approach is welcome to join me. The more people the better (though I don't expect many). We can learn from each other but most importantly have fun.

Adrian, my paste varies due to different factors. Sometimes I'm just lazy and some other times don't feel well. I live at the see level and take no time to acclimatize to the elevation except sleeping in my car wherever I get to. Usually my backpack is quite heavy. But the most important is the positive attitude not complains about being tired, for example. Anyone there is tired and has billion of reasons to give up. So many times I asked myself "what am I doing here?" Such a question can only weaken you. Does not it sound familiar?

So let's have fun.

Posted by Kashcraft, 12-09-05
It sounds like your interest might be a little different then ours.

We only have three days, due to school schedules.

We probably wouldn't go if there was a big storm on the way.

We would be partially there to explore the area and see the winter beauty, but we would try to get to the top the second day, if possible.

Enjoy your trip and be safe.

Posted by SD, 12-09-05
I'm new to this board, but I'd like to come along.

Posted by Manley Klassen, 12-09-05
Hi mrcs,

I am really interested in doing this trip with you, but I am not certain if I can find some days that will work in early January. Please email me so we can discuss this in more detail.


Posted by mrcs, 12-12-05
Very important

Before you get excited about this trip check your equipment list
(especially) for:
  • ice-ax
  • crampons
  • and snowshoes
You must have those items for your safety and ability to travel in winter conditions.

If you are not sure about other gear, just ask; I can post a list. It is not necessary that you have mountaineering experience (you will gain one during this trip), but it is crucial that you have the right gear and are in reasonable physical condition.

Posted by Ken, 12-12-05
couple of questions, for the audience:

I was quite surprised that you mentioned that people did not actually have to have any experience with crampons and axe, that they would get it on the trip. Do you mean by that, that you will be teaching these skills?

Second, this is often the time of the year when avalanches are most active, and I'm wondering if you will be educating participants in slope evaluation and safety?

At first, I was under the impression that the trip was a "group" trip, but it sounds a bit more like a "guided" trip. Just want to be clear what you are proposing.

Good judgment comes from experience,
and experience, of course, comes from poor judgment.

Posted by Doug Sr, 12-12-05
Hi One day a guy comes into the store and asks about the hike, I said snow starts before Lone Pine Lake and deeper as you go higher and ice above Trail Camp .He is dressed in beach wear and I think he will be back later in the summer, after dark the same guy comes in and gives me a trail run down how he had found tracks past Lone Pine Lake followed them to trail camp and he could see how people were going up to Trailcrest and thought he would try to get some way up before turning around but found the going ok and got to Trailcrest .....summit and back This is whats wrong with this MOUNTAIN on a good day most can summit with just being in shape no skill or experience needed But when condition change for the real mountain experience luck and being in good shape will not be enough, several months ago I talked with a client of a guide that was to meet him at the store, weather looked unstable and ice was on the approach to the East face I could see snow on several parts of the East Face Route and had conversations with the guide about the snow/ice, upon driving into the portal the guide could see the conditions and took the client climbing at a lower elevation. That day several fall happened on the mountain.

Dec. 14 1974 I made one of those ego/hero summit attempts , very nice day glad I made it back with alot more experience and respect .Thanks Doug

Posted by mrcs, 12-14-05
There will always be people who would try to hike the main trail in winter no matter what, just to advance, for instance. Some of them might be convinced in possessing the right skill, some other do not expect the standard route to be a serious threat, and many, of course, have the (safe???) approach, "if weather permits." The last group will most likely not to go if they see a suspicious weather hanging around or read the unfavorable forecast. Unfortunately, what some don't understand, the weather in mountains (especially big) may change "without notice" and the disaster may strike unexpectedly.

Two years ago, I mountaineer from this board asked me to do the trail with him. I had already done two attempts that winter and had another arrangement to climb the Casval Ridge (Shasta) the proposed time. I had no intention to come back to Whitney that year anymore. He had tried to find other people and failed. He decided to go solo. Many people do it solo, right? Unfortunately, due to unexpected weather changes he could not manage to descant the mountain (to leave the summit) on his own. He almost died up there.

