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#50576 - 07/04/17 03:38 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
IdEaMaNi Offline


Registered: 04/19/16
Posts: 21
Loc: Texas
@MountainGoat - My friend and me are going to try and summit on 8th. We have been following the forum and there has been mixed review about switchbacks and chute. I tried to summit last year in May but had to abandon due to excessive snow. We were post holing waist deep near the camp. Given the conditions and trip reports, it looks like play as you go situation. Please post your experience as it will be extremely helpful for our climb! smile Thanks and good luck!

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#50577 - 07/04/17 04:04 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: IdEaMaNi]
Mountain Goat Offline


Registered: 07/04/17
Posts: 7
Loc: Castaic, California
IdEaMaNi,

I've been also following the forum, gathering important information even though conditions on the trail change rapidly, and yes, "play as you go! I will post our experience as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, if this helps, here is a summary of the recent posts related to the switchbacks and chute experiences (from the general Whitney Zone forum, but from different threads):

Posted on July 1:

"summit 6/29/17- i slept at trail camp overnight 6/28 into 6/29. left camp at 5 am, headed up chute. Hillsound trail crampons (microspikes), and trek poles ONLY. climbed halfway up chute, felt totally unsafe without real crampons and/or ice axe, so traversed left towards switchbacks. that was scary. got to rocks, and scrambled till i found switchbacks uncovered. scrambled around, cutting up wherever i could find exposed switchbacks. got almost to top ridge, and started heading right towards trail crest. crossed over the snow towards the top, till crest. walked to summit, arrived about 9 or so. back down to crest, and wasn't even trying to go down chute from top without the axe! traversed across ridge till above where switchbacks are. cut down wherever i could see switchbacks. finally got to cables, which were still covered in snow, but was able to hang onto them from outside and across. found more clear switchbacks and cut down them till i felt i was low enough to slide without an axe safely. again, i did it w microspikes and trek poles only, but would've felt safer w the axe. but if anyone feels nervous about descending chute for whatever reason, maybe explore this route. the rocks were a little loose and gravelly cutting switchbacks but i felt more comfortable this way. hope this helps!"

more details from the same guy:

"...started climbing chute at 5. got halfway up chute and felt totally unsafe without axe, so traversed left to the rocks where some switchbacks were findable. went straight up switchbacks over rocks, scrambling, up way towards the ridge. at the top, traversed back to the right and towards trail crest over snowfield just below ridge, until crest. from there to summit no snow. descent- back to trail crest, and across rocks and snowfield to above the switchbacks. i did this figuring get myself as low as i could, to limit my chances of something bad happening w a slip, less distance to slide. well, found a lot of switchbacks, and cut straight down where snow covered them. was able to get to the cables, which were still under snow but the tops were able to be grabbed. crossed them, and cut more switchbacks down to where i felt comfortable sliding without an axe. FYI if you find yourself at trail crest headed down without axe and real crampons, explore this method.

One more post:

“We had heard about a few people making it up the switchbacks, which were still covered with snow towards the bottom.
-We opted for the chute but only made it about halfway up when we hit our turn around time of 11am. This is where I wished that I would have opted to bring crampons over microspikes.
-The snow got very slushy very fast. I personally would not climb the chute or attempt the traverse to the cables without an ice ax, but I am also an extremely novice climber.
-Glissading down was lots of fun, but remember to either hold on tight or use a leash on your ax! We saw multiple people lose their axes because the couldn't hold on to it while glissading.

One more post:

“I talked with a young couple on 29th in Trail Camp, they said they went up trail crest thru switchbacks and came down at chute.”

More:

“Many people would prefer to use the switchbacks, so a few hardy souls will go up as far as they can. If it's too tough, they bail and move west to the "chute" (actually the snow slope). At some point, people will succeed all the way on the switchbacks, and lots of people, then most people, will take that route. I think it's a word-of-mouth message that is passed among hikers sharing notes in Trail Camp.

If there is too much snow on the switchbacks to make them unusable, then there will be enough snow on the slope to climb up and glissade down.”

More:

“During the winter, the chute is the clear choice. It takes you directly to Trail Crest with no route-finding problems, and it is much faster than the switchbacks. It also offers the opportunity to glissade or even ski down. The switchbacks are difficult to find, let alone follow, in the winter. However, given enough determination, the switchbacks are always passable.

Little by little, the chute melts out, and rocks get exposed. It becomes dangerous to glissade and easy to punch through and scrape your legs. At the same time, the switchbacks get better as the snow melts.

