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#46364 - 05/21/16 10:27 PM Whitney Main Trail - Day Hike 19th May 2016
Michelle2354 Offline


Registered: 04/24/16
Posts: 8
Loc: London, United Kingdom
I summitted Whitney via the main trail on a very, very long day hike on Thursday 19th May.

I did a couple of acclimatizing hikes on the two days prior which I think definitely helped - I walked to Lone Pine Lake on the evening I arrived and then Kearsarge Pass the following day which is an amazing hike and definitely worth while doing if you can't get a permit for Whitney. I didn't experience any real altitude sickness (headache etc) but the altitude did destroy my ability to consume food which I will cover in a bit more detail in a bit.

The day went as follows -

I started at the trail head at 3.30am and had absolutely no problem with parking as only a few cars were parked there at that time. I'm sure that will change as the weather improves and more people are on the trail.

The trail was nearly completely snow free until the area above Lone Pine Lake. I was very relieved that I had hiked to Lone Pike Lake in the daylight two days prior as driving up Whitney Portal Road and then walking up the trail to the lake in the complete dark alone was an eerie experience. Being familiar with the layout of the trail head and the trail up to the lake eased my slight apprehension.

From Lone Pine Lake to Outpost Camp there is still a significant amount of snow and it was very icy at that early time in the morning. I found that crampons were required. The trail cannot be seen but there are footprints in the snow that can be followed. Be aware though that there are a number of places where footprints go of in different (and wrong) directions so you do need to be careful with your navigation. I did get slightly off track a number of times.

The trail is then easy to follow up to Trail Camp and is snow free until you reach that area. I refilled my water at Trailside Meadow as I was worried that the water at Trail Camp would still be frozen and I believe it still was, but I'm not completely certain.

The snow is much deeper from Trail Camp up to Trail Crest - crampons and ice axe are definitely needed to tackle the chute to the right of the switchbacks. I arrived at the chute at around 8.30am and it took me over 2 hours to ascend. The snow was soft and wet in some places and then hard and icy in others. The conditions were difficult and there was lots of postholing the whole way up. This used up a huge amount of energy and when I got to the top I was exhausted. The switchbacks were completely covered with snow but I did see some footprints in the snow. As the snow melts on the chute it might be worth considering the switchbacks but I've no idea if the condition of the snow on the switchbacks would be any better.

When I finally got to the top at Trail Crest I tried to consume some energy bars but the altitude had completely destroyed my appetite and I couldn't eat a thing. If I get the chance to do Whitney again I would definitely bring many more of those horrible energy gels as I think that would be the only thing my body would allow me to consume. As it was, I wasn't able to eat anything till I got all the way back down to Lone Pine Lake which was not good.

From Trail Crest to the summit there is even more snow and crampons and ice axe are an absolute must. The trail cannot be seen and instead there are footprints kicked into the side of the snow which are easy to follow. This path is not for the faint hearted and in most places is only about a footstep or two in width with a big drop to the left. A slip could easily be deadly so care must be taken. The amount on snow on this part of the trail does slow your progress and it took me more than an hour and a half more to reach the summit. Although this might also be due to the fact that I was really struggling for energy at this point.

I spent only a little time at the summit as I still could not eat anything and it was very cold with strong winds.

On my way back I was able to glissade down the chute safely and my ice axe was able to gain purchase in the snow when needed. I saw others do the same and didn't see anyone have any problems either.

Once I reached Trail Camp I saw a large snowfield going all the way down to Outpost Camp so I walked down it instead of taking the main trail. There was some postholing in places but was mostly okay.

I finally reached my car at the trail head at 6.30pm. It was an extremely long and exhausting day but summitting did feel wonderful.

All of the other hikers I encountered that day told me that they were doing it as a two day hike and where camping in various places on the trail overnight. I do think that climbing Whitney over two days would be a much more enjoyable experience and next time I will definitely be trying to do it that way. I was constantly pushing myself and was very aware of the time (and the lack of it!) that I couldn't really sit and appreciate the mountain and its surroundings, which I think is a massive shame as it is spectacular!



