Whitney on Memorial Day weekend.
This was my fourth summit; my first time up the snowfield (but probably not the last); and the first time that I hiked all the way down to the Portal after summiting. My feet are still paying the price for the quick retreat, but the chicken sandwich/fries at the Portal Store made it worthwhile.
Can you ask for better weather? No, you cannot. Picture from the Interagency Permit office on Saturday, May 25.
Going up the Main Trail. At the back is Tom Deitz, whom I met for the first time on this trip (he was going up with his brother-in-law to fish Lone Pine Lake).
Lone Pine Lake. A favorite lunch spot.
Big Horn Sheep Park was very colorful.
We camped Saturday night at Trail Camp. Some members of our group made the decision not to go for the summit the next day, but to try another time later in the season, based in part on reports of conditions that we'd received as we headed up the trail, and injuries sustained on the way up. Re conditions, the gist was: a combination of lots of ice on the trail, and poor quality snow on the trail and in the snowfield, with lots of SAR activity (including a rescue off the switchbacks).
Sunrise at Trail Camp (Sunday, May 26).
Here is the start of the snowfield section of the hike. For now, a nice track to follow.
Looking up at the switchbacks/cables from the snowfield.
Higher on the snowfield. No useful boot track. As we got higher, the snow became, for lack of a better word, feathered -- vertical ridges that deepened the higher we got. Some of the glissade tracks were maddening...you could see that people had chosen to glissade over good boot tracks, turning them to icy mess. The snow started out firm but quickly began to deteriorate as the sun warmed it.
I was feeling a little challenged as we get higher. However, my far more experienced hiking buddy was extraordinarily patient, and he talked me through the tougher sections. And so, it stayed fun.
This picture is looking down from almost the top of the snowfield. We topped out just before 9 a.m. We were probably the last to ascend the snowfield on Sunday because of the deteriorating conditions.
View down the backside to Hitchcock Lakes. That's Ukelele Lake, I mean, Guitar Lake at far right...it's tiny this year!
First summit plateau view. Very little snow on the backside.
Summit plateau snowfield.
First view of summit hut
Switchbacks from the summit.
The route home.
Switchbacks and the snowfield. Some people glissaded down the snowfield, although the combination of rocks and poor snow made that unappealing. We took the switchbacks.
Classic view from Trail Crest. You can see that the lake at Trail Camp is very small this year. Consultation Lake is still largely ice on top, though probably thawing fast. No one was camping there yet.
The last switchback.
(Actually, it seems that it is the two switchbacks above the cables that are causing the most trouble now. We heard that there was a SAR event on Saturday that involved a guy who got stuck.)
Conditions do appear to be changing rapidly both on the slope (which is deteriorating) and the switchbacks (which are improving but which still have places that are challenging/dangerous, depending on your skills and equipment.....