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#42994 - 06/07/15 03:45 PM Re: Whitney Main Trail Conditions 2015 (Out-of-Date) [Re: Steve C]
Ratz Offline


Registered: 06/07/15
Posts: 1
Loc: Hermosa Beach, Cali
First timer on Whitney, but Ive done a few 14ers before. i mostly apprehensive that the dates I have my permit for will be bad weather. I didn't realize that there was so much snow in June.

I'm curious what people think the Snow conditions are likely to be June 24-25-26?

I plan on hiking to Trail Camp, and camping there. I wanted to spend the whole day on the mountain, take it slow and hit both mount Muir and Whitney... but so many people have mentioned that the switchbacks are covered... I wonder if it's stupid of me to think the conditions will be ok to CAMP on those dates.

Any advice?

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#42995 - 06/07/15 03:58 PM Re: Whitney Main Trail Conditions 2015 (Out-of-Date) [Re: Steve C]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7445
Loc: Fresno, CA
Someone just sent me an update on conditions, passing on the relevant info:

We just summited on Saturday, June 6... as a group of 3. Two sure footed, one with bare running shoes and myself with bare mountaineering shoes, the third person not used to snow travel with hiking boots and microspikes, everyone with poles.
The picture of the cable section (posted above) is the worst spot on the ascent, along with the last traverse above the chute (topmost switchback) which is snow with big foot holes.

Backside trail is packed snow, easy to walk with microspikes.

I would recommend poles and microspikes as a matter of gear. The chute should be OK still to go down around noon but not worth it to climb up.

Saturday snowfall was melted around noon already.


Edit for Ratz: In a few weeks, most of the snow on the trail will be gone.


Edited by Steve C (06/07/15 03:59 PM)

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#42996 - 06/07/15 05:41 PM Re: Whitney Main Trail Conditions 2015 (Out-of-Date) [Re: Steve C]
Tom G Offline


Registered: 06/01/15
Posts: 3
Loc: Annapolis, MD
Good info I'll be there on June 16th. I only own Crampons. Should I buy micro spikes?

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#43003 - 06/08/15 12:14 PM Re: Whitney Main Trail Conditions 2015 (Out-of-Date) [Re: Tom G]
legaleagle Offline


Registered: 06/08/15
Posts: 2
Loc: Carlsbad, CA
Two of us summited on Friday, June 5th. I wore micro-spikes from the cables to summit and back down to the cables. My friend wore Yaktrax and broke them both by the time we were done. Another friend had crampons, but needed to take them off when we hit the rocks and put them back on when we hit ice/snow. It was about 70% of the time from the cables to the top that was snow/ice. My suggestion is micro-spikes and poles to get up the switchbacks. Of course, this all depends on the weather and whether it melts or snows between now and your summit day. NOAA seems more reliable than mountain-forecast for the actual weather. Either way, enjoy your time on the mountain! I always recommend stopping in the Portal Store the day before and talking to Doug (store owner) and anyone coming down that day from summit. A wealth of information can be had from those who just summited!!

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#43007 - 06/08/15 03:41 PM Re: Whitney Main Trail Conditions 2015 (Out-of-Date) [Re: legaleagle]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7445
Loc: Fresno, CA
LegalE: Thanks much for the report. I think we can declare the switchbacks are open and useable at this point.

Where did you get the microspikes? Or at least what brand are they. Good to know about the Yaktrax.

thanks

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#43012 - 06/08/15 05:57 PM Re: Whitney Main Trail Conditions 2015 (Out-of-Date) [Re: Steve C]
legaleagle Offline


Registered: 06/08/15
Posts: 2
Loc: Carlsbad, CA
Got them from the Portal Store, but they only had size smalls left as of Saturday, which worked for my ladies size 8! Suggest getting them in town or at REI/Adventure 16 (if you have one nearby) before you head up.