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#46371 - 05/22/16 05:16 PM Re: Whitney Main Trail - Day Hike 19th May 2016 [Re: Michelle2354]
climbslc Offline


Registered: 05/20/16
Posts: 10
Loc: Utah
Congratulations on making the top in such difficult conditions!!

And thank you for the descriptions of the trail conditions from those of us holding day permits over the next few weeks. Sounds like we better be ready for a tough hike! eek

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#46373 - 05/22/16 09:59 PM Re: Whitney Main Trail - Day Hike 19th May 2016 [Re: Michelle2354]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7191
Loc: Fresno, CA
Michelle, you are an awesome, tough, in-shape hiker! Congratulations making such a tough hike in one day!

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#46380 - 05/23/16 08:46 AM Re: Whitney Main Trail - Day Hike 19th May 2016 [Re: Michelle2354]
JohnnyW Offline


Registered: 05/23/16
Posts: 3
Loc: California
Thanks for the detailed conditions and impressed to see a fellow Brit do it in one day. A day hike is beyond me after 60 years of hereditary high cholesterol but a night at trail camp, either side of the summit hike works for me. I get the loss of appetite too from about 12,000 ft. My buddies all had expensive dehydrated packs of chicken etc and I had 29c pot noodles that weighed nothing. Everyone ended up eating mine! Ha Ha. I think the salt makes it more palatable. I am going up on Wednesday/Thursday if the snow showers don't stop me so I am grateful for the condition report, so I will leave one for other hikers if I find it any different. I took the snowfield route to outpost in 2011 past the waterfall on the left going up which cuts a corner. I went up the chute that year too and slid down coming back[/size][size:11pt]. I hurt my knees when my foot got caught in the foot holes a few times. The next morning my knees were like balloons and tough going down. I will do the same this time but be more careful. I think this will be my 4th and last time, but never say never!


Edited by JohnnyW (05/23/16 06:12 PM)

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#46382 - 05/23/16 08:54 AM Re: Whitney Main Trail - Day Hike 19th May 2016 [Re: JohnnyW]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7191
Loc: Fresno, CA
JonnyW, glissading is fun, but is really dangerous if you don't have an ice axe to use as a brake. Your knee injury is a light one. People can break an ankle glissading while wearing crampons.

I saw a report last night of people glissading, then losing control (it gets icy lower down). Fortunately the snow softened near the bottom so they were ok.

Do NOT glissade without an ice axe!!!

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#46384 - 05/23/16 09:08 AM Re: Whitney Main Trail - Day Hike 19th May 2016 [Re: Steve C]
JohnnyW Offline


Registered: 05/23/16
Posts: 3
Loc: California
I had an ice axe and stopped frequently. I felt safe all the way. I thought I would share the knee problem for the older hikers like me because I didn't anticipate it. I enjoyed the snow hike the most out of the three times I have done it. Tough couple of hours going up the chute but beats the 99 switchbacks.

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#46387 - 05/23/16 10:30 AM Re: Whitney Main Trail - Day Hike 19th May 2016 [Re: Michelle2354]
Abhishek Offline


Registered: 05/23/16
Posts: 1
Loc: TX
Thank you Michelle for jotting down your experience. It is truly inspiring.

We will be in Whitney on June 8 to do Day Hike.

We are planning to get Crampons but we are not sure about ice axe. Do you recommend ice axe ?

Best Regards,
Abhishek

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#46396 - 05/23/16 04:31 PM Re: Whitney Main Trail - Day Hike 19th May 2016 [Re: Michelle2354]
JLynch Offline


Registered: 05/09/16
Posts: 4
Loc: Bakersfield, CA
Michelle,
Thank you so much for your detailed writings! My daughter and I will be attempting a day hike on June 4th. Not sure if we will summit Whitney but the experience will be amazing none the less. (We are in good shape...but hiking has become a new favorite for me...much, much more to learn!)

