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#49275 - 02/22/17 05:48 PM Late June: Horseshoe Meadows - > Exiting Whitney
BluTundra Offline


Registered: 02/22/17
Posts: 4
Loc: California
I've got permits I snagged to exit Whitney on June 25th, but given this winter, I'm super unsure about the state the trail will be in by the time late June rolls around. Does anyone have an idea of what to expect given the weather we've had this year? I am currently reconsidering my route.

It was to be:
1. Camp at Lake 3 in Cottonwood Meadows
2. Soldier Lake in Miter
3. Upper Crabtree Lake after Crabtree Pass
4. Guitar Lake
5. Up and down in a day.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B-l1eE8NrhpMZktILWpGVURiY2s

Worst case scenario, we don't do Whitney at all and just mosey around Miter Basin for a few days and enjoy the view and waterfalls. Best case, we can do the route.

Anyone have a good expectation?


Edited by BluTundra (02/22/17 05:49 PM)

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#49276 - 02/22/17 11:13 PM Re: Late June: Horseshoe Meadows - > Exiting Whitney [Re: BluTundra]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7074
Loc: Fresno, CA
This year is a heavy snow year. In 2011, which saw a huge amount of snow, hikers were finally using the switchbacks about July 9.

Crabtree Pass, at 12k, is likely to have lots of snow. You might want crampons and an ice axe to get over that pass, and probably to descend the main trail from Trail Crest.

By the way, if you go over Crabtree Pass, you could camp at the upper lake, and next day climb to Discovery Pinnacle and hit the main trail from there. It is a wide open slope, and if you can get over Crabtree Pass, this climb will be easier than that.

Good luck, and would love to see a trip report!

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#49279 - 02/23/17 07:59 AM Re: Late June: Horseshoe Meadows - > Exiting Whitney [Re: Steve C]
Paul Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 170
Loc: Santa Clarita, CA
Back in 2011, I headed over New Army Pass on July 11th. The last 3 switchbacks were covered in snow, with a very large cornice on top. I had to cut across below the ridge on a very steep slope and obtain the top by finding a gully. Not very easy.

Consider Cottonwood Pass.

paul

Edit: Click on the pictures for full view




Edited by Steve C (02/24/17 08:06 AM)

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#49281 - 02/23/17 10:01 AM Re: Late June: Horseshoe Meadows - > Exiting Whitney [Re: Steve C]
BluTundra Offline


Registered: 02/22/17
Posts: 4
Loc: California
Thanks guys! I'm talking to my group right now about how comfortable they'd feel with strapping on some crampons and taking on the ice. At least three of our group members have no experience with backpacking, so I'm wary of throwing too much at everyone at once. But, the allure of adventure seems to be pushing everyone toward giving it a shot.

Given this, we probably wouldn't tackle Trail Crest and would instead make getting to the top of Crabtree or Langley a more achievable goal. It'd still be adventurous, but less risky.

That being said, I've always wanted to try Discovery Pinnacle! That sounds super exciting...

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#49282 - 02/23/17 11:42 AM Re: Late June: Horseshoe Meadows - > Exiting Whitney [Re: BluTundra]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1488
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
Wow, especialy with three members with no backpacking experience, I would be very wary of being up there t all in June. Do at least some of you have winter mountaineering experience? I would contact Ned Tibbits over at the JMT Facebook Group immediately . He knows the area the conditions and the necessary training as well as anyone.
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#49283 - 02/23/17 12:07 PM Re: Late June: Horseshoe Meadows - > Exiting Whitney [Re: saltydog]
BluTundra Offline


Registered: 02/22/17
Posts: 4
Loc: California
Yeah, I'm worried about that as well. I put in for a lottery permit for late July/August to do the trip in reverse. The snow caught me completely off guard, as I got the permits with the expectation of the weird California drought continuing. It didn't, and now here I am with no way to get exit permits on Whitney for late July because they're all gone!

I suspect our ability to get walk-in exit permits is pretty dicey...

Edit: The alternate idea is to say we don't have the ability to lead this trip with these kinds of experience levels and instead opt for something in the Western Sierra, like in King's Canyon. I'm not as enthused for that region, as I love the challenge of the Sierra Crest, but reality is reality.