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#43013 - 06/08/15 06:00 PM Re: Whitney Main Trail Conditions 2015 (Out-of-Date) [Re: legaleagle]
Andrewzuber Offline


Registered: 06/01/15
Posts: 15
Loc: Tarzana, CA
I went to the Whitney clinic at Adventure 16 in Tarzana on Saturday - they only had one pair left there and said that the Internet would be your best bet as most stores in California probably wouldn't be carrying them. We found ours on Amazon.

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#43014 - 06/08/15 06:42 PM Re: Whitney Main Trail Conditions 2015 (Out-of-Date) [Re: Steve C]
matureunicorn Offline


Registered: 06/08/15
Posts: 2
Loc: California
Thanks for this thread! It helped a lot as we were planning our summit last week, so I will pay it forward with my report:

Our group of 4 summited about 8 am Saturday, June 6. We actually had a permit for Saturday entry, but had read about potential weather over the weekend, so we drove up and got a walk-in permit for Thursday entry, stayed Thursday at Lone Pine Lake (beautiful), and Friday at Trail Camp before summiting Saturday. It snowed lightly at Trail Camp Fri night/Sat morning and as we got about a quarter way up the switchbacks. The wind wasn't much more than 5-10 mph at most though so, although it was cold, we didn't feel unsafe (We did Mt. Baldy this spring in the snow as well as a failed San Jacinto attempt in snow a few weeks ago, so we had experience and knew our limits). Around sunrise, we could see a dull pink, but there was a lot of fog around us. Definitely not a white out as we had great visibility along the trail, and definitely not a lightning/thunder storm brewing situation.

There is no snow to speak of all the way up to Trail Camp, where there is snow among the rocks in places where tents might usually be. To ascend, we went up the switchbacks and had spoken to other hikers who were on their way down Thursday about the conditions of the switchbacks. A few switchbacks before the cables were sketchy, with steep ice along the turns, and the creek is running through the switchbacks, so that is obviously icy as well. Then from the cables it was basically snowy and icy the whole way. We all had trail crampons (microspikes basically), which we put on maybe halfway up after 1 or 2 minorly sketchy spots, and poles. One member of our group carried mountain crampons and said there was maybe one place he thought he could have used them, but otherwise they would have been overkill. He also had an ice axe, which he left at trail camp after our Thursday talks with other hikers. Also, we didn't carry ice axes as we did not intend to use the chute (more on that later) and it wouldn't have helped us on the switchbacks.

The switchbacks were the "worst" part though. After the switchbacks there was snow over trail crest and down along the backside goat trail, but it was all much more fresh and very light across the trail, though I can't speak to afternoon conditions as we first passed it about 6 am, then again about 9-9:30 a.m. We were the first to summit that morning and by the time we were coming back down the backside trail was light snow mixed with dirt. Still, the 300 foot decent after trail crest (on the backside) was fairly thick with snow.

For us, with a 4:15 a.m. start from trail camp, the ice & snow were a non-issue due to our spikes. Even the new snow was light, powdery and sticky, so it helped us grip. For those coming up the switchbacks around 10:00 a.m. when we were on our way back down, it was a different story. The ice had melted to a slush that was very thick and slippery. We took it slow as even our spikes would not help - and the slush is mostly on the steep turns of the switchbacks, as well as the already sketchy cable area. There were a lot of people attempting to make it up in running shoes with no tread, no spikes and no poles. I heard lots of reports of people turning back and as we were headed back down, we only passed a handful of hikers who had made it past trail crest or to the top of the switchbacks. In fact, when we were on our way back down with our gear after trail camp, one hiker cautiously asked us if we had summited and was surprised that we had; she said no one else she'd met coming down had summited (which made sense since we were the first that day). This was probably around 12 or so. We heard that same report from another hiker further down the mountain who was headed up.

Even as we hiked up to trail camp on Friday, we passed by several groups who had turned back from exhaustion or altitude sickness (most of these were day hikers).

I'm not sure if it snowed more on Sunday, but with conditions they way they were, a summit is for sure possible. I was very happy for my trail crampons and poles and the early start (before everything melted down) made it much easier for us. It was bitterly cold, but not unbearable, and with our gear and timing, the ice and snow were fine (and made for a beautiful hike). Trail spikes aren't that heavy; I'd suggest bringing them along just in case. Although I imagine conditions will be improving, I think they would be the difference between a safe summit and an exhausting one (or a turn-back).

