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#4904 - 06/04/10 10:44 AM Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail
Steve C Offline

Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 6406
Loc: Fresno, CA
This thread is designed to hold posts displaying pictures and describing the current conditions of the Main Mount Whitney Trail (MMWT).  I hope everyone will contribute.

Please feel free to post pictures of your own or from any source (please post a reference to the original location), so that everyone can come here and easily find/read/see the conditions.

Older posts will be moved as conditions change. (As a result, some posts may appear to answer comments that are no longer in the thread.)

Thanks for everyone's help. Your posting trip reports helps untold numbers of hikers following you.

Older posts moved here:   Whitney Main Trail Conditions 2016 (Old)

Note: Sometimes this thread spans a number of pages. You can click through all the pages, or click here to display all in one page.

Edit for 2016: Note that parking this summer is severely limited due to the Whitney Portal road construction. After June 19, there is NO PARKING along the road. Only one car per hiking party is given a permit to park in the actual parking lots at Whitney Portal.

#46329 - 05/19/16 08:53 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
Steve C Offline

Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 6406
Loc: Fresno, CA
                SUNSCREEN ALERT

Every year, we see reports from people who were seriously burned from hiking Whitney in snowy conditions. The sunlight at altitude is significantly stronger and more intense due to the thinner air; AND most importantly, the snow reflects the sunlight back at you.

People who don't wear sunglasses can return with serious eye burn. It feels like sand in your eyes, and can last several days. Major prescription pain medications are required to ease the pain.

People who don't wear sunscreen can get seriously burned! When the days are warm, people like to wear shorts and peel down to a T-shirt or less. You can burn far worse on a Whitney hike than anywhere else.

Hat, sunglasses and sunscreen are mandatory this time of year.

...Here's a dialog from an Instagram post:
L671: Super sun burnt from this hike. Looking like a Marvel character at the moment. Trying to make sunglass tan lines look cute. 100% worth it
MV13: Hey for real .. Me too
H151: Me too!! Lol even the inside of my nostrils are fried
L671: The sun on Whitney this past week had no mercy...I don't usually get sun burns!!

#46700 - 06/15/16 07:56 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
ramel09 Offline

Registered: 06/09/16
Posts: 2
Loc: San Diego, CA
Hiked up from trail camp this morning and almost all of the groups were exclusively using the switchbacks. There was about 8 groups heading up early between 2-3 am. Some where still glissading down the chute to save time but I don't believe many were going up it today.
Our group of 4 did the whole thing without crampons or an axe so very doable especially as the week progresses. The cables and transitioning off the last switchback into trail crest were the worst spots. Microspikes or yak tracks recommended if your unsure.

#46703 - 06/15/16 11:40 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
Steve C Offline

Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 6406
Loc: Fresno, CA
Posted by Nate Whitaker on June 12:

Mother Nature, you win this round. Nasty early morning storm conditions made a summit attempt too dangerous. Will be back at Mount Whitney soon for another try! #mtwhitney #trailcamp #blizzard #thechute #frozencliffbars #promisedrosieIwouldntdie

#46708 - 06/16/16 08:46 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
Sara Keenan Offline

Registered: 05/09/14
Posts: 27
Loc: United States
#frozencliffbars LOL!!

#46711 - 06/17/16 09:05 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
b4macs Offline

Registered: 06/17/16
Posts: 1
Loc: california
I have used this board for the last couple of weeks, thanks everyone for posting.

Group of 4 started hike on 6/15 at whitney portal at 3am, hit trail camp by 7:30. Took switchbacks up. Still a lot of snow by cables but safe with care. Right after cables was the most sketchy but not bad, that should be cleared up in a couple days if weather stays same. For the most part after that clear on switchbacks up till where it crossed chute area. we didn't have any problems but there was a group there that had a guy slide out traversing and slid down 20 ft or so before stopping.....they seemed little shaken up by it and where turning around.

From trail crest it was good but still snow/ice on trail, many were using micro spikes.

summited around 1:30 and headed back at 2. very windy and cold along entire ridge made the going slow. On way back same spot at top of chute was soft but we still didn't have issue getting back across to switchbacks which we took down without issue.

I would say more are using switchbacks now that chute, but people are still coming up chute and glissading down, didn't see any problems either way other than what I mentioned above.

plenty of running water just before cables still.