Edited by BluTundra (02/23/17 12:48 PM)

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#49285 - 02/23/17 04:34 PM Re: Late June: Horseshoe Meadows - > Exiting Whitney [Re: saltydog]
Harvey Lankford Offline


Registered: 11/10/09
Posts: 937
Loc: Richmond, Virginia
Originally Posted By: saltydog
Wow, especialy with three members with no backpacking experience, I would be very wary of being up there t all in June.


Agreed - absolute non-starter. I was elsewhere today and had to leave my group and escort a guy out who should not have been there.

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#49286 - 02/23/17 05:54 PM Re: Late June: Horseshoe Meadows - > Exiting Whitney [Re: Harvey Lankford]
Hobbes Offline


Registered: 03/28/14
Posts: 107
Loc: The OC
This thread gets more entertaining by the post. Now we're up to no backpacking experience for some members. Aye Carumba! At least PCTers with no/limited snow experience will have 40+ nights under their belts before hitting Forester.

Here's a suggestion that's applicable for both novice backpackers and no/limited snow experience. Actually, it's my go-to suggestion for almost all hikes if people aren't ready for Whitney: Kearsarge.

It's one of the easiest passes, it's (IMO) one of the top 5 scenic areas of the Sierra, and lastly, it affords people the option of either going north or south before hitting significant challenges ie Forester or Glen.

However, both the N side of Forester and the S side of Glen provide a nice, pretty safe (well, as safe as the Sierra get) introduction to both the Sierra in general and snow travel specifically. In addition, both afford a fantastic view of the other side. You can sit on the top of either pass and take it all in without having to deal with each passes' other, much more difficult side.

Then, after you're done, you can turn around and hike back to the original TH. Either direction would provide a good 3 night/4 day in-out hike.

This is what you'd see looking north if you made it to the top of Glen sometime in June:



And yes, it's as dangerous and scary as it looks.

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#49287 - 02/23/17 07:57 PM Re: Late June: Horseshoe Meadows - > Exiting Whitney [Re: Hobbes]
BluTundra Offline


Registered: 02/22/17
Posts: 4
Loc: California
See, to me that looks awesome. I'd get up there in a heartbeat because I love that kind of stuff and I have some experience doing it. But yeah, with people who have limited to no experience, it's more likely we'd stay low in Cottonwood Lakes and just enjoy the scenery. And, if there's too much snow in June for even that location--and we're looking at Winter backpacking--then I'll reschedule and hit Tehipite or something a little lower.

The mountains aren't going anywhere.

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#49288 - 02/24/17 02:05 AM Re: Late June: Horseshoe Meadows - > Exiting Whitney [Re: BluTundra]
Goose Offline


Registered: 07/17/16
Posts: 5
Loc: CA
My son and I entered at Horseshoe Meadow last year on June 19th and exited at Whitney Portal after summiting Whitney on June 25th. The challenges we encountered included:

- Similar conditions at New Army Pass to those described above. Topping out required a very steep, 25-30 foot climb over a cornice that was hard enough to require crampons and ice axes during all but a 2 to 3 hour window of afternoon sun.
- 8 to 10 knee deep or deeper stream crossings between Soldier Lake and Rock Creek.
- Two long, snow-covered traverses within about a half a mile of Whitney's summit.
- A single boot-width traverse through hard granular snow from trail crest to the upper-most switchback. As soon as the sun passed the ridge, the trail became much more challenging. The chute was still snow covered all the way down from Trail Crest.
- More single boot-width trail for the length of the heavily snow covered cable sections coming down the switchbacks with fresh tracks outside of the cables. Some sections had water pouring down from the rocks above.

When we picked up our permit on the 19th, the ranger thought we stood a 50/50 chance of finding the switchbacks passable when we reached them. And while there was plenty of snow last year, I would imagine the above descriptions would remain true this at least two weeks later this summer.

We encountered more than one group of relatively inexperienced newbies below New Army Pass and then later below Trail Crest who had been intimidated enough to turn back. All of them were still having tons of fun, though, and were just happy to be out there.