We ran into some day hikers about 75% up the switchbacks as we were headed down and gave them the scoop. Then, we actually saw them at breakfast in town the next morning. They said they did summit and made it back to the portal at 10:30 p.m. for a 19 hour roundtrip. They said it was grueling. They did all have spikes and poles.

On the chute: We were definitely tempted to glissade, but decided not to. On our way up on Thursday we talked to a guy who said the chute has just been chewed up by people going up and down and, since the weather has been so back and forth, the snow has been freezing and melting and freezing and melting such that it was filled with hidden divots that would make it hard to choose your own route so to speak. We did run into a 15 yo dayhiker on his way up and we saw him come through trail camp as we were packing up and he had glissaded down. But he's 15 and I'm guessing his body is a bit more forgiving. I'm sure it was fun for him, but I have heard the stories and you are a long way from help up there. [Find safety between your ears, not in your pack (or a helicopter).]

In all, it was an amazing trip! The mountains are beautiful and we were very lucky that conditions worked out. The views from the windows were absolutely stunning. Left us all speechless. Good luck out there and be safe!

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#43015 - 06/08/15 06:46 PM Re: Whitney Main Trail Conditions 2015 (Out-of-Date) [Re: legaleagle]
matureunicorn Offline


Registered: 06/08/15
Posts: 2
Loc: California
LegalE: We summited on Saturday, June 6. We found a broken Yaktrax on the switchbacks! I bet it was your friend's! Small world. We put it on the rocks above the trail, but didn't figure anyone would come for it since it was broken. It's there if your friend wants to get it smile I agree though - microspikes are the order of the day, yaktrax probably won't cut it (though at least your friend made it with them).


Edited by matureunicorn (06/08/15 06:46 PM)

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#43024 - 06/09/15 11:53 AM Re: Whitney Main Trail Conditions 2015 (Out-of-Date) [Re: Steve C]
Travis McGee Offline


Registered: 06/01/15
Posts: 10
Loc: Orange County, CA
We hiked to Consultation Lake on 6/7 and summitted 6/8. The snow on the trail is no longer quite so bad as shown in the picture above but it is not for the timid.

The two girls in our group wore trail spikes in some but not all stretches and I would recommend them. I used one hiking stick and had a little assistance from my sister at one location on the SB.

It can certainly be done without spikes poles or picks, but in my opinion it is a bit foolish to do so (yes, I was foolish). In many places where the snow is the worst outcome of a slip could be fatal. So while the likelyhood of a slip is not great, the cost of a slip is.

There is still much snow at trail camp (Consultation Lake) so many of the places where you might pitch a tent are not usable, but dry locations can be found.

We saw no more than a six people climbing the chute on Sunday morning (we reached the PCT at 7:30 AM) and saw nobody glissading though we did see some sliders on Sunday afternoon from trail camp. The snow looked like it may have been to soft in the afternoons for glissading.

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#43039 - 06/09/15 10:18 PM Re: Whitney Main Trail Conditions 2015 (Out-of-Date) [Re: Steve C]
wilson7 Offline


Registered: 06/09/15
Posts: 2
Loc: Vancouver, BC Canada
Hiked to trail camp on 6/7, summit on 6/8. No snow up to trail camp and very, very little around camp. Lots of people were making their way down the switchbacks from summit all afternoon on 6/7. Most people said they had no issue ascending the SB aside from the cable section which had quite a few icy patches, but nothing major other than that. Most people ARE making it to summit.

Our camp neighbours had taken the SBs up without issue (wore just hiking boots up the SB and microspikes on the backside) and glissaded down mid-afternoon.

We got up at 2:30am on Monday 6/8 morning and hit the chute with crampons and ice axes, as we had planned to do based on expected conditions (much thanks to this thread!). The snow in the chute was in perfect condition for crampons. We got up to trail crest from camp in about 1hr20m. We took our crampons off at trail crest and wore just our boots for the entire backside. There were patches of snow but boots were more than adequate. I'd say there was more bare/clear trail than snow-covered. Only one corner was notably icy but as long as you're sure-footed it shouldn't be an issue. Microspikes may be helpful for those less experienced.