Logically, no one even try to attempt hiking or climbing knowing that it would end their lives; many, however, are very convinced that nothing bad would happen to them, even though they read or hear about accidents (just check this board), and still go. Some others just like to take a risk. Unfortunately, even the most experienced climbers die in the mountains.

Mountaineering is a very serious and dangerous sport and anyone entering the mountains, alone or with a group, regardless of his/her/their skills and experiences, should understand that. Books, courses, guided trips, personal climbs, message boards, you name it--all contribute to the mountaineer's knowledge and technical skill. But there is something beyond these factors, I call it RESPECT.

The purpose of this post, however, IS to find a party with similar skills and mountaineering interests and/or to give someone a chance not to do it solo or with inexperienced group (wildly), and to share winter climbing fun with others. However, this IS NOT a guided trip, or an avalanche and rescue course, or any course. I'm, though, going for this trip regardless if anyone joins me or not. This is my standard annual basic winter trip. I'm always glade, however, to share my mountaineering knowledge and experience with others, as many mountain climbers do.

So if you want to join me, just email me. And remember, "...never stop respecting the mountains because they can turn on you in a fraction of a second. Be smart and poised, not fervent and out of control." (2003)

Posted by john22, 12-17-05
MRCS, Have you set a date yet? I could make the trip starting Jan. 27th through to the 1st of Feb. I have to back in LA. by Thursday morning.

Posted by mrcs, 12-27-05
I am going there on 14 of January, 2006.

Posted by Matthew, 12-27-05
Even though true Mountaineers have the ability to climb the Mountaineers Route in the winter....the regular Mt. Whitney trail offers a chance to enter the "no fly zone" off season.

It is such a hassle to get permits for the regular trail we have never gone up it (even though my father's Kashcraft's first trip in 1993 was a one day summit up the regular Mt Whitney trail). We have come down the regular trail, but that doesn't provide much exposure to the area except a quick look through fatigued eyes while doing the long walk down.

So for us the regular trail might not be as macho, but it does give us an opportunity to see the area from the ground level. Lately our only view of the regular Mt Whitney trail above Mirror lake has been looking down from the neighboring peaks (Candlelight, Thor Peak, Discovery Pinnacle and Mt. Muir).

Only one problem I can see. If we go this winter we won't get to do the "97 switchbacks." From what I have heard they have earned their reputation.

Posted by Matthew, 01-01-06
With the difficulty melting snow and ice to get water, due to the time factor and the extra fuel, do people dig down to water? It seems you could dig down to water at either consultation lake or Iceberg lake, since you usually would be carrying an ice axe and shovel.

It is just to difficult to chop through the ice in the middle of the winter?

Posted by Richard P, 01-01-06
There was no obvious running water above the outlet stream at Mirror Lake when I was up in mid-December.

I've used Bob R's recommendation to find the outlet of a lake as the most likely place to be able to chop down to liquid water. Rick Kent mentioned to me that the pond at Trail Camp was solid ice back in November (in response to my mentioning that I had walked over the top of the pond without realizing it). I believe that Consultation Lake was solid also.

Posted by taurupchaw, 01-01-06
I'll be heading up the MR Jan 28/29th weekend. Are you and gang heading up this weekend? May see you either at trailhead and/or summit! Cheers.

Posted by mrcs, 01-09-06
Trip Canceled!

Due to some uncertainties and other factors I'm canceling this trip. I'm still going, however, but solo.

You still can join me on Mt Shasta "warm up" trip over the Memorial Day weekend.

Climb safe.

Posted by walt, 01-10-06
Hey, be sure to post a trip report and some pics of the area.


Posted by Adrian, 01-11-06
Looking forward to your report...enjoyed the report and pictures from your trip last year.


Posted by Kashcraft, 01-11-06
Unfortunately, after making final preparations to spend three days up the North Fork this weekend (and it would have been great), my father in law passed away this morning.

