Here is a trail report and recap for those planning on heading up soon:
We had a group of nine guys head up to Whitney on Friday/Saturday this past weekend. Our group had a mix of experience including two guys who had hiked Whitney before, a few with other hiking experience and two guys who had never even been hiking or camping before.
We started from LA at 6am on Friday, messed around in Lone Pine for a while and finally hit the Whitney Trail about noon. The first two miles were relatively normal and dry. We started hitting big snow patches around 9,000 feet and had nothing but snow after the log crossing near Lone Pine Lake (9,500?). There was pretty much no visible trail from that point on.
We had lunch in Bighorn Park and then headed up to Trail Camp. From BHP, everyone was going off trail and up the snow ridge on the left slide so we followed them and cut behind the mountains (I don't know what this area is called) over to Consultation Lake. We passed Consultation Lake (which was frozen) on our left before we climbed one more ridge and finally trudged into Trail Camp around 6pm, just before it started getting dark.
There were quite a few people at TC with tents set up on the rocks and there were absolutely no tracks going up the chute, because as we found out, it had just got done snowing for about four hours (meaning we got to hike in fresh powder the next morning). I think it got down to about 17 degrees Friday night at Trail Camp.
Saturday morning, we started up around 8am. The chute looked daunting without any switchbacks but it really wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, especially with good footholes to step in from the people who went before us (thanks Garrett and Brian!). I ended getting up to Trail Crest in 1:24. The last person in our group took about two hours. Still not bad.
From there the trail on the ridge was a mix of dry trail, rocks and snow. Crampons were not absolutely necessary on the backside and they made for awkward hiking on some of the rocks, but I am glad I used them and recommend them if you are hiking up there soon because most of the traverses were on snow and were really scary. You will appreciate the extra grip on your feet. There was one last really steep chute of snow to climb just before the top and then we made it!
Eight out of nine members of our group made the summit, with one guy turning back just before the top because he was tired and afraid he might slip on one of the traverses (a very good reason to turn around!) As they say, know your limits and turn around if you feel like you are out of your comfort zone.
Excluding the time it took us to pack up our camp, it took our group (including some slow guys who were dragging after two long days of hiking) about five hours to get back from the summit to Whitney Portal. That's including some pretty nice glissading down the chute. What took 1.5 hours to climb, was only 10 minutes down. This saves a lot of time! But make sure you have your ice axe and be careful! Glissading is fast and fun, but also dangerous as many on here have pointed out.
We ran into Norma R at Trail Crest and I was lucky enough to hike with her from TC up to the summit. It was nice to finally meet you in person Norma. Hopefully we get to hike together again soon.
That's my update. I haven't gotten my photos off my camera yet but took tons and will post them soon. Cheers!
Update: Here are my photos from this past Friday/Saturday. Lots of great snow. I didn't take many photos on the way down but it was more of the same.Mt Whitney hike May 2010