We were at the last window before the final SBs to the summit when the sun popped up (about 5:15am). We hustled up the final SBs (which were barely snow-covered and easy to follow as lots of people have been summiting in recent days). Had an amazing, clear view at the top.

On our way down we glissaded the chute (at about 8:30am). It was already soft (good conditions for glissading) and the few people attempting to ascend the chute at this time were having lots of trouble: post-holing to knees and slogging in the soft conditions. Going up the chute before sunrise is definitely the only way to do it. We were glad we got to the chute to glissade when we did, as any later would have been very sloppy. And yes, glissading is dangerous if you don't go about it in a safe way with the right knowledge/experience and equipment.

On our way back down to portal we crossed paths with many people going up to trail camp/summit who said that a pair ahead of us were cautioning people not to try to summit, as they had found the SBs to be "extremely icy and snow-packed". This was absolutely not the case for 95% of people going up the SBs and we were disappointed that they were discouraging others to summit when they themselves looked/acted unprepared (we eventually caught up to them). Be sure-footed, bring the right equipment for YOUR experience-level and route-plan and you'll be fine. The snow is going away in a hurry. Its an amazing hike!

Link to pictures of conditions to follow.


Edited by wilson7 (06/09/15 10:33 PM)

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#43041 - 06/09/15 10:29 PM Re: Whitney Main Trail Conditions 2015 (Out-of-Date) [Re: wilson7]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7445
Loc: Fresno, CA
Great report, Wilson7. Thanks SO MUCH for sharing!

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#43042 - 06/09/15 10:34 PM Re: Whitney Main Trail Conditions 2015 (Out-of-Date) [Re: Steve C]
wilson7 Offline


Registered: 06/09/15
Posts: 2
Loc: Vancouver, BC Canada
Few pictures from our summit on 6/8 for those curious of what conditions look like.

Coming back down the final SBs before summit:
http://i.imgur.com/yHSkO8E.jpg

Trail on backside about 1mi from summit:
http://i.imgur.com/VcwiCB3.jpg

View from trail crest of the chute (trail camp in the far right corner)
http://i.imgur.com/4DtjBkP.jpg

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#43053 - 06/10/15 10:47 AM Re: Whitney Main Trail Conditions 2015 (Out-of-Date) [Re: wilson7]
dwarak Offline


Registered: 06/12/14
Posts: 2
Loc: Fremont , CA
We summit-ed on Jun/08. It was pretty hot and had to remove two layers after the very first mile. Snow starts above the Trail camp. one person in our group took the chute to trail crest while the rest proceeded on the SB. From the rails section we needed to have micro spikes on . There were some Switchbacks which were very slippery and would definitely recommenced We wore the micro spikes all the way to the summit as there was some patches where it gives stability and also wore it on the way down till the rails on Switchbacks. One member in the group took the chute down trying to plunge step and slid with ice axe , he said it was a bad decision as the bottom part was very icy and he took 30 min more than us and made it without any issues. From trail camp there was no issues to whitney portal .

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#43054 - 06/10/15 10:57 AM Re: Whitney Main Trail Conditions 2015 (Out-of-Date) [Re: Steve C]
Ted E Offline


Registered: 06/10/15
Posts: 1
Loc: Morrison, CO
This weekend I climbed the Mountaineers route on Whitney, along with the east ridge of Russell, and Muir. I also descended the standard trail on Whitney.

Everything was clear of snow on the mountaineers route until the main snow climb just above iceberg lake, which has great steps in it and is pretty solid. there is a decent dirt patch in the middle, and the upper section above the notch on the north side is also in great shape with lots of snow.

I descended the standard route. I did not have to use crampons, etc on the descent since the snow around the cables area was soft enough to give good traction in the afternoon. I did not find any snow below 12500 on the standard route.

Muir is free of snow on the upper 3rd class section. There is some snow on the scree/talus area.