So we will be taking the family to Utah for the funeral. The only snow I will be seeing is that covering the Wasatch front.

Be safe if you go and enjoy.

Posted by Tony B, 01-11-06
Hi All:

I was hoping to do a winter ascent up the north fork this year and invited my daughter and a friend of hers. Her friend called and said he was bringing a friend and wanted to do it this weekend - I explained the planning, money, experience, etc. They don't understand - so, final decision, I'm outfitting everyone with snowshoes, poles, ice axe, crampons ... and knowing we won't go very far ... on Saturday, I'm driving as far as possible, and then give them instruction as we go (with the equipment, and altitude education - if the weather is not to bad, maybe we'll make it to LBSL - but we may just stop at the ledges - or sooner - as far as we can go and make it safely back to the car in a day (Saturday). It will either develop a taste (or distaste) for the experience, and then I'll know who'll take it seriously, listen, learn, and invest the time and money to do it in March or April.

Hope to run into some of you on the way. I have all but the snowshoes - anyone know where I can rent snowshoes between Bakersfield and Lone Pine on Friday? Thanks, Tony

Posted by Richard P, 01-12-06
Tony, at this time of year, and with LBSL as the objective, the snowshoes are the most critical piece of equipment. You have only a very slim chance that the snow will be consolidated enough to be able to "boot" up.

I'm sorry I don't know of any suppliers in that area. The only thing I remember hearing is that there is a place up in Bishop, but that would add a few extra hours of driving time.

Posted by Doug Sr, 01-12-06
Hi Tony I like your direct style let them learn by doing, snow may stiffen by the weekend but another storm may pass by on Sat, watch your weather in the Bakersfield area and we should get the same system. Some tips north facing slopes will be less likely to posthole but more prone to slide if another storm hits, snowshoes will slow the trip to a crawl, (Doug and I tested snowshoes for a company some years ago and found Tony Lamas or Dan Post worked about as well) ski and skin setup are ok until hitting the steeper sections. Hit the area as early as you can before sunup 6 am or before. Sunglasses, extra socks and dry lower clothing, pants etc. expect it to be hot in the sun and very cold in the first canyon, we had to add clothes all week to stay warm working in town. Park facing downhill and watch for black ice on the road.

Posted by Tony B, 01-13-06
Richard and Doug:

Thank you very much for the excellent advice. Her friend brought two friends and little money - so we talked - and we are going into Yosemite instead - I'm going to take them on the JMT from Happy Isles to Vernal ... or Nevada ... maybe even the sub-dome to Half Dome (weather permitting) - definitely avoiding the mist trail. Thanks again and I hope to see some of you on the North Fork ... maybe in early April ... solo ... if I get the opportunity (weather permitting).


Posted by Doug395, 01-13-06
I have rented snowshoes before in Lone Pine at a sporting goods store on the east side of 395, very near the traffic light. It's mainly a fishing tackle shop, but he did have snowshoes. This was in April, about two years ago.

Posted by mrcs, 01-17-06
Trip Report

I reached Lone Pine shortly after midnight on Friday. In the morning I tried to drive the Whitney Portal road up as far as the snow tracks existed and the worst, of course, happened. I was stuck in the snow two times. After digging out the snow for a few hours (no shovel!!!), I finaly parked my car at the lower part of the road and at 13:30 started hiking up. The weather was beautiful. I was at Whitney Portal at 15:30. The temperature was +6 C. No one was around.

On Saturday at 9:30 I started hiking up toward Outpost Camp. Over that day the visibility was diminishing, the wind strengthening, the temperature lowering, and it was frequently snowing. I did not use my sunglasses that day at all. While taking a break above North Fork, I noticed from a distance a person approaching the creek and heard a voice. I assumed that there were two people but did not see them again. Soon later I decided to get rid of about ten pounds of food, propane, ice-tool, a can of energy drink (this one I consumed) and other luxury stuff that was slowing me down. From that point on there were no indications of which way to go. The route is pretty straightforward but it still required some navigation skill to avoid unnecessary workout of climbing steep slopes or walking around. The snow was mostly soft and snowshoes were a must. At 17:00 I finally reached Outpost Camp, set the second camp and tried to survive a long, long night (13 hours of darkness).