My son taking a break on one of the long traverses below the summit of Mt. Whitney on June 24th, 2016:
[img]https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B6JcudqPKUakcDhOLTZ4endGRmM[/img]

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#49289 - 02/24/17 09:01 AM Re: Late June: Horseshoe Meadows - > Exiting Whitney [Re: BluTundra]
Hobbes Offline


Registered: 03/28/14
Posts: 107
Loc: The OC
Originally Posted By: BluTundra
See, to me that looks awesome. I'd get up there in a heartbeat because I love that kind of stuff and I have some experience doing it. The mountains aren't going anywhere.


But the snow is - going somewhere that is. This year is one for the record books, so if you're into any type of alpine activities, this is the year to do it.

I might be missing something, but if you have personal experience and you enjoy alpine conditions, what's holding you back? Why bother with the west slope when the E crest is where it's at? Access? You can always head around Walker pass if you're coming from the Bay area.

I personally hate Cottonwood (boooring), and while Miter is beautiful, you don't really have anywhere to go. Unless you go over Crabtree, but that's a whole different experience.

Like I said up thread, if you went up Kearsarge, you can go either north or south. Either way offers a completely standard, uncomplicated in-out 3 night/4 day trip that delivers great early season alpine conditions.

Last year, my buddy and I section hiked the JMT starting on May 31. You can read the TR here:

http://www.highsierratopix.com/community/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=14472

This year we're doing Taboose to Sawmill over Memorial weekend.


Edited by Hobbes (02/24/17 09:05 AM)

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#49290 - 02/24/17 02:52 PM Re: Late June: Horseshoe Meadows - > Exiting Whitney [Re: BluTundra]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1488
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
This organization will guide such trips, but they promote teaching you to fish over handing you the trout, and hold a lot of sessions in the area you want to hike in, between Cottonwood and Forester:

Mountain Education
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Wherever you go, there you are.
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#49291 - 02/24/17 05:02 PM Re: Late June: Horseshoe Meadows - > Exiting Whitney [Re: saltydog]
Paul Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 170
Loc: Santa Clarita, CA
I think most posters here would say that your timing is the issue at this stage of your hiking career. I see no reason that going later in the season would be a problem, although, Crabtree Pass could be a problem.

I am in my 53rd year of hiking in the Sierras and I remember quite well my first trip. I was 15 (I am 67 now), never been hiking and went with 2 other guys out of high school. We went over Kearsarge Pass and spent 7 days fishing and hiking. I learned a lot about the backcountry and equipment.

One more thought,there's nothing wrong with doing a reconnaissance hike to Soldier Lake (or any other location) with a couple day hikes around the area and then back out Cottonwood Pass.

paul

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#49292 - 02/25/17 05:29 PM Re: Late June: Horseshoe Meadows - > Exiting Whitney [Re: Paul]
Sierra Angler Offline


Registered: 05/10/13
Posts: 72
Loc: Lake Tahoe California
This Heavy Snow year will keep backpacking action slow until this July . Head nets and deet Mosquito repellent required at that time ...if you like your self . Or be a very ,very fast runner . If you are not a seasoned Back country veteran then New army pass , old army pass, and crabtree pass will over your heads . Crampons and Ice axe will be mandatory for safety on many High Sierra Pass's this Spring/Summer . This years monumental snow pack will provide Search and Rescue Personnel with a vast amount of Hiker rescues .Snow and ice falls and major sliding into rocks below will be the root cause of very bloody injuries ( I know ,as I have been on several operations in the past ) . Ego , tiredness , over extending , poor planning ,poor gear, poor conditioning ,too much trip for the allotted time, poor decision making ,and over confidence in ones skills can lead to deadly consequences . Consider Cottonwood pass , pct trail , guitar Lake , over to Whitney portal . CP will be the easiest of the 3 pass's . For some who are new and have never been there ...just a week in the Horseshoe Meadows / Cottonwood Lakes Basin hiking all around the amazing scenic area ...would be Fantastic ! Good luck , be careful and take your time hiking safely .I have been hiking and climbing extensively here for over 50 years ..winter to summer. I recently got out of the CT basin after hiking up and down the gate blocked road at the bottom . The very long road sucked ( a mountain Bike would have been great )and the Cottonwood Snow Basin was Amazing ! Cheers ! GST


Edited by Sierra Angler (02/25/17 05:37 PM)

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