Russell is snow free until the Mt. Carillon saddle, and the east ridge route has some pretty crappy snow on the north side of the east ridge. I opted to go on the ridge proper, which is clear of snow, but more difficult, on the ascent, but on the descent I was able to find some better routes through the snow on the north side of the east ridge to stay on the easier slab areas.


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#43057 - 06/10/15 03:18 PM Re: Whitney Main Trail Conditions 2015 (Out-of-Date) [Re: dwarak]
Raghu Offline


Registered: 06/03/15
Posts: 10
Loc: CA
Dwarak and I were in the same group. We went on 8th. We reached trail camp around 7 am. so snow was pretty soft for most of our hike. I will post some pics if people want.

Summary of conditions : need poles and micro spikes (yaktrax are also ok).

Trail Crest to Summit: Traction is absolutely required. There are many places where trail was completely covered in snow. my friends saw couple of people slip (fortunately recovered, and were visible shaken).

Switchbacks: SBs are doable even with trail shoes (with proper use of poles), but micro spikes would be better for a small section. Cables were pretty easy and couple of corners right after cables were bit more dicey. We wore spikes for only for 3-4 SBs, and wore them back at Trail Crest.

Coming down the chute :
tl;dr : It was too late in the afternoon and I shouldn't have done it.

I wanted come down the chute and carried an Ice Axe. I wanted to plunge step rather than glissade. The snow is pretty soft in the afternoon.. unfortunately we came back to Trail Crest only at 5-5:15 pm, and most of the chute was under shade. I tested the snow at the top left side (while looking down the slope) while it was not very soft it was fairly slushy.. I incorrectly expected snow further down would only be softer. Reality was exactly opposite.. the second half was lot more crunchy and varied quite bit (some places it was just thin layer and in some places it was not that easy to plant the ace axe handle). As net result I neither saved time or effort compared to hiking down SBs. Over all I took it pretty safe. Most of the time I wasn't actually standing up but rather scraping the snow one leg at a time with ice axe handed planted in snow. On top of that getting to the trail from the bottom of the chute was not easy, there were some tracks but it took some time for me to reach the trail. My gaiters didn't hold and my shoes socks were all very wet. But at no point was in any danger.. normal skiing experience helped just the snow.. it varied so much throughout the slope.



Edited by Raghu (06/10/15 03:21 PM)
Edit Reason: minor

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#43058 - 06/10/15 06:18 PM Re: Whitney Main Trail Conditions 2015 (Out-of-Date) [Re: Steve C]
PDXTom Offline


Registered: 06/10/15
Posts: 1
Loc: Portland, OR
My son and I summited on Saturday June 6.

First, I want to thank the many experienced folks on this site who give so generously of the time and experience to help we first-timers be successful and stay out of trouble. What a generous community.

We camped at Trail Camp (TC) Friday night arriving at dusk. It quickly got cold. As others have noted, trail to TC is 99% clear of snow. There were many sites clear of snow to pitch tents. We had 2 for our party of 3.

We awoke to ~ 1 inch of new snow. Unlike matureunicorn, who posted above, we elected not to strike out early and waited to see what conditions evolved given all the uncertainty about the weather. We encountered groups coming down who had gone quite early and had been caught in a white out, leading them to turn back. Others found they didnít feel the had the needed equipment to handle trail conditions they found in the SB at and above the cables.

By 8AM, the sun was shining brilliantly and we got our stuff organized to leave at TC and headed up the SB. Just prior to the cables, we encountered groups struggling in the deeper, softer snow on some of the turns. Several abandoned there. We put on our crampons there and ended up keeping them on till the summit, using our hiking poles the entire way. We ended up catching and passing groups who were less sure of their footing. Weather changed constantly, from bright sunshine to dark clouds and snow flurries.

At Trail Crest, one of our group elected to go down, feeling she did not have the endurance to summit and get all the way back to the Portal. Thankfully none of us had any AMS symptoms, probably helped by our stay Thursday night at Horseshoe Meadows (10,000 ft).

