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Monday, June 19th, 2017 ascent
#50247 06/21/17 07:39 AM
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As submitted at HAZ about my trip.

Relevant pictures here: http://imgur.com/a/CeiUP

With Kilimanjaro coming in a few short weeks I really needed to get some more mental prep work done. Whitney is something that is great at being a test of your mental mettle.

On the journey out we stayed in Anaheim for a couple days prior to visit some friends. I really didn’t think much about it until the drive to Lone Pine when I was thinking about the ocean. And now the first doubts started to creep in. I had been scouring the various message boards and groups to get as much info about the trail conditions for several weeks. With the record snow in the Sierra’s now melting, that alone had planted the seed of doubt into my mind.

I started up the trail around 1:30AM. Instantly I had to backtrack as I left my camera back in the car. I snatched that and started to head back up again. A few minutes later I noticed that my backside was wet. My Camelbak was leaking. It was a good thing I was dropped off at the trailhead otherwise I might have packed it in. (Ok, not really) Turns out, I think at least, the connection with the tube and bladder came loose. All I know is that it didn’t present any issues for the rest of the day.

With the amount of snow the mountains received this winter the stream crossings were going to be their own mini games. The first crossing was crazy! It was pretty unsettling starting across a stream and not being able to see the bottom, nor the other side, due to the darkness. The really creepy part is the sound. It sounds angry, powerful, and downright hateful. One mistake and it is ready to send you rushing down, down, down.

I was shocked that I passed two separate groups on their way down. I made small talk with the first group, about trail conditions and the alpine start; but the second group was an Asian collection who didn’t say much.

The log bridge crossing was hairy. One of the logs broke and is angled weirdly, necessitating a leap. The water underneath the logs (just barely) is rushing by in a low rumble as well.

I had read that the snow abruptly starts right past Lone Pine lake and that was spot on. The sign stating that you need a permit to proceed was buried. I grew up on the east coast, in the lake effect snow belt of upstate NY, but was still in awe. The snow, at times, caused the trail to disappear into the night. It made for quite an ordeal in trying to follow it. There is quite a well trodden path in the snow but it can easily be missed in a few spots that transition from dirt to snow.

The waterfall by Outpost Camp was monstrous. The sound literally shook the ground as you ascended around it. I was making decent time at this point. I took the approach of just going but not overly fast. I wanted to try to maintain a decent clip but able to breath and talk.

Approaching Trailside Meadow the trail is submerged under ankle deep water for the majority of it, with some points being at mid-calf. Thankfully the gore-tex boots I have, along with the gaiters, kept my feet dry throughout this trip.
Much of the route past this point is directly over snowfields. This presented a whole new set of issues. The day before I read a triplog about how a guy fell through into waist deep water. Well, with that vision in my mind I stumbled upon the first of many cavities in the snow fields that harbored raging water. Now, not only would a spill into one of these end your summit attempt it very well could end you. If you were sucked down under the snow I can’t imagine any sort of positive outcome to that situation.

I reached Trail Camp a little before sunrise. I strapped on my crampons, pulled out my axe, and started weaving my way up the chute. The sunrise was breathtaking; just like the climb. The snow was crisp and firm making the traction easy to be had. Oxygen was the rare commodity and I fell into a routine of a few steps followed by a rest period and a few breaths. The chute took forever and a day. I managed to catch up to a couple groups, who had mercilessly been sending chunks of snow down on me throughout, right near the top. We chatted a bit about the conditions and then parted ways.

From Trail Crest to the summit the trail is basically clear. I really had to mentally force myself through this section. The altitude hit me like a ton of bricks. It wasn’t in a headache or nausea kind of way; just in a way that sapped all energy and desire to continue. This is what I came for, although I didn’t want to deal with it. I just focused on the summit hut. I went when I could, I stopped when I had to. It was slow going, but eventually I reached the base of the plateau. Typically, the main trail sweeps around the western side of the plateau but with the snow the chosen way was climbing the boulder field of the southern face (I hope my sense of direction is accurate).

The summit hut had its door blown off this winter. Inside, from the ground to the roof, was snow. I am pretty amazed that a couple people were able to survive in there, overnight, a few weeks back.

I made it back down to Trail Crest and had a decision to make; either glissade down the chute or plunge step. I decided to plunge step to play it safe. It is remarkable how fast the descent is compared to the ascent.

Upon reaching Trail Camp I ran out of water. I had brought up a full Camelbak of 100oz. I pulled up the lake and got out my filter. Turns out (and I should have tested this beforehand) that my filter was busted. So I was left with either no water or drinking unfiltered water. I chose the unfiltered water approach on the assumption that I could make 6 miles before my intestines exploded. With all the water out there I figured my odds were good. Going on a day and a half later and my stomach still doesn’t hate me.

Just below Trail Camp I bumped into a solo SAR member from Inyo County SAR. We chatted for a good amount of time about what I saw, how far I made it, my gear, etc. Apparently with all of the tragedies that have already transpired this year on Whitney they are out trying to do preventative work.
The stream crossings that were troublesome in the early morning hours were downright terrifying during the midday melt period. Thankfully I made it through them all but I am not so sure it isn’t just dumb luck.

