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#50619 - 07/05/17 05:40 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
NaniTree Offline


Registered: 06/30/17
Posts: 4
Loc: California
Hi all,

A group of three friends an I climbed Mt. Whitney on Sunday, July 2nd. We woke up at 1am and were on the trail at around 2am to begin our ascent. Our pace was pretty slow so we didn't get to trail camp until about 8:30am. By the time we began to head up towards the chute (9:30 or 9:45) the snow was fairly soft so we tried our luck with the switchbacks. Someone had said they were pretty good except for two icy parts.

In hindsight- I think the switchbacks were not ready for people. We had to do a lot of scrambling to avoid the snowy parts or the need to throw on our crampons again. Maybe in softer or sturdier snow it would have been easier? Basically there was a big area of snow in the middle of the switchbacks so you couldn't continue on the trail. Once we made it up, we definitely for sure knew we were not going to head back down that way.

Interestingly, the two people behind us had friends who were attempting to summit to trail crest via the chute. Those friends arrived at Trail Crest at the same time that we arrived at trail crest. Granted- we were moving a little slower than we might have been able to move.

My crew got to trail crest, ate some food, and began the journey to the summit around 1pm. Someone said the summit was only an hour away - this was not true whatsoever. The summit (1.9 miles the sign says) ends up being at least a 2 hour journey and a rough one at that. We made it about a mile away and had to turn around due to our turnaround time and concerns that the chute was going to get too icy and dangerous for us to travel down.

My biggest fear was glissading! However, this ended up being really fun! The snow was still soft around 3:30ish/4 and so during our descent, we were able to move at a slow speed. Most people took the already-carved out chute. I went next door on the fresh snow because the people at Elevation gear shop mentioned that it's easier to go slower if you don't go down the chute. Also, I didn't want to get pummeled by anyone who might loose control behind me. There were people moving at all speeds down the already carved chute. Some people moving super slowly(causing a bit of a traffic jam) and some people moving super fast - purposefully, or because they were out of control.

We probably should have eaten dinner at that point but we were eager to fill up our water, have a snack and head home. The journey home was much longer than expected! Our trip totaled out to 22 hours!! That means we were super delirious and starving by the end.

Main takeaways:

1) Acclimate!!! If you can!! We were less fortunate and didn't have time to acclimate.
2) Rest up - before the trip get adequate sleep so you can be strong and endure the lengthy day hike.
3) If you feel yourself starting to get a headache- eat and drink! Even if you aren't hungry you must make yourself. Altitude affects your appetite and will all of the work on your body, you need it- trust me!
4) Make sure to set times for meals and stick to them
5) The conditions are quickly changing right now. We went on a day that was really hot!! We brought too many layers and could have done with less but didn't expect the heat. Crampons and ice aces were essential for us - that being said- there was a lot of snow melt on July 2. There might be less snow soon.
6) Bringing hiking boots AND chacos was key! There were lots of river crossings on the way up. There was even one extra one after Mirror Lake because of all the snowmelt flooding the trail. By having extra shoes for the water, you can keep moving along without worrying about submerging your boots in the water. Also, on the way back there was even more water because of the day's snowmelt which meant that walking through water was absolutely unavoidable in many areas after passing Mirror Lake.
7) If you are camping at Trail Camp, DO NOT leave food in your tent or loose. Keep it in the bear canister. There are many hungry marmots and chipmunks looking for food. We saw a green Marmot tent being pillaged by marmots.
8) Mt. Whitney is a beautiful place to get engaged! My friend proposed to my other friend at Trail Crest and it was an absolutely stunning, beautiful, and memorable moment <3 I'm super excited for their next chapter together!
9) Check in with Elevation gear shop. Matt was awesome about sharing his thoughts, tips, and helping us get set up with some last minute gear that we needed. Thanks Matt!

My sister took most of the photos so I don't have many myself. That being said, here is a photo from between Trail Camp and the Chute/Switchbacks.

Good luck everyone and have fun!!

https://www.instagram.com/p/BWIswgPgWD-/?taken-by=ileguana

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#50623 - 07/05/17 07:57 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Benc]
BrianBlair Offline


Registered: 07/05/17
Posts: 4
Loc: Silverado, CA
I brought microspikes on Monday but never used them.