Mountaineers will use the chute as late into the year as it is safe to do so. Hikers will head for the switchbacks."

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#50579 - 07/04/17 05:02 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Mountain Goat]
chicagoan Offline


Registered: 02/02/17
Posts: 7
Loc: IL
I stayed at trail camp on 30th and sumited on 1st with microspikes and ice axe. My advice: bring crampons,either buy or rent. With microspikes,I had to follow other people footprints and it was still difficult to support much of my body weight. When footprints were shallow or no footprints at all, I had to make footholds with ice axe adze, kicking with microspikes didn't do much benefit. It became exhausting rather quickly and I was prepared to bail out anytime, but that became a concern itself because rocks and boulders downhill — you have to watch out where you slide down. I was on my all fours most of time and made sure I was holding my ice axe firmly with each climb. I eventually climbed a bit the rock field and ate a bar while rested there for a long time.That seemed to give me enough strength to push over the last snow field. It took me 3 hours to climb the chute. The snow felt slushy already in the early morning and it will only get worse.

When you glissading down, remember to wear gloves and holding your ice axe tightly.

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#50580 - 07/04/17 05:28 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Mountain Goat]
IdEaMaNi Offline


Registered: 04/19/16
Posts: 21
Loc: Texas
Thank you MountainGoat... That is some good information.. smile

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#50581 - 07/04/17 06:14 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: IdEaMaNi]
Captain_Corduroy Offline


Registered: 07/03/17
Posts: 4
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
Hey all.

Thanks everybody for this whole forum and all the contributions.

I'm doing Whitney for the first time 7/19 - 7/20. Coming up pretty soon. I was assuming by mid July it would be smooth sailing but clearly that's not the case this year! I thought my main worry would be altitude sickness and dealing with the WAG bag.

I'll be solo. I'm a strong hiker, in good shape, but I'm newish -- my experience is peak bagging LA area for the last three years where I rarely hit snow. Still I'm pretty determined to summit if the opportunity presents.

Any thoughts as to crampons or microspikes? Keep in mind I'm trained with neither.

Anything you can add is appreciated.


Edited by Captain_Corduroy (07/04/17 06:27 PM)

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#50583 - 07/04/17 10:20 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Captain_Corduroy]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7075
Loc: Fresno, CA
Cap. Cord: In two weeks, there should be a well-beaten path up the switchbacks, but likely still snow in sections. Once the switchbacks are generally in use, microspikes are a good option.

Happy July 4, everyone!

So... Doesn't ANYBODY post pictures anymore? This forum is much better if pictures are available.

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#50584 - 07/04/17 10:28 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7075
Loc: Fresno, CA
Found this picture on Instagram, posted 7/4/17 by jowithnoe

"The Chute"

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#50585 - 07/04/17 10:53 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7075
Loc: Fresno, CA
First picture from someone hiking the cables. Video shared on the Mt. Whitney facebook group, shared by M Puerto

This picture taken from a video. People using the cables when they are like this hike on the granite outside the cables.


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#50586 - 07/05/17 05:47 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
IdEaMaNi Offline


Registered: 04/19/16
Posts: 21
Loc: Texas
Thanks much Steve C.. These are great photos!! Looks like the snow on the chute is clearing up. has it ever been the case when the snow on the chute cleared up but the switchbacks were still covered in snow?

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#50589 - 07/05/17 08:24 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
Mountain Goat Offline


Registered: 07/04/17
Posts: 7
Loc: Castaic, California
Steve, thank you so much! May be a combination of the chute and the switchbacks is possible? Leaving for Whitney today, climbing tomorrow! Thank you, all, for information and support. You are an awesome community of hikers!

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#50590 - 07/05/17 08:33 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Mountain Goat]
Love_Himalayas Offline


Registered: 07/03/17
Posts: 4
Loc: CA, USA
Quick question for the group - is the trail pretty easy to see in the dark? I've heard people leaving at 2am and 3am some times - do you need a GPS device or will a good headlamp usually be enough assuming the trail is well marked? How about once you hit snow - is it fairly well marked?

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#50591 - 07/05/17 08:34 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Love_Himalayas]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7075
Loc: Fresno, CA
The trail is snow-free until above Mirror Lake. It is above Mirror Lake that the trail is harder to follow anyway.

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#50592 - 07/05/17 08:45 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Mountain Goat]
Chad H Offline


Registered: 07/03/17
Posts: 7
Loc: Santa Cruz, CA
Have fun Mountain Goat! I look forward to your report. I will be there on July 20th.

