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#49723 - 05/01/17 03:21 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Philippe]
Steve C Offline

Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7599
Loc: Fresno, CA
Philippe, congratulations on making the summit via the main trail!

This picture looking down toward Trail Camp is great!

#49743 - 05/03/17 02:50 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Philippe]
Chaneyka1 Offline

Registered: 05/03/17
Posts: 2
Loc: CA
Congrats on the success, Philippe!

As I'm heading there this weekend I'm curious about a couple questions.

Did you have any trouble with cables or any other section of the main trail where you required any real technical skills?

You mentioned not using your snowshoes... I take it you didn't have any trouble post-holing? Do you think we'll have any trouble saving the weight and not bringing them at all?

Thanks for the help!

#49746 - 05/03/17 10:48 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Chaneyka1]
Steve C Offline

Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7599
Loc: Fresno, CA
Don't bring snow shoes. They will slow you down. Spring snow is mostly solid, and there will be plenty of people going before you packing it down.

You won't go on the switchbacks where the cables are. It is easier to go straight up the snow. Some people say technical skills are required, others say just go.

Understand that soft snow in the morning can harden to an icy crust after the sun moves west and that slope is in the afternoon shadow. Unless you are sure of your crampon/ice axe skills, get down before 2 or 3 PM.

#49750 - 05/04/17 10:25 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
bubbie Offline

Registered: 05/04/17
Posts: 1
Loc: California
Is it possible to hike to the summit on the main trail right now? Without using ice axes? We have a one-day permit for this Saturday and want to know if it's at all possible to reach the summit without having to mountaineer our way to it.


#49751 - 05/04/17 10:59 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: bubbie]
Scott H Offline

Registered: 01/08/17
Posts: 6
Loc: San Diego
Yes it is possible to hike the main trail, crampons are recommended past trail camp up the chute, ice ax"s can go either way but are helpful (switchbacks are iced in till late june or beyond)Check the weather report for this weekend as an approaching front is headed our way,Be safe and always no your limits

#49752 - 05/04/17 11:00 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: bubbie]
Steve C Offline

Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7599
Loc: Fresno, CA
The two pictures immediately above, taken/posted by Philippe are the Main Trail route. The trail is completely buried above Trail Camp until you get over the crest at Trail Crest.

Crampons are particularly helpful to climb the section shown in the pictures. Ice axes are recommended, especially for descending. If that slope ices up (in the afternoon shadows), it can become treacherous.

The NOAA weather forecast (Whitney Weather page above on the left) calls for 20% chance of snow, high of 43F on Saturday, winds 15 mph, Saturday night: 15F. Be prepared!!

Also FYI: There are currently quite a few day hike permits still available online for mid-week hikes through July and August. You might prefer to reschedule and go later.

Edited by Steve C (05/04/17 12:07 PM)

#49756 - 05/04/17 08:38 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
MountainZickness Offline

Registered: 05/04/17
Posts: 1
Loc: CA
We are hoping on climbing MR next weekend may 13th, weather should clear by then.
Please keep us posted on road and mountain conditions.
Any avalanche danger?

#49758 - 05/05/17 06:58 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: MountainZickness]
Bob West Offline

Registered: 11/13/09
Posts: 828
Loc: Bishop, CA, USA

Yes, there is avalanche hazard. Here is the best local website for that information:

For road and mountain conditions: USFS Bishop station: 760-873-2400. They will have up to date information.

It is your responsibility to check ahead of time and not rely on other posters here to keep you informed of conditions.

#49770 - 05/08/17 08:36 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Bob West]
Chaneyka1 Offline

Registered: 05/03/17
Posts: 2
Loc: CA
The light dusting of snow that was forecast for Saturday night ended up being a blizzard that dumped around 2+ feet on us. Expect deep snow for most of the trail above about 9 or 10k feet, especially outpost camp and above. Snow shoes are recommended until the snow hardens up significantly... we were blazing a new trail but postholing up to waist deep snow with every step on Sunday. It would not be safe at all to go up without an ice axe right now in my opinion, since several winter shortcuts and the chute are all very steep and dangerous without one. I likely would have died without one this weekend. Crampons are just as necessary for now.

That being said, I'm new to mountaineering so maybe others are more comfortable without these tools.

#49774 - 05/08/17 05:54 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Chaneyka1]
meg_gun Offline

Registered: 05/08/17
Posts: 1
Loc: Santa Maria, CA
We hiked up Saturday morning for what we hoped would be a day trip to the summit. We started out at about 3:30am in the dark. Lone Pine Creek was running stronger than I had expected, snow started right after [we took the main trail up]. Maybe 1/2 mile after Lone Pine Creek the trail just ends into snow for as far as they eye can see, so we followed the paths in the snow, but there were footprints all over the snow, so I was uncertain whether we were on the trail or not. Snow was slippery and hard, definitely need crampons, axes, walking canes, etc and warm gear. Water is still running down the mountain under the snow, so watch your step or you'll posthole into freezing water.