I would say an axe is not necessary right now if you are committed to using the switchbacks up and down.

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#50634 - 07/06/17 09:07 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
Captain_Corduroy Offline


Registered: 07/03/17
Posts: 4
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
Originally Posted By: Steve C
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.


Thanks Steve. Lets hope that's the case. That would be amazing.

I'm going to start looking for some microspikes. Kahtoola seems to be popular.

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#50641 - 07/06/17 11:13 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
iopk Offline


Registered: 06/24/17
Posts: 6
Loc: California
Thanks Steve! I've thought about bringing both my mountaineering boots and my trail runners. I figured since snow on the trail doesn't begin until a bit into the hike, I could stick to my trail runners and switch over to my mountaineering boots + crampons during the chute and the rest?

Thanks!

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#50642 - 07/06/17 12:31 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
bsiwecki0 Offline


Registered: 05/19/16
Posts: 11
Loc: South OC, California
Hey Everyone,

Here is a late report but I reach he summit on Saturday morning (July 1st). This is my breakdown of the trip:

Friday morning around 10AM, I took the old trail behind the big boulder just west of the portal store. I was carrying about 38lbs of gear(10lbs would of photography equipment) and headed up the mountain.

Around 12:30pm, I took a short break at Mirror Lake and had lunch. Lone pine creek was definitely flowing water but with my trekking poles, I managed to hop rocks across the streams and didn't get wet. There was one section that had a lot of water flow so I took off my socks and wades in ankle high water then put them back one. The icy water felt refreshing on my feet!

Just shortly after Mirror Lake, I made my way up to where the W steps were. They were flowing with water but I also notice thats where the snow started and also the trail. Since it was slushy, I did not put on any micropikes on cause it was easy enough to get to trail camp.



I got to trail camp just a little before 2pm and went ahead to set up camp. I talked to people nearby and a few mentioned to take the 99 switchbacks up and take the chute down. I was pretty convinced at this point that I will go ahead and take that opportunity. I went to bed at 7pm and hoped the next day would be successful.

I woke up at 3:30am but went back to bed shortly. I woke up again at 4AM, made breakfast and left at 5AM.

I was walking towards the chute and then next to the random rockpiles before turning towards the actual chute, I saw the cables for the 99 switchbacks. I went ahead and climb towards them.




I got onto the switchbacks, following the streaming water which is a good indicator of going up the right path. From the distance, I saw two Coyotes going up near the chute. When I started from trail camp, I heard some dog barks but wasn't sure. I guess it really was the coyotes that were hanging nearby. Once I reached the trail crest, I was happy with this decision. after 15-20 switchbacks, there is an ice patch you will have to climb about 50ft up to the next section of the switchback. After that, there is about another 2 more ice patches before reaching the last part of the switchback which is also snow/ice but it will lead towards the crest trail. The great part was you can follow the footprints which act as steps so it made it easier than the chute. It took my about 2 hours from trail camp to the JMT/Summit junction to head up to Mt Whitney summit.


I got to the summit around 8:20AM with another backpacker coming from the JMT. We chatted at the summit and took some photos. I headed back down the summit trail and decided to take the chute back.

I will say this, MICROSPIKES AND TREKKING POLES WERE SKETCHY. I had to traverse on the less steep side of the chute about 100 yards, over the giant toboggan slide that everyone glissaded down and went towards the middle rock section next to the actual chute. I find this more convenient since I was more comfortable going down from there. Once I got to the bottom of the middle rock section of the chute, I went ahead and glissaded down the the rest of the chute with one trekking pole in my pack. I collapsed my other trekking pole and used it to somewhat control my speed since it was very slushy by then.

Got to trail camp around 1:30pm and slept until midnight where I decided to do some astrophotography at consultation lake. The next morning I packed my gear and left for the portal around 8am. On the way, I informed day hikers and those planning to camp at trail camp of taking the 99 switchbacks and taking the chute back. As I mentioned, Microspikes and trekking poles are doable but if you have an ice axe, probably better.

THE BEST TIME TO BE CLIMBING PAST TRAIL CAMP IS ANYTIME BEFORE 8AM. It gets slushy pretty early so leave trail camp just before 5am if you can or if starting from portal, leave no longer than 1AM.

I have climbed the summit before but this was my first time testing out micro spikes and no ice axe. I wanted to see how well I did in these conditions but I am thankful that I made it down safely.