We had micro spikes and ice axes but never got them out, just poles and hiking shoes. Never hurts to put on spikes if you have them though just for added safety if that makes you more comfortable.

back to whitney portal around 8.

be safe....the altitude was tough!

#46712 - 06/17/16 10:41 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: b4macs]
Robert W Offline

Registered: 06/04/16
Posts: 5
Loc: California
Thanks for the great update and glad you had a safe trip.

We head up on the 23rd next weeks. Sounds like the snow will really have a good melting time before we head up.


#46713 - 06/17/16 10:46 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: b4macs]
Gautam Offline

Registered: 06/17/16
Posts: 2
Loc: CA - California
Great update!
We are a group of 4 planning to head up for a day trip starting on 3 am - June 29th.
We plan to be there 25th evening to get used to the elevation change.
Any tips appreciated.

#46714 - 06/17/16 10:49 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
adventurer456 Offline

Registered: 11/09/15
Posts: 5
Loc: adventurer456
Anyone 30 or younger (I am 22) want to go up this weekend? Or Monday/Tuesday?

Experienced hiker. Summitted Whitney in summer 1 day, and trail crest another time at which point we turned around because of storm clouds and winds.

Have all the cold weather gear.

Have ice axe and campons, inexperienced with them but learn fast.

I usually leave the car at 12:30AM. Athletic and hike fast swtichbacks by 6:30/7am.

Would show up before 2PM tomorrow to get raffle permit. Coming from LA. I can rent you free crampons at Arcadia if you need them.

Edited by adventurer456 (06/17/16 10:53 AM)

#46718 - 06/17/16 11:23 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: adventurer456]
Steve C Offline

Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 6406
Loc: Fresno, CA
Adventurer, FYI:

Walk-in requests for permits can usually get a free permit. But due to road construction this year, people also need a parking pass to park in the lots at Whitney Portal. That is because overflow parking along the roadway is not allowed this summer.

Unfortunately, walk-in permitees will not be given a parking pass. Only those with a permit reservation will get a pass, and only one car per hiking party.

#46740 - 06/19/16 09:50 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: adventurer456]
charlesjoseph Offline

Registered: 06/19/16
Posts: 1
Loc: California
Adventurer 4565 - -- I am going up on Tues the 21st --- I sent you a PM with info.

Edited by charlesjoseph (06/19/16 09:51 AM)

#46741 - 06/19/16 09:58 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
Luisito Offline

Registered: 04/15/15
Posts: 21
Loc: San Jose, CA
We were a team of 4 doing an overnight hike on 6/16 and 6/17. We camped at the Portal campground on 6/15. Weather was great at the Whitney Portal but the basecamp was windy and cold! We started hiking up to the basecamp around 10:30 am, had lunch at Lone Pine Lake and arrived at the basecamp around 7 pm. The trail is beautiful. No issues with snow or ice although there were a few spots on the trail that's covered. We didn't need any spikes. The hiking poles helped.
A small group of 20 tents were at the base camp. No issues with finding a comfortable camp spot. Lots of marmots waiting to steal your goodies! I would suggest finding a good spot early on that's sheltered from the wind. It was super windy in the evening.
On 6/17, we began our hike up the switchbacks around 7 a.m. I would say 50% of the hikers took the switchbacks and the remainder took the chute. I saw a few people gave the chute a try and changed their minds. The switchbacks are now doable and open. The lower switchbacks have spots that were iced over. Most of the trail were wet from the snow melt. The upper switchbacks after the cables were slightly snow covered. One section of the switchback right after the cables was tricky but not impossible. I would suggest poles and spikes at a minimum. No crampons required. The cables: there are 3 poles where snow completely covered the trail. So, we had to go on the outside of the cables to get around. Just be careful as it's manageable with microspikes and poles. Hang on to the cables! :P The last switchback section to the trail crest was covered with snow! We had to scramble up the rocks to get to the trail crest sign area. I suspect with the warm weather, it should be better in that section. (by the way, try to remember how you get to the trail crest - very easy to forget the way you came up to the crest over the rocks.)
From trail crest to the summit, the trail was fine with some patches of snow and ice. I wore the spikes the entire time. I stopped short of the snow slope leading to the nut but one of my group made it to the hut smile He had to use spikes and ice axe as that section was still covered in snow. We summited around 1 p.m. On the way down, I saw quite a few people taking the chute down. They were being very careful as rocks were exposed in quite a few places. I took the switchbacks down. In the afternoon, snow was soft and the area around the cables was a little tricky to get across - again doable with spikes and poles.

