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#36809 - 05/27/14 11:38 PM 5/26 Day Trip Summit Hike Notes
Vetallist Offline


Registered: 05/27/14
Posts: 4
Loc: Los Angeles
This forum has been a great source of information in my preparation for Whitney hike, so now I thought I'd share some info with those planning their trips.

Started at 4.30am with a buddy. Hike to trail camp took about 4 hours from Whitney portal - patches of snow along the way, but regular hiking fare in all.

Don't know why, but almost no one we met used the cables to go up or down - so up the chute we went. Had micro spikes and hiking poles, which came in handy, also some people had neither to go up (and some actually succeeded). Took 2.5 hours to go up the damn chute and no more than 10 minutes to slide down on our butts, which was fun to boot! Just be sure to be in control of your acceleration. Snow was 1-2 feet deep throughout the entire chute section.

Reached trail crest around noon, at which point altitude made itself known in the shortness of breath with every few steps up. Most dangerous section in my opinion was the first 0.5 mile or so section of the trail from the crest with a few very narrow snowed up sections along the trail with sheer vertical drop offs below. Take your time there for sure.

Summited around 2pm, we were some of the last people that day on the top. Going down to the trail crest was just as dangerous as going up due to the narrow sections mentioned above. Made it back down to the portal parking lot by 9pm. Headlamps are a must!

In all I think 40-50 people made summit that day, almost all by camping somewhere along the trail which is the smarter thing to do vs. a day hike. Had a permit, but wasn't asked for it that day, also the day before saw two rangers chasing a "sack of lying sh1t" down the mountain.

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#36813 - 05/28/14 06:17 AM Re: 5/26 Day Trip Summit Hike Notes [Re: Vetallist]
Nick Offline


Registered: 08/07/12
Posts: 26
Loc: Thousand Oaks, CA
Thanks very much! How were the snow conditions in the chute on your way up and way down?

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#36815 - 05/28/14 07:27 AM Re: 5/26 Day Trip Summit Hike Notes [Re: Vetallist]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7526
Loc: Fresno, CA
Vetallist, thanks for the report, and congratulations on a day hike summit.

I have a question: Without an ice axe, how did you control your speed sliding down the chute from Trail Crest?

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#36820 - 05/28/14 07:43 AM Re: 5/26 Day Trip Summit Hike Notes [Re: Steve C]
2Old4This Offline


Registered: 05/27/14
Posts: 51
Loc: Northern California
I'd like to know that as well. Everytime I've glissaded (not often) I've used teh axe to slow my descent to a reasonable speed as well as a brake at the end. The Chute looks as steep or steeper than anything I've done, and I can't imagine how you control the descent without an ice axe as a brake. It might be useful to know how you did it.

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#36823 - 05/28/14 08:33 AM Re: 5/26 Day Trip Summit Hike Notes [Re: 2Old4This]
Vetallist Offline


Registered: 05/27/14
Posts: 4
Loc: Los Angeles
Here's some pics of the chute on that day:

about half way up the chute, taking a breather on a rock:


another close up around 11am:


people taking a breather on top of the trail crest, chute starts directly below:

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#36824 - 05/28/14 08:48 AM Re: 5/26 Day Trip Summit Hike Notes [Re: Vetallist]
Vetallist Offline


Registered: 05/27/14
Posts: 4
Loc: Los Angeles
The fact that we were going down the chute late afternoon when snow turned into deep mush and temperatures were in the 50's that day made the snow sticky and not too slippery. On the way up we saw a couple of guys descending the chute with ice axes as brakes - the correct way. That made us very jealous as we had no idea how we were going to descend yet.

The chute could also be viewed as nothing more than an average ski slope. What we did was to bend our legs at 90 degrees, dig our toes and stretch out arms to dig into the snow and act as brakes. Worked just fine, as we were able to stop at will, but snow condition at the time probably helped immensely. It was a lot harder and more slippy on the way up.

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#36876 - 05/29/14 12:38 PM Re: 5/26 Day Trip Summit Hike Notes [Re: Vetallist]
marc g Offline


Registered: 05/21/14
Posts: 3
Loc: United States
Since the consistency of the snow changes throughout the day, I would not rely on this method. If you're using the chute, have an ice axe or at least poles to self arrest--and know how to do it. improper glissading is one of the most effective ways to get injured or killed on Whitney.