On Sunday morning I did not feel like getting out of my sleeping bag. The temperature inside my tent was -12 C, and outside the wind was dancing with snow. The sky, however, was blue but the sun hidden by ridges. The inner tent's walls were covered with frost which was falling down on my face and gear any time the wind blew the tent. I recalled my previous trips in similar circumstances and knew that the higher I climb the worse it might be, very uncomfortable. My tea I prepared last night was completely solid. However, my second energy drink, which I protected with cloths, was only half frozen, so I ate it as an ice cream. I decided to hike down that morning. I could not take any picture till I warmed up my cameras under my jacket. Once I lost some elevation, (below Lone Pine Lake) the weather became very quite. The snow in many places was firmed on the surface that day. My footprints from the previous day, however, were mostly gone. At Whitney Portal I met two well equipped (day) hikers checking out the terrain. They told me that there were no sings of any other person hiking that day. I had no problem driving my car down the icy road.

On this trip I used MSR Denali snowshoes with the extensions. My experience with 30" snowshoes on steeper powdered snow is unsatisfactory. They behave almost like skis. However, on my way down I removed the extensions and was very satisfied with the stability of descending steeper slopes. It was like climbing with boots reasonably firmed snow. What is your experience, any suggestions?

For the last few years I have been using a single wall tent, Northwind from North Face. I don't like the fact that in the higher altitude in a cold weather the inner walls get so much frost. One time on the Whitney ridge in winter, not just frost but also icicles were hanging down above my head. I cannot recall if I had had the same experience with my double wall tent. What is your experience, any suggestions?

Posted by Bob R, 01-18-06
I've used single-wall Bibler tents for years without the problems you described. The important thing is to allow good air exchange by providing a vent at each end of the tent. If it's windy, small vents will do, but if there is no wind you have to really open them up.

Here's my take on what happens. As long as the temperature is above freezing, the tent fabric breathes normally and allows moist air to escape. Below freezing, the moist air freezes when it contacts the fabric, and very quickly the "pores" get plugged with ice: The tent is no longer breathing, and it might as well be made of a sheet of plastic.

That's my explanation. Perhaps you can search Gore-Tex or tent manufacturer web sites to get some official information, but until I learn differently, I'll stick with this.

Posted by Richard P, 01-18-06
I use the MSR snowshoes also. I haven't experienced the problems you describe. I find that the crampon feature makes them secure in most snow conditions. Of course, if the snow is very soft, snowshoes don't do much good - they'll sink almost as deep as a bare boot. I really like the way the hole in the front of the snowshoe acts as a brake on the way down.

I've experienced the same thing with a tent with a fly. You end up having to vent the tent at both ends to prevent the frost from accumulating inside.

For giggles, put 4 people in a sealed tent sometime. In the morning, whenever someone moves, it'll feel like the snowstorm is inside!

Posted by Rick Kent, 01-18-06
Thanks for the report mcrs. I was getting curious again about what things were looking like up there. I think my chance of a Jan dayhike this year are looking mighty slim.


Posted by mrcs, 01-18-06
Thanks Guys,

I checked the openings in my tent and only the middle one was not zipped. So maybe that was really the reason of frost. I will keep this in mind for the future.

Posted by Brent, 02-08-06
Hey I was one of those "well equipped" day hikers! At least I'm pretty sure that was us you saw... anyway thanks for the TR and I'm glad you made it down the road.

To reduce the frost problem, make sure you vent like the other posts say, and I also find that it helps to sleep in a vapor barrier sleeping bag liner. Your breath will still contain plenty of moisture but at least you will decrease the total moisture you're putting into your tent environment, especially if you use a bag that is probably too warm, like my -20F monster. You'll also keep your down bag dry(er) as well. The only drawback is you'll wake up a little clammy so wear some thermals or you'll never want to get out of bed. smile

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