There were lots of places with running water on the trail - the group got water at the basecamp and also at trailside meadow. With the snow melting fast, some of the water crossings (e.g. the first one on the trail) were tricky. Be prepared to get your boots wet! Be sure they are waterproof. smile

The altitude was rough.. the two of us that summited really felt it at 14K. But we did okay - just minor headache and short of breath. I saw a few people getting sick on the switchbacks and they turned back. Just take it easy and give yourself plenty of time to do the hike at an easy pace. It was a beautiful few days up on the mountain! Be safe and enjoy! laugh

Edited by Luisito (06/19/16 10:03 AM)

#46768 - 06/20/16 01:15 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
katHikes Offline

Registered: 06/20/16
Posts: 1
Loc: California
I made it to the summit yesterday, 6/19 around 12:30 PM. I took the switchbacks up and down.

From my experience and talking to a bunch of other people on the trail, I think there are two things that will affect whether you want to use microspikes or crampons: your timing with respect to the temperature and your comfort level/risk tolerance.

Timing/temperature: Since it's still freezing up there at night, but there's a lot of snowmelt and water on the switchbacks during the day, if you start up from trail camp too early, there will be sections of the switchbacks that are a bit icy. I met a few people who had headed up early from trail camp and turned around because of the ice, even with microspikes. I started up from trail camp around 8/8:30 and the ice was starting to break up at that point. Obviously, if you summit too late, you would also have to worry about refreeze at some point. All of the ice was melted and the snow was soft when I was on my way down the switchbacks around 3.

Comfort level/risk tolerance: If the snow is soft and the ice is melted, I think there are still three sections that might seem scary depending on your personal risk tolerance and comfort level. First, as mentioned above, there is a section of about 10 feet where you have to duck outside the cables because of the snow. There's still a lot of snow there. Second, the top of the switchbacks over to trail crest are still covered in snow, which means that you have to cross the chute on snow. Third, there's a stretch of three patches of snow between rocks just before the summit; these are mostly flat, but there is a little bit of elevation change in the middle one. Personally, I put on microspikes only for the stretch across the chute because I thought it would be a pretty dangerous place to fall, but I am also very comfortable on snow and rock in general. I also saw people who wore spikes or crampons the entire way from the cables to the summit (they walked in a lot of dirt with them, though).

Thanks to all for your reports leading up to yesterday; they were super helpful!

#46780 - 06/21/16 01:58 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
Nicole Offline

Registered: 06/15/16
Posts: 2
Loc: Salt Lake City, UT
Hello fellow mountaineers!

Because this blog helped so much for my own preparation of Whitney, which I summited this past Saturday (06/18), I wanted to share my experience.

We started the hike around 4 am from the trailhead and summited at 2 pm.

People here is the thing-- I scared myself shitless prior to beginning this hike because everybody was saying that I needed to be able to run 5 miles a day and hike up 3 peaks per week to get prepared. I hadn't done any of that. I live in Salt Lake City so I have the elevation advantage, I spent the winter snowboarding, and have done an average of 1 hike/ week the couple of months leading up to Whitney. I also did the Whole30 prior to it which I think really helped with the energy levels throughout the hike. BUT my point here is, you do NOT have to be in superman shape to get up this mountain, you just have to be in good shape both physically and mentally. Superman shape will definitely help you get up faster, but I made it in 10 hours which isn't too shabby.

Moving onto the conditions which have also seemed to be scaring people from doing this hike.. There were only TWO spots where things were a bit intense. I say a bit because we had the proper equipment (crampons/microspikes and ice axes) and because there were people around willing to help and be supportive. The first spot was the cables where you had to hold onto the cable and walk like 20 feet to the other side of a frozen waterfall. My boyfriend and I made friends with a married couple who had microspikes but not ice-picks, and well, they summited with us so I think most of it really comes down to fear and not having crampons or microspikes. The second spot was at the end of the switchbacks where the trail was completely covered in snow and had a straight up vertical drop off to the side. I don't have a fear of heights, so this didn't bother me too much, my boyfriend was a bit shakey because he does fear heights, but our entire group of 4 made it across. We are all still alive and well. I think the most important thing to have had were the crampons/microspikes which you can rent from REI if you do not have any. The married couple who hiked with us just used a trekking pole in cases where we were using the ice axe.

