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#44683 - 10/24/15 01:57 AM Mt Whitney in May
Newclimber Offline


Registered: 10/23/15
Posts: 18
Loc: Australia
Hi,

My partner and I have booked a trip to the US early may. I am really hoping I can climb Mt Whitney somewhere between the 1st and the 8th. I have never climbed past 8000 ft, have no experience climbing on snow and there is a good chance I will be by myself. Is this an achievable goal? Would I need to take crampons/ice axe and if so do you need training to use them. I plan on doing a lot of summer training(as its hard to find snow in Australia) between now and then so my main concern is my lack of experience with snow.

Thanks in advance for any recommendations.

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#44684 - 10/24/15 02:57 PM Re: Mt Whitney in May [Re: Newclimber]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7673
Loc: Fresno, CA
Welcome, Newclimber,

May is pretty early to hike Mt Whitney. There is sure to be a snowpack, and the switchbacks will be inaccessible due to the amount of snow. At that time of year, few people go, but there will be tracks in the snow, with people heading all over the place -- many in wrong directions in the lower parts of the trail.

Once you get to the 12,500 ft elevation and Trail Camp, people head up the slope west of the switchbacks using crampons, and an ice axe just in case of a slip. Be sure to view John Li's report and video here: 6/1/2014 Dayhike Summit by beginner hikers

As for permits, there are always walk-in permits available early in May, so you won't have any trouble with that. Due to the tougher conditions, making it as a day hike is possible only for the most fit (and lucky if altitude issues don't strike). Camping overnight at Outpost Camp (10,400 ft, 3200 M) would make the hike easier. (Camping there two nights would get you much better acclimated for the peak, too. As for acclimation, I would get a prescription for Diamox (acetazolamide) and take it a trial dose at home to make sure it doesn't have any adverse side effects.)

If you are serious about this climb, then learn everything you can about the altitude and hiking in snow. If you take your time, and practice with the ice axe once you get to a slope where you can try, you might be ok. Most importantly, turn around if you get out of your comfort level, or if the weather is bad. People die on Whitney every year. The mountain will always be there for another try later.

Here are some links on ice axe use:
Watching this video by the British Mountaineering Council is mandatory:   Mt Whitney hiking and climbing videos
Another good one:  Ice Axe Technique
Related: Glissading from Trail Crest and hazards

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#44995 - 12/12/15 02:07 PM Re: Mt Whitney in May [Re: Steve C]
Newclimber Offline


Registered: 10/23/15
Posts: 18
Loc: Australia
Hi Steve,

Sorry for the extremely late reply but thanks a lot for passing on that information. I have begun buying appropriate gear and will post for a climbing partner closer to the may.

Can't wait

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#45009 - 12/15/15 08:05 AM Re: Mt Whitney in May [Re: Newclimber]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1563
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
Are you also getting training in the use of that new gear?
_________________________
Wherever you go, there you are.
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#45012 - 12/15/15 06:14 PM Re: Mt Whitney in May [Re: saltydog]
Newclimber Offline


Registered: 10/23/15
Posts: 18
Loc: Australia
I am hoping to but if so it will have to be in the US as there is no snow in aus between now and then

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#45022 - 12/16/15 11:55 PM Re: Mt Whitney in May [Re: Newclimber]
wagga Offline


Registered: 10/07/09
Posts: 2247
Loc: Humbug Reach (Pop. 3)
Originally Posted By: Newclimber
I have never climbed past 8000 ft...

Please note the SAR at Outpost thread. Very unusual, but some people are very affected by altitude.

You might try some of the So. Cal. peaks, such as Baldy, San Gorgonio or San Jacinto to acclimatize before tackling Whitney. I'm sure there are Zoners that would be happy to run you up some of them.
_________________________
Verum audaces non gerunt indusia alba. - Ipsi dixit MCMLXXII

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#45032 - 12/18/15 02:02 PM Re: Mt Whitney in May [Re: wagga]
Newclimber Offline


Registered: 10/23/15
Posts: 18
Loc: Australia
Thanks for your input Wagga, I was actually considering an acclimatization hike 2 days before my attempt on Whitney. Are you familiar with trail peak. I was reading that it is near Mt Whitney and climbs from 10000ft to 11600ft in under 3 miles. Would this be accessible at this time of the year? And is the trail reasonable?

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#45034 - 12/18/15 09:47 PM Re: Mt Whitney in May [Re: Newclimber]
nyker Offline


Registered: 07/26/12
Posts: 203
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: Newclimber
Hi,

My partner and I have booked a trip to the US early may. I am really hoping I can climb Mt Whitney somewhere between the 1st and the 8th. I have never climbed past 8000 ft, have no experience climbing on snow and there is a good chance I will be by myself. Is this an achievable goal? Would I need to take crampons/ice axe and if so do you need training to use them. I plan on doing a lot of summer training(as its hard to find snow in Australia) between now and then so my main concern is my lack of experience with snow.