I'm not a mountaineer, just a hiker, weight lifter, outdoor enthusiast and was definitely out of my range on this trip! I had done lots of research before taking off, but nothing prepared me for the amount of snow, the lack of trail signs or the weather! After hiking for about 5 hours at a fast pace we turned around, completely disappointed and humbled by the awe and raw power of the mountain.

In the end, it was gorgeous and exhilarating, but glad we attempted it and very glad we were smart enough to know our limits and turn back before the blizzard hit! Whitney, you're a gorgeous beast and I will try you again someday [in the summer!]

#49779 - 05/10/17 07:32 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
Aman Offline

Registered: 05/10/17
Posts: 2
Loc: Michigan (MI)
Road to Whitney portal was fine no issues at all in any car.
Ice Axe + Crampons
Did not use Snow Shoes
My partner and I hiked up the Main Trail starting Friday (5/5/2017) at 11am. Trail head was clear of snow but about a mile in we could see snow on the trail. Now there was no trail visibility so we started following the foot prints in snow which were kind of everywhere but we just kept on following one set which basically went straight up. Needless to say it was pretty steep. But not scary steep. Deep snow, thigh high, started right before Mirror Lake. Again since the trail was not visible we made up own trail in the snow and went up the steep slope to the left of Mirror Lake. This was steeper than at the beginning of the main trail. This was a bit scary as the sun was shining hard making the snow softer, thigh deep at times. Thigh high snow all the way up to Trail Camp. We spent the night on rocks. It was not very cold but cloudy with STRONG winds. I had rocks on my tent to keep it in place. My shoes and socks were wet from trudging in deep snow so put on a new woolen pair. Left at 4am next morning for Chute. Shoes were relatively dry. Snow was firm, no problem waking over it. Could only see up to the point where the light from the headlamp reached. Started Chute without crampons and ice axe. Got up a little, before Chute went crazy steep we put crampons on took out ice axe. It took at 1hr30mins to get up the chute. I was SCARED but we did it. The fact that i could not see clearly how steep it was because of the dark helped me focus on my feet and ice axe. By the time we got to trail crest sun was rising at horizon. It was cloudy. I was just glad to have finished the Chute. By around 8 am we were at the summit. Trail Crest to summit was pretty simple although we were tired from the previous day. While coming back we slid down the Chute. Looking at it in the day made me realize how crazy steep it was. Even getting down was scary. My partner and I started climbing it down (head towards Trail Crest and feet towards the bottom of Chute). But this was putting a lot of stress on my quadriceps and it was a LONG way to go down. So i decided to slide down. Chute is so LONG. It took us considerable time to even slide down that steep slope (used my ice axe for braking). We were down at trail camp close to noon. Packed out tent and started hiking down. Sliding down Mirror lake was so much fun! Again the snow was soft now almost of the way down. Slipping/sliding often. Got back to the parking lot. Got back to the parking lot, from Trail Camp in about 3hr15mins. It was a relief from cold and wet socks.

Edited by Aman (05/10/17 07:37 AM)

#49780 - 05/10/17 09:26 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
rancho Offline

Registered: 05/10/17
Posts: 1
Loc: California
It sounds like the warm whether has turned the mountain into a postholing slog with increased wet slab avy risk. Does anyone have a good sense of whether this weekend's cooler temps will firm up the snow in time for a smooth Saturday morning haul up the MR? Thinking snowshoes in addition to crampons/axe, but not sure if that's enough given the current conditions.

forecast for reference:


#49781 - 05/10/17 01:15 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Aman]
fit2climb Offline

Registered: 05/25/16
Posts: 9
Loc: California
Good report. Thanks for the update cool

#49788 - 05/11/17 10:47 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
Sean_M Offline

Registered: 05/11/17
Posts: 1
Loc: Los Angeles
Hello everyone,

There is a great site called that has posted, and will continue to post thru hike conditions from Horseshoe Meadows - Mt. Whitney - Onion Valley.
Pretty good stuff that I thought would be appreciated here.

Here's the link to the report but I've also posted it below.

Enjoy! - Sean

2017 Reports:

May 10, 2017:

(Horseshoe Meadows to Guyot Pass)

Snowline (SL): 9,000

Creek Crossings (CC): Rock Creek has a log crossing upstream

Specific Details (SD):

1. Temperatures: 30-60 degrees

2. Snow Condition: Consolidated with a surface crust, 6-12&#8243; of slush, then another ice layer (to slip on). Hiking crampons worn daily, depending on snow condition and slope aspect.

3. Snow Depth: (per Snow Surveyor) 200% of normal in southern Sierra with greater amounts to north similar to winter of 1968.

4. Creeks: Most are running higher than during normal pre-thaw time frames, but lower in volume than after the thaw starts. Most still have intact and reliable snow bridges, though are open in many places to get water (no need yet for creek crossing shoes).