On the way up we asked several people what challenges were coming and everybody had mixed reviews. There were people with crampons who said the ice waterfall at the cables was too intense for them, there were people who said there was nothing bad, there were people who said you needed super hardcore equipment to get past it... It really comes down to a matter of judgement and what you think you can do. That is why I suggest just getting to that point and deciding or yourself, don't let the words of others decide for you because you could be missing out on one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.

There were also some patches of ice here and there on the early switchbacks, but they could easily be avoided , and by the time we had started our descent, all of that ice had melted.

The weather itself wasn't too bad... except for the random gusts of 30 mph wind 12k and above; my face is still recovering from wind burn...but that really just depends on the day that you do it and how lucky you get with the forecast. At trail camp I stopped to put on extra layers since I began seeing more snow, but had to stop to remove shortly afterwards because, well, you're working your butt off getting up that dang mountain!

The worst part, which was more awful than those two 'challenging' spots would have to be the last 2 miles. Boy did we get excited when we saw the 1.9 miles left to summit sign, we even have a video of all of us dancing in front of it.. boy were we idiots to celebrate that early. By the last mile it was a game of.. "Okay let's make it to that pointy rock up there" then we would make it and stop to breath for 30 seconds, then start again to the next goal. Take your time, everybody feels the altitude and everybody needs to take care of their body during those last 2 miles.

If you are prepping to do this trek.. Know that there are not just 99 switchbacks, the whole entire fricken hike is switchbacks, and it is on the way back down that you really start to notice them all and curse them while you make your way back to the car.

Yes, this hike was brutal- it was one of the most challenging things I have ever done but I attest that mostly to the last 2 miles and if you can get to that point, you can do it. Obviously don't push yourself to do anything you aren't comfortable with but don't psych yourself out before even trying, there is no shame in turning back if the going gets rough.

Of the 100 permits issued the day I went, 20 summited. Most people we saw coming back down didn't have crampons though we did see people make it up who didn't even have those, though I would not have been comfortable doing the hike without them. Again, all up to your own judgement.

And here are some photos:

Edited by Nicole (06/21/16 02:09 PM)

#46781 - 06/21/16 02:07 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Nicole]
Nicole Offline

Registered: 06/15/16
Posts: 2
Loc: Salt Lake City, UT
I also want to add- we made sure to take altitude pills and started taking them a few days prior to the hike so our bodies would get accustomed which I think helped a lot with the altitude. Aside from deep breaths and needing to stop multiple times at the higher elevation, we didn't feel any other altitude effects such as headaches or nausea so I definitely recommend doing that.

And we also didn't see a single person using the chute up or down. Though we heard just about everybody took it down the day before we summited but the windy conditions the day we hiked made the chute pretty icy.

Edited by Nicole (06/21/16 02:08 PM)

#46805 - 06/22/16 11:06 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
MTN Offline

Registered: 06/08/10
Posts: 9
Loc: Alta Loma, CA
Thank you all for the great reports. Our group will be starting our overnight trip tomorrow. It's great to have such detailed and current information.
Thanks all.

#46824 - 06/23/16 12:48 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
Bwolfy Offline

Registered: 06/21/16
Posts: 1
Loc: Washington State
Just a quick note. Our group of 6 made it to the summit on 6/22 after camping on 6/21 at trail camp. We only needed our hiking shoes and trecking poles. We did have to step outside of the cables for two steps on the way up but it had melted even more on the way down and we were able to stay inside. The last switchback had some snow but there was an easy trail to follow. We went on top of the rocks at the trail crest rather than try to cross on the snow above the chute, which was easy and I would recommend. There are then about 3 sections of snow right before the summit that has a well made trail making for easy travel. Going down on this section would be the only place I could see micro spikes being a convenience but none of our group needed or chose to put them on. Definitely not a need. We did see a few people trying to go up the chute, and it looked miserable and slow!

Our group of 6 ranged in ages from 29-40, 2 experienced and 4 who had never done anything like this. Keep up on water intake, sunglasses and sunscreen! We were in t shirts the entire trip except at night/camping. Have fun and thanks for all of the help from previous posts!

#46834 - 06/23/16 10:55 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Bwolfy]
Steve C Offline

Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 6406
Loc: Fresno, CA
Pictures supplied by Bwolfy from June 22.
Click each one for full-size.