Thanks in advance for any recommendations.



G'day mate!

As others have said, May could be a challenging month. While a native New Yorker, I lived in Sydney for a year and felt a craving for mountains, so hopped on a flight to NZ to satisfy the urge.

Given your altitude challenged country ( :-) ) and the fact that the Snowies down south won't offer you the needed altitude, a good idea for you to do from now until May would be to head over the Southern Alps in New Zealand and get some training and practice doing some moderate snow climbs to 3000M-3500M or so.

I'd suggest either Queenstown or near Mt Cook for getting either lessons with a Guide or practice with a friend with experience.

That will help a great deal in understanding what the altitude will be like on Whitney, though Whitney is a touch higher at 4421M.

You don't say if your coming to the US for another reason or for the purpose of climbing. We might have other suggestions depending on your plans here.

Good luck!

Rob

To give you an idea of May area conditions, here are two links to two of my Spring climbs in the recent past:

http://14ers.com/php14ers/tripreport.php...amp;ski=Include


http://14ers.com/php14ers/tripreport.php...amp;ski=Include

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#45036 - 12/18/15 10:59 PM Re: Mt Whitney in May [Re: Newclimber]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7673
Loc: Fresno, CA
Originally Posted By: Newclimber
Thanks for your input Wagga, I was actually considering an acclimatization hike 2 days before my attempt on Whitney. Are you familiar with trail peak. I was reading that it is near Mt Whitney and climbs from 10000ft to 11600ft in under 3 miles. Would this be accessible at this time of the year? And is the trail reasonable?

Newclimber: here's a thread for you, with a link to a Trail Peak report: Best acclimatization day hikes for Mt Whitney

County road crews try to have the roads opened by the end of April, so you should be able to get up to the Trail Peak trailhead. Consider sleeping at Horseshoe Meadows -- that will really help with altitude acclimatization.

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#45050 - 12/22/15 03:08 AM Re: Mt Whitney in May [Re: Steve C]
Newclimber Offline


Registered: 10/23/15
Posts: 18
Loc: Australia
Thank you NYKER and Steve C
I read your report on your climb up the main trail and it was inspiring. Looking forward to it a lot more now. Don't know how I will feel not knowing who the sets of eyes staring at time in the dark belong to though haha. As for NZ, I was there last month, we were hoping to climb Mt Taranaki however the weather did not allow it. I actually grew up in the north island. Unfortunately my interest in mountains didn't take hold until the last couple of years so I never made the most of the snow. Its good that it is so close because I do plan on heading to the South Island to do some climbing over there in the future. I don't like my chances of getting back there between now and April but I wont rule it out.
My partner and I will only be in California for a about 2 weeks itinerary has been confirmed yet but it is going to be fairly rushed. The plan is 4 days LA, 4 days Las Vegas, 3 days Whitney area, 3 Days San Francisco.
As for the 3 days at Whitney my intention are to drive from LA and do an acclimatization hike, probably Trail Peak on day 1 (thanks Steve that thread was very helpful)
Day 2 a bit of sight seeing as high as possible to improve acclimatization.
Day 3 Start very early start for Whitney climb.
and the following day the big drive to San Fran via Yosemite. ARGH.
What do you think is the likely hood would of finding someone with a bit of experience to climb Whitney with?

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#45051 - 12/22/15 07:16 AM Re: Mt Whitney in May [Re: Newclimber]
Harvey Lankford Offline


Registered: 11/10/09
Posts: 1019
Loc: Richmond, Virginia
Originally Posted By: Newclimber

What do you think is the likely hood would of finding someone with a bit of experience to climb Whitney with?

Kurt
Sierra Mountaineering

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#45052 - 12/22/15 12:08 PM Re: Mt Whitney in May [Re: Newclimber]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7673
Loc: Fresno, CA
Heh, I could "see Las Vegas" in less than 24 hours. wink
Walk The Strip, view the lights and sights from the outside, then "get outta Dodge". I never liked the glitzy glamour of that place. All they want is your money.

Maybe others can suggest things to see or do in L.A., but driving over to Grand Canyon would be more memorable in my mind. (Can you guess I am more of an outdoors person?) I think the South Rim is more accessible.

Leave LV in the morning, and drive to Mt Whitney via Death Valley -- it's the lowest point in the continent, and the colors of the surrounding mountains are definitely something to see.

If you are ok with all the driving, the day before hiking Whitney, a drive up to the White Mountains and the Bristlecone Pine forest (at 10k' elevation) would give you more acclimatization. Not sure when it opens for summer, though. A call to the ranger station in Bishop would be good to check: (760) 873-2500

If you hired SMI guides, they could take you up the Mountaineer's Route, a shorter, more direct hike. It would be cool to go up that way and down the trail, but not sure the guides are allowed to descend that way. It's a major hike, and if you're just a sedentary tourist the two weeks before, Whitney can be a major challenge.

