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#36793 - 05/27/14 02:52 PM Whitney Vs Mt. Shasta
2Old4This Offline


Registered: 05/27/14
Posts: 51
Loc: Northern California
I have wanted to climb Mt. Whitney and finally decided to give it a shot this year. Previously, the highest mountain that I have summited was Mt. Shasta, once early in the summer and once late summer (early summer is much preferred as there is more ice/snow and you can use the crampons for more of the treck avoiding the "fun" of sliding one step back for every two steps forward in the loose rock). I used crampons and an ice axe both times (who wouldn't?) going up the Avalanche Gulch route. Has anyone else summitted Shasta, and how does the climb up Whitney compare? I see that there is a good chance that I will need to go up the Chute as my permit is for June 12. How does this compare to Avalanche Gulch on Shasta? Steepness? Falling rocks?

Thanks for any advice, and I will be monitoring conditions through this site religiously. :-)

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#36799 - 05/27/14 03:43 PM Re: Whitney Vs Mt. Shasta [Re: 2Old4This]
Akichow Offline


Registered: 04/07/10
Posts: 659
Loc: SF Bay Area
I found Shasta in spring much harder than Whitney in summer. The chute does add a whole different challenge -- I did it for my first and only time in May 2013.

In terms of exertion, I found climbing the chute on Whitney (May 2013) somewhat comparable to climbing Avalanche gulch on Shasta (mid-June, 2011 and 2012). I think the chute is shorter distance-wise, but at least as steep if not a little steeper as you gain elevation. The climb to the summit once you get to Trail Crest (Whitney) was easier for me than the climb from the Thumb (Shasta).

Rock falls do not appear to be as much as a problem on the Whitney chute as they can be on Avalanche gulch, but I say this as a nonexpert on such matters. I defer to others on this. The Whitney chute has its own unique challenges (see Kurt W's thread on Whitney Portal store's page about the danger of glissading the chute and its tendency to spit people out onto the rocks).

Will be interesting to see what happens to the 97 switchbacks in the next 2 weeks.

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#36803 - 05/27/14 04:46 PM Re: Whitney Vs Mt. Shasta [Re: 2Old4This]
SierraNevada Offline


Registered: 09/05/11
Posts: 1100
Loc: NorCal
Done both as overnights and dayhikes. I agree with Akichow that Shasta is harder, but not that much. As she wrote, the glissade hazard is greater on the Trail Crest chute due to larger boulders at the bottom. A guy lost control and died just a few days after I glissaded it one year. In contrast, Avy Gulch has a good length of run out at Helen Lake and below.

There's a good chance the switchbacks will be good by June 12 anyway.

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#36804 - 05/27/14 04:48 PM Re: Whitney Vs Mt. Shasta [Re: Akichow]
KevinR Offline


Registered: 11/03/09
Posts: 579
Loc: Manchester, NH
I agree with Akichow & SN - Shasta is more demanding than Whitney. I've done both many times, and have done each as dayhikes and also as overnights. I'd dayhike Whitney without much reservation, but as I get older I doubt I'd attempt to dayhike Shasta again, even though it's "only" 7 miles & 7K' from Bunny Flats to the summit.

Over the years I've arranged several trips for my New England hiking friends to the Sierras and Cascades. For our "warm-up" hike we'd do Whitney first, and work our way north towards Lassen, Shasta, Hood, Adams & Rainier (wouldn't necessarily do all of them on any given trip). A day or two after Whitney I'd offhandedly mention that Whitney was a good warm-up for Shasta and would get some startled looks. But, after Shasta they'd be the first to agree - it really is tougher for most people.

As for the slope below Trail Crest versus the slope below Red Banks - physically I think they're both about the same. What is different is the enormity of the slope on Shasta on a snowy year. The first time on Shasta it had been a very snowy year, and the area known as "the heart" was not particularly apparent as it had several feet of snow on it. On that first trip it was very difficult to overcome the vertigo of looking first right then left and seeing nothing but a huge, white expanses. Mostly above Helen Lake it's a head game, and remembering to snack and drink regularly. But, I digress.

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#36807 - 05/27/14 07:49 PM Re: Whitney Vs Mt. Shasta [Re: Akichow]
Akichow Offline


Registered: 04/07/10
Posts: 659
Loc: SF Bay Area
Another thing is that because Avalanche Gulch is West-facing, it typically gets soft in the afternoon so you can often either glissade or down climb without a lot of problem.* The Whitney chute is more East-facing, so it gets in to shadow sooner, meaning it often ices up in the afternoon.


*There are always exceptions. My first attempt on Avalanche Gulch was a horror of whiteout and pure ice, and I had to down climb the whole thing feeling like I was on ice skates desperately trying to find purchase, while people's unsecured water bottles rained down on us like missiles, but I, too, digress.

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#36814 - 05/28/14 07:24 AM Re: Whitney Vs Mt. Shasta [Re: 2Old4This]
2Old4This Offline


Registered: 05/27/14
Posts: 51
Loc: Northern California
Thanks for all of the responses so far. I particularly like the response that the switchbacks should be usable by June 12 :-). I doubt I could summit Mt. Shasta anymore in a day hike either, but that has more to do with the restrictions they have placed on hiking to the summit. Both times I summited well after noon and had no problem getting back before dark, especially the second time when I glissaded from Red Banks down to Lake Helen. Sounds like glissading down the Chute at Whitney is a much more difficult/dangerous proposition though, so even if I go up the Chute with crampons and an ice axe, I doubt I'll take the express elevator back down. I'll continue to skim through the discussions on this forum, getting what advice I can, but any advice someone feels like posting here is greatly appreciated. I'm no mountaineer, just someone who enjoys hiking, wants to continue to hike as long as my knees allow it, and wants to be prepared.

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#36817 - 05/28/14 07:35 AM Re: Whitney Vs Mt. Shasta [Re: KevinR]
2Old4This Offline


Registered: 05/27/14
Posts: 51
Loc: Northern California
I found the trek up Misery Hill above the Red Banks to be the most disheartening part of the hike. It's aptly named, both for the physical exertion and for the mental aspect of getting to the top of this "false peak" and seeing the field of snow and the true peak beyond, even when you know what to expect, lol.

IMO, the most dangerous part of the hike up Shasta isn't the falling rocks in Avalanche Gulch (you can seee those coming, literally, from a mile away), it's going up through the Red Banks where there is the potential for some inexperienced/risky/stupid person to be sliding back down though those natural icy chutes and right into you.

Thanks for confirming what I had heard from a guy at work that Shasta is harder. It certainly helps me mentally. :-) I guess I just got a little bit of a shock when I read reports indicating I may need to use crampons and go up the Chute, since I wasn't planning for that type of a hike.

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