Good trip report. thanks for sharing.

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#36938 - 05/31/14 10:45 AM Re: 5/26 Day Trip Summit Hike Notes [Re: Vetallist]
jc9922 Offline


Registered: 04/25/14
Posts: 10
Loc: California
I am set to climb on June 13. Do you think I will need snow/ice equipment by then ?....head lights are sold at lone pine ?

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#36940 - 05/31/14 11:47 AM Re: 5/26 Day Trip Summit Hike Notes [Re: jc9922]
SierraNevada Offline


Registered: 09/05/11
Posts: 1130
Loc: NorCal
Sorry to be the party pooper here, but I feel obligated to fill in a major gap here. Obviously people can make it down this chute without proper equipment and skills - when conditions are great. The problem is when conditions are not so great or the unexpected happens. Here are a couple quotes from a 2011 thread to consider. There are many other posts and stories out there if you search including the guy who died a few days after one of my glissades down that chute:


1. While I was on Inyo SAR we recovered the body of a man who have attempted a glissade from Trail Crest. He apparently lost his ice axe about 200 feet above his final resting place; he was wrapped around a rock, which must have knocked him out, and subsequently died of hypothermia. The accident happened in February, during a drought winter.

During a Sierra Club mountaineering class, the students were being taught how to do a standing glissade! (Near Slim Lake - Keasage Pass area.) One guy ended up with a broken ankle. We flew him out in a helo. Lesson learned? I guess...

2. It was in April 2000, and two friends and I were descending after a day climb. The top few inches of snow was soft all day so we didn't really need our crampons, but they gave a little added traction while walking. Of course we knew better than to leave them on for glissades, but the snow was so soft and the going so slow that it didn't seem a problem.

The long glissade below Trail Crest was without incident, but the next good one--down to Mirror LakeŚwas a different story. After about 200 feet I hit an unexpected patch of ice and speeded up instantly. The outer points of my right crampon caught on the ice and my foot everted. My fibula was put into instant compression, resulting in a spiral fracture. I went head-over-heels with my ankle feeling like fire, but had the presence of mind to successfully arrest without crashing into the rocks below.

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#36976 - 06/01/14 11:29 AM Re: 5/26 Day Trip Summit Hike Notes [Re: SierraNevada]
Vetallist Offline


Registered: 05/27/14
Posts: 4
Loc: Los Angeles
No arguments from me - this thread is just some brief notes to describe my Whitney day hike under given conditions, not another advise thread, which this forum is already full of.

Myself and my hiking buddy are what some more experienced of you would describe as hacks or noobs - no prior Whitney or snow experience whatsoever. Good physical conditioning, lots of determination and a modicum of caution is all we had.

Having said that, I don't think the ice axe would have done us any good, if not worse, since the chute would not be a good place to try it out for the first time. Would it be a little safer to carry an ice axe AND know how to use one? Sure. But then hiking Whitney is still a somewhat dangerous activity at any time of the year with or without some equipment. Everyone knows to proceed at their own risk.


To those wondering about trail conditions - I think if dry and warm weather persists on the mountain, the cables should become perfectly passable very shortly. Carry a headlamp even if you don't plan on hiking in the dark, as we certainly weren't.

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#37004 - 06/02/14 05:41 AM Re: 5/26 Day Trip Summit Hike Notes [Re: Vetallist]
SierraNevada Offline


Registered: 09/05/11
Posts: 1130
Loc: NorCal
Just trying to complete the picture for someone reading only your report. Some people would slam you for not being more prepared, and there are some posts on the WPS board mocking the number of unprepared people recently. Just sayin.

That slope is in the shade in the afternoon, and if the temps drop before people get back down to it, that chute can get icy. The guy that died a few days after I did that chute, that was in June.

Glad you and all those people made it safely. If you enjoyed it, think about developing skills with the proper equipment, it just takes basic knowledge and practice and it opens up a new level of adventure. Same is true for all of us, there's always the next level. Nice pictures.

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