On your drive through Yosemite, leave early in the morning (or drive north to Bishop after your Whitney hike. Hit the Whoa Nellie Deli (at the Mobile fuel station on Hwy 120 at Hwy 395). On your way to San Francisco, it is WELL worth the side trip to descend into Yosemite Valley, view the valley and high granite walls, stop and walk up to the base of Yosemite Falls. Truly spectacular, particularly in May. It's about 3 hours drive from Yosemite to San Francisco.

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#45058 - 12/24/15 10:25 PM Re: Mt Whitney in May [Re: Steve C]
Newclimber Offline


Registered: 10/23/15
Posts: 18
Loc: Australia
Yea that all sounds really good, I'm certainly more looking forward to the outdoors then the big cities.
Just a quick question. If my attempt is between may the 5th and may the 10th how far up on the trail would you expect to start encountering snow. To give myself the best chance I would like to leave as early as possible, say between 1 and 2 but would the trail be easy to follow before you get to the snow? I see the sunrise time in May is about 5.50 so if I started at 2 that would mean walking almost 4 hours in the dark and maybe being somewhere near Trail camp by that time. I assume there would be plenty of snow on the ground by Trail camp. Will it be easy to find my way if there is snow? Also, a lot of mention of bears, and other wild life. Is it generally safe strolling up the mountain solo in the dark and what would you expect to run into.

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#45064 - 12/27/15 02:09 PM Re: Mt Whitney in May [Re: Newclimber]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7673
Loc: Fresno, CA
The level of snow depends on the amount dumped this winter. Even though the west side is getting a normal amount, the east side and the Mt Whitney trail is below normal. I expect you will be hitting snow, though, somewhere about Outpost Camp or Mirror Lake. Once it gets steady enough, you can put on the crampons and keep on.

Before you hit the snow, the trail is easy enough. People have had trouble in the dark finding the trail descending the bare granite "nose" above and just south of Mirror Lake. Here's a link to an online interactive map showing the area I am talking about.

Once you reach Trail Camp, you can find your way even if the trail is hidden by snow, as most tracks will be going in the right direction. It is the lower area, between Outpost and Trail Camp that reportedly have tracks going all over the place when there is snow.

Take a good printed map -- print out the map from the above link -- and if you really don't want to get lost, carry a gps unit with the track of the trail loaded into it. (I've had good luck creating tracks using the gmap4 website.) We can find you a good track/route to load if you want to use one.

As for wildlife: In May, there won't be any bears. They only bother people in the parking area near the trail head, when they set their daypack down and walk away. Bears swoop in, grab the pack, and run with it. But there are so few people in May, bears will not likely come in until later in the season. Keep your pack inside the closed car or in a bear locker, or else on your back. Bears won't bother you with the pack on your back.

Hiking alone in the dark in May -- you will be completely alone. Wildlife will be no bother at all. Just a thought, if you want to hike and see a few others on the trail, Saturday or Sunday would be your best days. Don't worry about the Whitney trail permit lottery in May -- based on previous years, there are always plenty of permits in May.

Climbing Whitney as a "day hike" in May, with the snow conditions is a monumental task! You have the altitude issues, snow and icy trail to contend with, crampons weighing down your feet, and lack of conditioning since you are traveling for several weeks before you go. Be prepared to turn around if it gets to be too extreme. Your life is far more valuable than bagging a peak.


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#45294 - 02/16/16 01:00 AM Re: Mt Whitney in May [Re: Steve C]
Newclimber Offline


Registered: 10/23/15
Posts: 18
Loc: Australia
Not far away from my trip now and I'm really looking forward to it.
How is the snow fall on the eastern side of Whitney? still not too bad?
I'm also considering an acclimatization hike on White Mountain Peak.
Can anyone tell me if the trail head at 12000ft will be accessible in a normal car in early May?


Edited by Newclimber (02/16/16 01:02 AM)

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#45297 - 02/16/16 03:01 PM Re: Mt Whitney in May [Re: Newclimber]
Bob West Offline


Registered: 11/13/09
Posts: 828
Loc: Bishop, CA, USA
FYI, the White Mountain road is not always drive-able in May due to snow. You would need to call the Inyo Forest in Bishop at 760-873-2400 for current information.

The public parking for the peak is several miles from the mtn. itself, at a locked gate. You can walk from there, passing the Mount Barcroft research station (no public facilities) and continue walking the dirt road to the summit. 4wd vehicles are recommended for the drive to the gate.

There is no water in the White Mountain area, so bring plenty.

Here is some good info:

http://www.summitpost.org/white-mountain-peak/150221


Edited by Bob West (02/16/16 03:03 PM)

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#45303 - 02/17/16 09:01 AM Re: Mt Whitney in May [Re: Newclimber]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7673
Loc: Fresno, CA
Newclimber, the snow coverage on the east side is still relatively light.

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