Edited by bsiwecki0 (07/06/17 12:33 PM)

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#50645 - 07/06/17 01:57 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
drumster Offline


Registered: 07/06/17
Posts: 3
Loc: Illinois
hello Everyone..

Probably a dumb question I need to ask...seeing the current conditions, is it recommended to wear a ski pant or just the hiking pants with some insulation underneath ?. would it be warm when we start early morning around 3:30 AM from the portal.. I will be attempting this Sunday.

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#50649 - 07/06/17 03:35 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: drumster]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7228
Loc: Fresno, CA
drumster: ski pants will likely be too warm. At most, I would carry zip-off pants and a pair of thermal long underwear.

Check the weather predictions from NOAA -- links on the Mt Whitney Weather page (in the box above on the left). Currently for Sunday near the summit, low is 45, high 66. Chance of T-storms, so carry something to stay dry just in case.

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#50657 - 07/06/17 07:44 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
LagunaKaren Offline


Registered: 07/06/17
Posts: 2
Loc: California
Loving all the updates and am continuing to ask the switchbacks vs chute question. Particularly going up. My partner and I climb on the 10th. definitely understand we want to be heading up past Trail Camp around 5am.

I ask because it seems the switchbacks may be transitioning from unusable to more likely usable than they were last week.

Appreciate all the posts. Have been reading nonstop and will continue to do so until we leave for the mountain ourselves on Saturday.




Edited by LagunaKaren (07/06/17 07:46 PM)

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#50659 - 07/06/17 10:22 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: LagunaKaren]
highsierramike Offline


Registered: 07/06/17
Posts: 6
Loc: Fresno, CA
My son and I hike on the 10th as well. We'll be hiking up on the 10th and camping at Trail Camp. Worried about marmots though. See you on the trail!!

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#50665 - 07/07/17 07:35 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
drumster Offline


Registered: 07/06/17
Posts: 3
Loc: Illinois
That is helpful... thanks !

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#50667 - 07/07/17 08:39 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
drumster Offline


Registered: 07/06/17
Posts: 3
Loc: Illinois
Hello Everyone,

Has anyone faced a condition where they went to pick up some rental gear at the shops in lone pine and they ran out of stock for the rentals? I know that would leave me with no other option but to buy stuff since I could not find a way to reserve them online.

Also, would microspikes suffice or crampons is recommended for the coming weekend ? I will be taking the switchbacks and never hiked on snow before so I want to make sure I know what I am doing with either of the gear properly.

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#50671 - 07/07/17 09:27 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
iopk Offline


Registered: 06/24/17
Posts: 6
Loc: California
Hey Steve, I'm probably just going to go in my patagonia simul pants and shorts underneath. I'll bring long johns too just in case.

As for shoes, I'm thinking about bringing trail runners for the non snow portion of the hike, and my mountaineering boots for the chute.

Or should I just go mountaineering boot all the way?

Thanks!

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#50672 - 07/07/17 10:04 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: iopk]
jstew2691 Offline


Registered: 07/07/17
Posts: 5
Loc: Carlsbad
Looking forward to hearing all reports from this weekend's hikes. I have a day permit for next Friday the 14th. I have ample snow experience but no longer have crampons/microspikes in my arsenal. I don't want to purchase/rent if I don't have to. Do you all think sketchy portions of switchbacks will be open by next week, or should I make a quick Amazon purchase?

Happy Climbing Y'all!

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#50675 - 07/07/17 12:11 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: jstew2691]
highsierramike Offline


Registered: 07/06/17
Posts: 6
Loc: Fresno, CA
I'll be up there Monday-Tuesday. My son (16), his friend (also 16), and I (clearly not 16) have quite a bit of hiking experience, but no snow experience. I have borrowed some microspikes but hope not to need them. Our plan is switchbacks up and down. We have no ice axe. Anyways, I'll report Wednesday on our experience. I hope we can summit!!

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#50676 - 07/07/17 01:21 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: highsierramike]
jstew2691 Offline


Registered: 07/07/17
Posts: 5
Loc: Carlsbad
Originally Posted By: highsierramike
I'll be up there Monday-Tuesday. My son (16), his friend (also 16), and I (clearly not 16) have quite a bit of hiking experience, but no snow experience. I have borrowed some microspikes but hope not to need them. Our plan is switchbacks up and down. We have no ice axe. Anyways, I'll report Wednesday on our experience. I hope we can summit!!


