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#35839 - 04/17/14 12:30 AM Why use switchback and not just go up directly with Chute
Sam Das Offline


Registered: 04/17/14
Posts: 41
Loc: California, USA
Whether the switchbacks are cleared of snow or not, why doesn't people just walk straight up the chute? Is that an easier and more direct route even when the chute isn't covered with snow?

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#35843 - 04/17/14 07:35 AM Re: Why use switchback and not just go up directly with Chute [Re: Sam Das]
RoguePhotonic Offline


Registered: 12/08/09
Posts: 558
Loc: Bakersfield CA
Trails are built not only to make the climb easier but to minimize impact on the environment. When people cut switch backs it forms a use trail encouraging others to do the same thing. This use trail can often turn into a drainage that was not intended by the crews and can wash away big sections of trails.
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#35844 - 04/17/14 09:06 AM Re: Why use switchback and not just go up directly with Chute [Re: Sam Das]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7875
Loc: Fresno, CA
Sam, it is more direct, but without snow it is an uneven rocky mess. One misstep and a rock could shift under you and you slip or fall. People prefer the trail because it is even and the footing is easy.

Granted, when it is fully covered with snow, people with glissade down in the right conditions -- they sit in the snow, and use an ice axe as a brake. It takes 15 minutes to get down this way. However, people have died trying to slide that slope on the snow. In the melt-freeze cycles, in the later afternoon, when the Whitney crest shadow hits the slope, soft snow can ice up, and it becomes treacherous.

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#35847 - 04/17/14 09:28 AM Re: Why use switchback and not just go up directly with Chute [Re: Sam Das]
John Sims Offline


Registered: 04/20/12
Posts: 548
Loc: Sunnyvale, California
HI Sam,
If you are seeking a more direct (and shorter) route you should consider the Mountaineers Route. It is approx. 6 miles (one way) vs 11.x miles via the main trail. The main trail also has more "up and down" making the total elevation gain approx. 1,000' more for the main trail. The final 400 of the Mountaineers route is probably less risk than attempting to go up the chute of the main trail.


Edited by John Sims (04/17/14 09:29 AM)
Edit Reason: typo

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#35848 - 04/17/14 09:38 AM Re: Why use switchback and not just go up directly with Chute [Re: RoguePhotonic]
wbtravis Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1253
Loc: Corner of Jack Benny and Roche...
Originally Posted By: RoguePhotonic
Trails are built not only to make the climb easier but to minimize impact on the environment. When people cut switch backs it forms a use trail encouraging others to do the same thing. This use trail can often turn into a drainage that was not intended by the crews and can wash away big sections of trails.


Going up the chute is not cutting switchbacks. The switchbacks do not enter the chute area. You exit the trail, move into position and climb to Trail Crest.

This is a whole other issue.

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#35849 - 04/17/14 09:39 AM Re: Why use switchback and not just go up directly with Chute [Re: Steve C]
wbtravis Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1253
Loc: Corner of Jack Benny and Roche...
Originally Posted By: Steve C
Sam, it is more direct, but without snow it is an uneven rocky mess. One misstep and a rock could shift under you and you slip or fall. People prefer the trail because it is even and the footing is easy.

Granted, when it is fully covered with snow, people with glissade down in the right conditions -- they sit in the snow, and use an ice axe as a brake. It takes 15 minutes to get down this way. However, people have died trying to slide that slope on the snow. In the melt-freeze cycles, in the later afternoon, when the Whitney crest shadow hits the slope, soft snow can ice up, and it becomes treacherous.


Now Steve, the Chamber of Commerce is not going to be happy with that dying thingy.

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#35851 - 04/17/14 09:48 AM Re: Why use switchback and not just go up directly with Chute [Re: Sam Das]
Snacking Bear Offline


Registered: 08/09/11
Posts: 502
Loc: Nashville, TN
Originally Posted By: Sam Das
Whether the switchbacks are cleared of snow or not, why doesn't people just walk straight up the chute? Is that an easier and more direct route even when the chute isn't covered with snow?


Cutting switchbacks accelerates erosion changing the landscape, but going up the chute also presents unstable footing, it threatens a nastier fall.

Oh, and climbing up chossy granitic sand is a b**** unparalleled...


Edited by Snacking Bear (04/17/14 09:54 AM)
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#35856 - 04/17/14 01:49 PM Re: Why use switchback and not just go up directly with Chute [Re: John Sims]
Sam Das Offline


Registered: 04/17/14
Posts: 41
Loc: California, USA
Hi John Sims,

1. Does the day use permit or overnight permit work on the mountaineers route as well?

2. I noticed the final 400 of MR looks steep. Does one need rope and harness? or is simply ice axe and clampon are fine? I am not a mountaineer, but I done pretty much all the hikes in Yosemite and Half Dome, etc. I have never used rope and harness to climb anything in my life. The 6 miles vs. 11 miles is tempting, but I want to make sure I am not going beyond my capabilities and tools.


Edited by Sam Das (04/17/14 01:49 PM)

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#35857 - 04/17/14 02:17 PM Re: Why use switchback and not just go up directly with Chute [Re: Sam Das]
John Sims Offline


Registered: 04/20/12
Posts: 548
Loc: Sunnyvale, California
Originally Posted By: Sam Das
Hi John Sims,

1. Does the day use permit or overnight permit work on the mountaineers route as well?

2. I noticed the final 400 of MR looks steep. Does one need rope and harness? or is simply ice axe and clampon are fine? I am not a mountaineer, but I done pretty much all the hikes in Yosemite and Half Dome, etc. I have never used rope and harness to climb anything in my life. The 6 miles vs. 11 miles is tempting, but I want to make sure I am not going beyond my capabilities and tools.


Hi Sam
1. Day use permit does work for Mountaineers Route. Overnight is different. "May" be a bit easier to get.
2. Final 400 is very steep. In the summer, without snow or ice on the route, most people do not use rope/harness. However, the guide services often do use this equipment in order to insure the safety of their clients. It really depends on how comfortable you are with "exposure". The "moves" needed to climb the final 400 are not extreme, and without the exposure I doubt you would think twice about any of the moves. A fall might well be fatal, so hard to ignore the exposure. In winter conditions, crampons, ice axe, rope and harness would be wise.

Check out the trip reports. Many reports on both the main trail and the mountaineers route during all seasons, in all weather conditions. Normally there are pictures as well that will give you a good idea as to what to expect.

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#35863 - 04/17/14 04:57 PM Re: Why use switchback and not just go up directly with Chute [Re: Sam Das]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7875
Loc: Fresno, CA
Sam, overnight Mountaineers Route permits are more scarce than Whitney overnight permits. There's a quota of 10 per day, 4 of them available for walk-ins at 11 am the day before.

For more info on the MR:
Mountaineers Route info and links (This link can always be found in the first post in the Reference forum).

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#35896 - 04/18/14 09:10 PM Re: Why use switchback and not just go up directly with Chute [Re: Sam Das]
ddmansprty Offline


Registered: 07/11/10
Posts: 14
Loc: Santa Clarita, Ca
For what its worth, there was a very large rock fall down the chute when we were coming down the switchbacks two Junes ago. Definitely would have killed anyone unfortunate to be there. That's just my observation.
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