As mentioned elsewhere, the backside 2 miles to the summit has lots of packed snow and ice. We were very glad we had our crampons, as we were able to maintain a good pace with confidence about our footing. We encountered in the last mile a number of the groups who had gone earlier and successfully summited. Some reported it was socked in and others clear, giving you an idea of how fast things were changing over the course of the day.

We summited at 2PM to a largely clear sky. One day-hike couple hit the summit just ahead of us and did an immediate u-turn as one was clearly having AMS and needed to get down quickly. Thankfully we know they safely reached the Portal. We lingered, savoring the views and the rest, ate, and then headed down. We quickly noticed some nasty looking weather to the north and northwest, though it was unclear if it was moving over Whitney. Humorously, we encountered a group of three, about 15 minutes from the summit, just before you can see the hut. When we said they were minutes away, they said thatís what folks had been telling them for the last hour and they didnít believe us! We saw them at breakfast Sunday AM and laughed about this. We also encountered numerous day-hiker groups further down, several of whom had a long way to go and looked pretty exhausted already. We worried that they were prepared for the long and partly dark return to the Portal. That several were wearing blue jeans did not inspire confidence.

We descended the SB and were again glad to have our crampons, as we were able to move steadily, catching folks who had left the summit ahead of us who had less reliable traction. We reached TC in 3 hours, broke camp, loaded up and hit the Portal 3 hours later, just as it was getting dark.

An amazing day that we will never forget.

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#43062 - 06/11/15 05:24 AM Re: Whitney Main Trail Conditions 2015 (Out-of-Date) [Re: Steve C]
AndrewChanez Offline


Registered: 05/31/15
Posts: 5
Loc: Seattle, WA
We attempted an overnight entry Wednesday June 10th. Started at 10AM toward trail camp and took it nice and slow all the way to save energy for the summit in the morning. We don't have much access to elevation training where we are from and some in our group definitely felt the effects of altitude.

Weather was definitely the killer for us. It rained most of the way up. Around 10,000ft it turned to hail and there were some lightning strikes separated from thunder by just a few seconds. It seemed to clear up in the last hour of our ascent. As we approached trail camp, clouds swarmed from behind us. The second we unraveled our tents hail started dumping on us. It caught us very off guard - right when we took off all our rain protection from bags/humans as the weather seemed to have been turning for the better. The result was us hastily setting up and climbing in to take cover. It dumped hail and snow for 45 minutes or more and all our warm gear got wet.

After almost an hour in our tents with a couple of us struggling to get warm, we decided it might not be safe for us to try to stay with all our gear damp/wet. We ended up packing up camp and heading back down the mountain and got back to our car around midnight. I'll post a picture of trail camp later. I imagine it will melt quickly with the clear skies in the morning but snow was down to roughly 11,000 feet.

Mount Whitney: 1
Amateur Hikers: 0

PS: several hikers said the SBs were looking good the earlier you start. Everyone who reached summit before 9AM seemed very happy with their early start. Unconfirmed but one report of a dislocated hip in an attempt to glissade the chute on Tuesday.

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#43070 - 06/11/15 10:20 AM Re: Whitney Main Trail Conditions 2015 (Out-of-Date) [Re: AndrewChanez]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7445
Loc: Fresno, CA
AndrewC: Thanks for the report. Too bad the trip turned out so differently than planned. Just remember this: The mountain will always be there, so you can try it again.

Next time, maybe spend a night at Horseshoe Meadows to get a head start on the acclimatization.


Edit, for Publius below: Note that AndrewC's group experienced some AMS issues. For people like that, staying overnight at 10k can give them a little more acclimatization advantage, and maybe stave off the symptoms when they do the hike.


Edited by Steve C (06/12/15 12:25 AM)

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#43076 - 06/11/15 03:56 PM Re: Whitney Main Trail Conditions 2015 (Out-of-Date) [Re: Steve C]
publius Offline


Registered: 06/09/15
Posts: 3
Loc: California
why does everyone spend a night at horseshoe instead of at whitney portal? Crowds? Cost? Noise? Extra 2K vertical?

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