5. Daily Logistics: It feels like the thaw is going to start soon, so days are quite warm and the snow gets soft and slippery early. Best to start your days as early as you can see (0600) and quit when potholing gets painful.

6. Trails: All buried above 9,000 feet depending on slope aspect, though we did see 100 feet of trail on one south-facing slope.

Horseshoe Meadows (HM) road is currently closed, but may be open by mid-June. HM has 2-4 feet of snow throughout. all Passes into it have snow, Mulkey, Trail, and Cottonwood.

Mt. Whitney, though not seen directly, yet, I do not expect to be safe for ascent by the average thru hiker for some time.

Forester’s chute “trail” should be cut this week.

Onion Valley road is open and has sufficient snow depth at the trailhead to allow skiing down the the asphalt.

#49789 - 05/11/17 12:26 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
scottycamera Offline

Registered: 05/11/17
Posts: 8
Loc: California
Hey guys! So last August I climbed Whitney, But recently got permits again this year for JUNE. They only question I have is, Do you just skip the 99 switchbacks and go up the Chute?

here is a link to last years video!
stay tuned for the June video with snow!

#49793 - 05/12/17 08:32 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
Steve C Offline

Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7599
Loc: Fresno, CA
This excellent picture from just above Trail Camp was posted on Instagram by timwoo, taken 5/9/17. The "chute" or slope west of the switchbacks is visible with his tracks. Traces of the actual switchbacks can be seen in the rocks at the left edge of the picture. Mt Muir, 14,019' is in the center.

TimW's caption:
@curtishowell and I made first tracks up to #trailcrest on #mtwhitney yesterday (5/9) after a storm hit this past weekend. Follow the zig zags on the right for our trip up, and the straight line down on the left for the #glissade down.

*on getting to the rocks in the middle of the picture*
Curtis: we're about a third of the way there

(Click on the picture for a larger view.)

They made it to Trail Crest, and turned around, as the trail down to the JMT junction was completely buried with snow coming off the cliff side. No picture though.
Here's his text:
#mtwhitney turned me and @curtishowell away a second time. We made it up to #trailcrest at 13,600ft before being turned back by the narrow trail (read nonexistent) and steep cliffs of the #jmt. We determined it too sketchy to pass, and so made our way down. Sad, but happy to be back home safe and sound!
We also learned a lot of lessons first hand:
(1) snow path does not equal summer path, shortcuts are your friend
(2) early start and crampons make a lot of sense together so the snow doesn't get too soft to travel over
(3) summer water sources might be frozen in May
(4) weather changes real quick
(5) you haven't made it until you're at the top
(6) you haven't actually made it until you've taken a shower.
Anyone make it to the summit on #mtwhitneytrail this past week (5/7)?

Edit: Good luck to anyone going today. NOAA weather forecast is for wind up to 50 mph at 12,000' (Trail Camp), on Saturday decreasing to 25.

Edited by Steve C (05/12/17 09:12 AM)

#49794 - 05/12/17 10:13 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: scottycamera]
bobpickering Offline

Registered: 02/07/10
Posts: 354
Loc: Reno, Nevada
Originally Posted By: scottycamera
The only question I have is, do you just skip the 99 switchbacks and go up the Chute?

Yes. When there is enough snow to cover the rocks, it is best to skip the trail and climb the snow. It’s usually best to follow existing boot tracks up to Trail Crest, but you can make your own if you like.

#49795 - 05/12/17 06:02 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Harvey Lankford]
saltydog Offline

Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1559
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
Originally Posted By: Harvey Lankford
Can anyone relate this to the last big snow year (2011)?

Looking at the snowplot, it looks to be on an all time curve
2017 Snowplot

Yeah: go back to that site, check 2010-2011 and hit the "Draw Chart" button, and the result is that current average snowpack in the South, including MT Whitney, is exactly on 2011.


Definitely not "all time". Rainfall maybe record, but with all the melt already, remaining snowpack is not nearly record. That said, definitely deeper up high elevations: the charts are only broad averages.

Edited by saltydog (05/12/17 07:47 PM)
Wherever you go, there you are.

#49798 - 05/14/17 05:28 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
WhitneyHiker085 Offline

Registered: 05/14/17
Posts: 21
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
Hey Guys,

Quick question - I am planning on hiking the main trail during 4th of July weekend. Conditions should be normal by then, correct? No snow danger or anything of that nature? Or does it really depend?

Edited by WhitneyHiker085 (05/14/17 05:29 PM)

#49799 - 05/14/17 09:43 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: WhitneyHiker085]
Steve C Offline

Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7599
Loc: Fresno, CA
Last year, most people were using the switchbacks by June 15. This year snow is heavier, so July 4 may be the point when the switchbacks are finally open.

We won't know until that time. You will probably be hiking over some ice remaining on the trail. Microspikes might be helpful.

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