@highsierramike- I too will be climbing with my 16 year old son. Sending you grand amounts of good climbing juju. Looking forward to your report.

JStew2691


Edited by jstew2691 (07/07/17 01:21 PM)

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#50677 - 07/07/17 03:36 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
Love_Himalayas Offline


Registered: 07/03/17
Posts: 4
Loc: CA, USA
I just got back from a day hike - conditions are getting very good. I went till just short of Trail Crest. Here are answers to the top questions these days-
1. Take the old Whitney trail to avoid the water crossing at the north fork of Lone Pine creek. If you don't know how to get to it - take a look -
[img]https://www.amazon.com/photos/share/lSJBIPSLCBOVwZl7Gdl37JdGfwVAS7VFSW5NBjXiOur[/img]


2. The logs are back - so now the only place where you have to cross water is the meadow area between Lone Pine lake and Mirror Lake. Note - I did not carry water shoes for what must be 20m of water... I just took my shoes and socks off. Yes the water is ice cold, but is it worth carrying an extra pair of shoes just for that? You decide. On my way back, when I had more time to study the water stream, I made a run for it by stepping on some stones that prevented my shoes from sinking too deep... - if your boots are water proof like mine are, only the top of your socks will get wet - my toes never got wet... next time I won't bother taking my shoes off either cool Here's a map of where the water crossing is in case you love to plan:
[img]https://www.amazon.com/photos/share/ct0049GICAYsr9nZBKeFk9mZqhKnzUJklRTIM3Z8tjr[/img]


3. One note on temperature - its very pleasant. I started at 6am, and it was 66F. It never got cooler than that... atleast not till Trail Crest. It does get quite warm but never got hot.

4. Some recent posts said the snow starts right after Mirror Lake. These things are changing daily... be sure to get the latest. As of today afternoon, you can hike all the way till Trail Camp without getting into snow with ONE small exception. There is one very small section of about 50m where you have to cross horizontally across a pretty steep snow field. Its about as inclined as the chute is. I put on crampons and used my ice axe there but it was a bit of a time sink as you have to put them on and then take them off 5 min later. But worth it - as the snow field is pretty steep. One more point - there is an alternative snow field based climb up past Mirror Lake to Trail Camp. Note this is NOT the trail, but people just hiking on snow as its a more direct route. Its essentially snow on top of Lone Pine creek. Personally i find it easier hiking on "land" vs. snow, but lots of people are taking that (atleast today)... I just took the trail. If you want to see what the snow trail looks like-
Looking up
[img]https://www.amazon.com/photos/share/u0PUn0fJaXXedGoW2XAfewET5Kqj6Prpcu0TCHeqYlg[/img]


And looking down
[img]https://www.amazon.com/photos/share/uuGw2VLHlH8pp2yJK9J3csw12FSfEXlp3OiXZVivFGQ[/img]


5. Finally the question that's probably being asked the most- chute or switchbacks. I had gone up thinking switchbacks, but i had trouble locating them. The chute if of course very visible. So for me it was chute. I think you should definitely plan on having an ice axe and crampons. Yes there are some amazing people out there that are doing it without, but its not a risk worth taking if you have any doubt of your snow abilities. You really have no place to go if you get stuck and panic... crampons will make your feet glue to the snow. Here are some pictures looking up from Trail Camp.
[img]https://www.amazon.com/photos/share/ahTyV0olTUWV2E28MVyZId2N595pXmTZP1xJb128Z4L[/img]


A bit more detailed. You can see people on the chute.
[img]https://www.amazon.com/photos/share/m51uZnAsNoCRS7w5XLXug3t01TdYt6qui6bmN6Dub8l[/img]

One random update - I did meet a park ranger on the trail and was asked to show my permit - so they do check! like!

If I had to guess - it will take another 10-15 days for the snow to completely clear from the trail all the way to the top - this is unfortunate, as, while you can get pretty far, it is still advisable to have an ice axe and crampons for the diminishing time you will need them - the time they are needed is going down each day, but for the areas when you need them, you need them... if you're worried about weight, then my suggestion is keep the ice axe and crampons, lose the extra water shoes, and take a bit less water with the plan of filling up along the way as there is water everywhere, and think about how cold or hot you get on hikes - and take only the layers you need.