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#50596 - 07/05/17 09:22 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7075
Loc: Fresno, CA
These pictures posted on FB by Mauricio Puerto


His post:
Quote:
Update on the 99 switchbacks. I went up via the chute and down the 99 Switchbacks. I think about 80-85% of the trail is clear. Lots of dangerous areas like the cables and higher up some of the snow crossing to connect back to the trail. If you fall and slide you will be sliding into rocks on a 45 to 50 degree slope crossing sideways.
I ran into a couple that were going up at around 12:30 and the female fell and it look like she dislocated or fractured her wrist. I offered to carry her pack down to but they refused and wanted to push on. I don't understand why people refuse to call it a day when it was completely obvious that the right thing was to go back down.
Anyway if you decide to do the switchback make sure you skills are good to go. I attached some pictures of areas of concern. If you look on the Strave link you can see the exact location on the switchbacks of the pictures. It only works on a computer not on a phone.


Here are the cables.


At Trail Crest


Near the top


Some of the switchbacks are completely clear


Tough spot at the cables


Below the cables

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#50599 - 07/05/17 10:09 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
Mountain Goat Offline


Registered: 07/04/17
Posts: 7
Loc: Castaic, California
Steve, thank you for the recent update on the switchbacks- it will help to make the best decision at the time when you come to that bridge and must cross it!

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#50602 - 07/05/17 10:18 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Love_Himalayas]
Mountain Goat Offline


Registered: 07/04/17
Posts: 7
Loc: Castaic, California
Love Himalayas,
We did the trail up to the Mirror lake a week ago just to get a feel of it and to train before the real climb. We returned to the parking lot in the dark. The trail to the Mirror lake is quite easy and is completely passable with a headlight only. We even had no problem to cross in the dark that roaring waterfall which is approximately one mile away from the portal. No worries about the lower trail at all.

Chad, thank you for your wishes for our tomorrow's climb!

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#50606 - 07/05/17 11:47 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
Bobby49 Offline


Registered: 07/04/17
Posts: 18
Loc: California
I see from the photos that the switchbacks are starting to open up. I'm sure that will be a relief to the many first-timers up there.

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#50614 - 07/05/17 03:47 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
plumber Offline


Registered: 05/07/17
Posts: 1
Loc: California
Hey people; I just summited July 4th after starting at 2:00 AM. I reached the snow field at 4:30 AM, cramponed up, and hiked to the bottom of the chute, looked up, questioned myself (my first time with crampons), it was amazing how much grip they provided. Just like walking, I took right to it. Went up the chute with ice axe in an hour and a half. It was very steep but still did it like I knew what I was doing. The final 2.5 miles to the summit were clear. I came back down and people said to take the swtichbacks, which we tried, and it was terrible and there were undoable sections. We ended up glissading, which we should have done from the beginning, because at that time it was already noon. It was the funnest thing ever! Don't try the switchbacks. Just glissade. It seems intimidating, but it was just total fun. 13-hour round trip.I saw the same lady with the sprained wrist the guy was taping it up ,I said dude you should put her glove back on ,then tape it up!


Edited by plumber (07/05/17 03:57 PM)
Edit Reason: just added a bit

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#50615 - 07/05/17 03:52 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
BrianBlair Offline


Registered: 07/05/17
Posts: 4
Loc: Silverado, CA
I hiked/ran up and down yesterday(4th). We ascended the switchbacks and descended the chute.

The switchbacks are definitely passable. You need to pay attention to where the trail is heading in a few spots and make on the fly decisions for how to avoid a patch of snow and rejoin the trail. There's a few sections where minor 3rd class climbing skills help greatly. The cables are easily passed on the downhill side though there is a short section of rock scrambling to rejoin the trail.

The traverse over to Trail Crest from the switchbacks can either be done on snow or you can scramble up to the ridge and traverse rock/dirt.

We glissaded the chute. I would say an axe is all but mandatory right now if you plan to descend the chute.

We started from portal at 6am and were done at 3. Snow was definitely getting soft on our descent.

We never used our crampons though I was glad to have them just in case.

The wag bag situation is pretty disappointing. I'd ban every one of those people for life if I could.

Snow is melting fast. I would imagine most everyone will be using the switchbacks by this weekend or next.


Edited by BrianBlair (07/05/17 08:13 PM)

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#50617 - 07/05/17 05:08 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
Benc Offline


Registered: 03/18/17
Posts: 14
Loc: Socal
Thank you for your report. I have two questions.
What traction devices did you use to climb up the switchbacks, and also is an ice axe necessary/recommended currently for the ascent and decent of the switchbacks.
Thanks for the great info!

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