Trail, with Trail Camp pond

At the cables


#46836 - 06/24/16 09:38 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
adventurer456 Offline

Registered: 11/09/15
Posts: 5
Loc: adventurer456

First time ice axe, crampon use, glissading. Started chute at 5:30am. Reached Trailcrest at 10am (could have been faster if were in better shape).

Slush encountered at rocks toward the top. Take off crampons and hike middle rock field towards the top to pass slush. Then put them back on to summit trail crest.

Yes, switchbacks will be faster this time of year. Someone else reported at 3am snow chute was very good/hard. We encountered some slush, but it was not not doable.

Glissading was extremely fun. Slush snow will slow you down but you still need to self-arrest. At the top I was self-arresting for about 100 yards to make sure I had control. Also use your feet (without crampons) to dig into the snow).

DO NOT proceed without watching self-arrest and crampon usage videos and practicing on snow at the bottom of the chute.

Chute probably good for the next week as long as you have an early start, but it will be slower and tougher than switchback (everyone else is taking switchbacks).

#46838 - 06/24/16 10:44 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
Tom S Offline

Registered: 06/24/16
Posts: 3
Loc: Bishop, California
I also, have really appreciated this forum and this discussion in particular, and wanted to give a trip report from yesterday 6/23

We left at 3:00 a.m., and were glad we did. We had a variety of abilities in our group and one group member got sick, and he and his father ended up turning back. A third group member got to trail crest and did not feel up to dealing with the issues there (more on that). And I was unable to summit, as I did some shuttling between our more advanced and less advanced groups as they got separated on the trail, and that extra effort overtaxed me a bit, causing me to have to take a bit of a recovery break on the upper portion of the 99 switchbacks, and by the time I was recovered I felt that I was too far behind to not cause major delays with our decent. But 5 of our 9 summited, including an 11 year old boy and a 12 year old girl.

As to the dicey areas. The cables now have a path on the correct side of the cables, though it is VERY narrow in some areas (one foot in front of the other, right next to the cables). It was doable but a little hairy, as the cables are there because that is a very steep drop off, so walking close to the edge and having to rely on the cables quite a bit is a step more intensity for someone who is more of a hiker than a mountaineer.

The other dicey area is at trail crest, at the top of the chute, where you are making the transition to the west side. The trail has a moderate amount of snow on it in 3 areas. Two areas are fairly walk-able with a moderate degree of care. But the 3rd area has no path right at the level of the trail, and people have established a route through the snow above, and a route that is partially through the snow and a bit through the rocks below the trail. These routes make many nervous as a mistake could cause one to slide down the chute. So many bypassed this entire area by scrambling over the rock outcropping and then coming down on the trail after it has passed through the "window". Even though I did not summit I went through this to at least get to see the west side (and I was still assessing if I would try to summit). I scrambled over the top. This took a level of agility beyond what I felt I had after hiking 9 miles uphill. Wasn't too technical, but was definitely a moderate degree of scrambling. I came back on the upper snowy path. I used my walking stick and drove it into the snow above to help with maintaining balance. I found that the path was well compressed and did not sink into the snow, and just took my time and was careful.

While waiting for the portion of my party that summited I was able to see many parties navigate this obstacle. About half or slightly less went up and over the rocks. Half or slightly more went on the snowy trail. On the snowy trail some experienced hikers walked it like any other trail. But most took a fairly high degree of care, with some obviously struggling with the perceived danger. No one, on any route, had any real trouble or appeared to be in real peril. Only one person went through the snowy area, below the main trail.

Last thing. The entire trail is very wet in spots. If you do not have waterproof footwear, your feet will get wet. There are two early stream crossings. One is just water flowing over a slab of granite, and you will have to step in to 1/2" to 1" of water. The next is a normal rock hopping creek crossing, but about 20% of the rocks you will have to use are just below the surface of the water, and again non-waterproof footwear will get wet. But aside from that, there is water on the trail in all sorts of places, including the 99 switchbacks. Some can easily be negotiated around, while others the easiest path is just to tromp on through. So think abut making sure your boots are well sealed, or be prepared with sock changes. Having water shoes is not very viable (would work for creek crossing), as there would just be too much putting them on and taking them off.

All and all it was a good trip. Exhausting but rewarding. The perils of the trail are rapidly melting. Saw no one all day going up or down the chute, though someone mentioned that several people did the day before. Thunder storms were potentially in the forecast, but none materialized.

As everyone was saying up there, have fun and be safe!

p.s. I have some pictures but don't have access to them right now. Hope to post over the weekend

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