Overall, my 4th ascent of Whitney was my most challenging to date. The conditions out there were no joke, but more importantly, the mental aspect of it was tough. It is really easy to keep going when it is a new peak, trail, etc; but when it is something you’ve seen before, it can become easy to throw in the towel when the going gets tough. The lessons and experience garnered from this adventure will last me a lifetime.

Last edited by syoung79; 06/21/17 09:07 AM.
Re: Monday, June 19th, 2017 ascent
syoung79 #50250 06/21/17 08:11 AM
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Syoung, thanks for the great trip report. So an earlier report that the log crossing had been repaired was false, is that correct?

As for the water: I've always dipped and drank the water unfiltered from the inlet to the Trail Camp pond. ...and all the streams below, as well. It has never given me a hint of a problem. You will be just fine.

I never treat the water in the Sierra.

Re: Monday, June 19th, 2017 ascent
Steve C #50251 06/21/17 08:44 AM
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I am not sure what it looked like previously but the log had one end off the support and resting in the water. It was a short leap to reach the next one.

I figured it would be OK with the water and it was 😁

Originally Posted By: Steve C
Syoung, thanks for the great trip report. So an earlier report that the log crossing had been repaired was false, is that correct?

As for the water: I've always dipped and drank the water unfiltered from the inlet to the Trail Camp pond. ...and all the streams below, as well. It has never given me a hint of a problem. You will be just fine.

I never treat the water in the Sierra.

Re: Monday, June 19th, 2017 ascent
syoung79 #50254 06/21/17 09:36 AM
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Hi Gyoung, that's a great trip report, I plan to hike there July 1, I'm wondering how do you cross the stream, do you have to take off the shoe or you can cross the stream without making your feet wet? Thanks a lot

Re: Monday, June 19th, 2017 ascent
syoung79 #50258 06/21/17 10:58 AM
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I posted your picture of the Outpost Camp area on the Current Conditions thread. Thanks!

Re: Monday, June 19th, 2017 ascent
Yueming #50259 06/21/17 11:26 AM
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Originally Posted By: Yueming
Hi Gyoung, that's a great trip report, I plan to hike there July 1, I'm wondering how do you cross the stream, do you have to take off the shoe or you can cross the stream without making your feet wet? Thanks a lot


With the goretex boots and gaiters my feet stayed dry. Crossing was simple but hair raising. Just take your time and bring extra socks smile

Re: Monday, June 19th, 2017 ascent
syoung79 #50266 06/21/17 05:26 PM
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Thank you for your reply, so you mean there is some rocks or trees that you can step on in the river to avoid make feet wet? Really appreciate for your suggestion.

Re: Monday, June 19th, 2017 ascent
Yueming #50267 06/21/17 06:55 PM
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This video https://vimeo.com/103573626 may give you an idea of the water crossings however this is on the Mountaineer's Route. It was in August 2014 right after a snowstorm. Attention:

1:35
2:42
14:30

Re: Monday, June 19th, 2017 ascent
RenoFrank #50269 06/22/17 07:44 AM
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Thank you so much, it helps a lot!

Re: Monday, June 19th, 2017 ascent
Yueming #50278 06/22/17 11:56 AM
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Yueming,

As Frank mentioned, his video is from the Mountaineers route from3 years ago. This video is not likely representative of what you will encounter. With this years snow, it is much more likely that the creeks will be much higher, and wider. Read syoung79's post where he describes the crossings. There are also a couple of other trip reports with pictures of the log crossing that should give you a better picture of what you will likely encounter.

Don't let the water crossings intimidate you, just be prepared to get your feet wet:-)

John

Last edited by John Sims; 06/22/17 11:59 AM. Reason: spelling
Re: Monday, June 19th, 2017 ascent
John Sims #50283 06/22/17 12:40 PM
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Hi John, thank you for your suggestion, I'll read more trip report, and I'm thinking probably I can go to check the stream by myself one day before my official hike if it's allowed to do that (I think we don't need permit to hike to the creek right?).

Re: Monday, June 19th, 2017 ascent
Yueming #50286 06/22/17 01:00 PM
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You are correct, no permit needed for day hikes until you reach the boundary of the Whitney Wilderness (well beyond these two creek crossings. The first crossing is less than one mile from the trail head, and the second crossing (the log crossing) is another two miles. I would guess you could check out both crossings in under 4 hours. Actually a good "warm up" hike the day prior to your actual hike.

Last edited by John Sims; 06/22/17 01:00 PM.
Re: Monday, June 19th, 2017 ascent
Yueming #50288 06/22/17 03:15 PM
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If you are going to pre-hike the first part, you might like to check out the "old trail", that skips the first stream crossing:

It starts at Whitney Portal, just a little past the store, and climbs 30 switchbacks, then joins the Main Trail, just steps from the stream crossing. It joins the trail above/after the crossing heading up, so no crossing is required. Old trail description and pictures is here. It is unmaintained, so you will find some gullying and debris in the path. But it is easy to follow once you find it.

If you check it out, I'd like to hear what condition it is in. In other words, how you liked it.

Re: Monday, June 19th, 2017 ascent
Steve C #50289 06/22/17 03:44 PM
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Thank you Steve, that's very helpful information. I'll check it out to see which trail I want to try.


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