Again, Congratulations:)

Janine Lynch

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#46399 - 05/23/16 05:20 PM Re: Whitney Main Trail - Day Hike 19th May 2016 [Re: Michelle2354]
Harvey Lankford Offline


Registered: 11/10/09
Posts: 980
Loc: Richmond, Virginia

she answered that question twice

Originally Posted By: Michelle2354

From Trail Crest to the summit there is even more snow and crampons and ice axe are an absolute must.

On my way back I was able to glissade down the chute safely and my ice axe was able to gain purchase in the snow when needed.


Edited by Harvey Lankford (05/23/16 05:21 PM)

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#46404 - 05/24/16 10:30 AM Re: Whitney Main Trail - Day Hike 19th May 2016 [Re: Abhishek]
Michelle2354 Offline


Registered: 04/24/16
Posts: 8
Loc: London, United Kingdom
Hi Abhishek,

The trail from trail crest to the summit has a lot of snow and has a big drop to the left. If you slip or fall you will have no way of self-arresting without an ice axe and it's a long way down. Also, there's no way of glissading down the chute without an ice axe so it would definitely be a good idea to have one with you.

Good luck!

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#46406 - 05/24/16 10:36 AM Re: Whitney Main Trail - Day Hike 19th May 2016 [Re: JLynch]
Michelle2354 Offline


Registered: 04/24/16
Posts: 8
Loc: London, United Kingdom
Hi Janine,

It's do-able in a day but just be prepared for it to be a monster one! I've no idea how you are with altitude but make sure you have food/drinks that that your body will allow you to consume at that height because you will be expending huge amounts of energy. For me, that's the one area I struggled on and would have had a much more enjoyable day if I could have eaten more.

Good luck and I hope you have a great time!

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#46413 - 05/24/16 10:02 PM Re: Whitney Main Trail - Day Hike 19th May 2016 [Re: Michelle2354]
summitsteve Offline


Registered: 05/24/16
Posts: 1
Loc: San Diego CA
Michelle, hoping to do the exact same trip this coming Friday (5/27). Would snowshoes have made any of it easier? Was thinking of bringing a pair for some of the deeper snow, then maybe dropping them at Trail Camp before ascending with crampons.

Would you start at 3:30AM again?

Your story has inspired me to use my day permit to the max and summit.

Thanks!

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#46415 - 05/24/16 10:59 PM Re: Whitney Main Trail - Day Hike 19th May 2016 [Re: summitsteve]
Michelle2354 Offline


Registered: 04/24/16
Posts: 8
Loc: London, United Kingdom
Hi Steve,

Snowshoes might help a little in the area above Lone Pine Lake but after that the trail is fine till you reach Trail Camp and then it's crampons that's required till the summit. I really don't think I would bother and save myself the weight.

I would definitely get an early start as possible. I was probably one of the latest going up the chute that day and I was there around 8.30. It gives you a little bit more leeway and for me it was really nice getting back to the car park before dark.

I really hope you have a great day Steve and make it to the top!

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#46424 - 05/25/16 04:05 PM Re: Whitney Main Trail - Day Hike 19th May 2016 [Re: Michelle2354]
Bandopant Offline


Registered: 05/25/16
Posts: 2
Loc: CA
Hi Michelle,
Thanks for the trip report. I see that there is snow at Trail Camp. Can you tell us if tents were pitched on the snow or were some pitched on the bare ground?

Thanks,
B

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#46430 - 05/25/16 09:19 PM Re: Whitney Main Trail - Day Hike 19th May 2016 [Re: Bandopant]
Michelle2354 Offline


Registered: 04/24/16
Posts: 8
Loc: London, United Kingdom
Hi B,

The tents I saw were all pitched on the rock.

Michelle

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#46433 - 05/25/16 11:10 PM Re: Whitney Main Trail - Day Hike 19th May 2016 [Re: Michelle2354]
Bandopant Offline


Registered: 05/25/16
Posts: 2
Loc: CA
Thanks Michelle. We will be climbing this coming weekend at a gingerly pace (5-28/5-30). Your trip log is very helpful.

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