And finally - to close... [img]https://www.amazon.com/photos/share/TgaUzsRUHChdllSArr9QvYBqooabvMnEXImiC0m3THG[/img]

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#50679 - 07/07/17 08:24 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Love_Himalayas]
LagunaKaren Offline


Registered: 07/06/17
Posts: 2
Loc: California
So very helpful Love_Himalayas. Every word duly noted. I take it you took the chute down as well. Any observations to note there other than to have the ice axe?

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#50683 - 07/07/17 11:34 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
Climber03 Offline


Registered: 07/07/17
Posts: 3
Loc: California
July 4-5 trip report:

Backpacked in to Outpost camp on the fourth. Summitted on July 5 and returned to the Portal.

Taking the old trail at the start (thanks to Tdtz’s post on 6/26/11) was excellent and avoided the roaring North Fork of Lone Pine Creek—this trail is easily accessed at the highest point of the road.

The only place where you can’t avoid water are at the meadows below Outpost camp

—it was ankle deep and about 30-40 feet of cold water—you could go bare foot if you wish to save the weight. The creek crossing just below Outpost Camp was crossable with either a minor wade or just barely on rocks and a log, the crossing just above Outpost camp had about 1 inch of water over one of the rocks.

The snow field starts about at 11200 feet, after you have climbed up the rocky ridge south of Mirror Lake and traversed west about a quarter of a mile into the Lone Pine Creek valley, which is now completely filled with snow. At this point, we put on our Hillsound trail crampons/microspikes and there were two paths: we stayed on the original trail itself which followed the right side of the snow field before ascending into the rocks to the north side; eventually there was a 50 yard snowy traverse, before traveling up to Trail Camp. The other well-beaten path in the snow stays on the south side of the valley and travels up the gulley of Consultation Lakes outflow creek before leading on to Trail Camp. The latter trail was much easier to come down on as you could slide on the snow, but spikes/crampons would really be needed to realistically climb it.

The chute was impressive

link: https://www.amazon.com/photos/share/eIvct3gIhGEhA8nQhHBWk0J9z99crR2OlzhLvxcj915
we ended up heading over onto the rocks along the south side of it, which we then climbed. At the top of these rocks, we had about 120 yards of snow to ascend and traverse over to Trail Crest, which we reached around 9am. The snow conditions were reasonable with only mild slush at this time. Multiple people just headed slowly up the chute, but crampons really are much more effective for snow climbing vs microspikes. There is also a skinny island of rocks that travels up the middle of the chute which some people were also climbing, leaving them with a final 50 yards of fairly steep snow to ascend to get to Trail Crest

For safety, ice axes should be used, despite other posts.

From Trail Crest to the summit is draining but uneventful, until the intermittent snow/hail began on the summit around 1PM. By the time that we returned to Trail Crest and decided to take the switchbacks down, the snow/hail was intermittently heavy. There is a 75 yard steep snow field to cross with a trodden path to negotiate just south of Trail Crest—not difficult but slipping would send you speedily down a thousand feet of the chute unless you can arrest yourself
[img:left]https://www.amazon.com/photos/share/hV5f4Tt7aw9QbT6aIPubl2Mfp0L0zpCKR1eYx0AAt7Q[/img].




The upper switchbacks themselves are mostly clear of snow, except for the more northern ends of the higher switchbacks and one more 80 foot snow field traverse midway down to the cables at about 13200 ft of altitude. Snow reaches all the way up to the cables; to actually access this “end” of the switchbacks, you have to do a 12 foot scramble up one of posts and rocks avoiding a small waterfall coming down this area (when we were there at 4pm). From this point you can glissade down, traverse over, then glissade down almost to Trail Camp. With a bit of scrambling in dirt/mud/rocks, one could probably avoid the snow on the switchbacks above the cables, but this requires cutting the trail, which is not an ideal way of preserving the area for others to enjoy.

Lightning, thunder, and intermittent snow/hail continued until we had returned nearly to Outpost camp (taking the southern snow trail out of Trail Camp). Packing up our somewhat soggy equipment, we hiked back to the Portal to conclude our hike.

So, in summary, you do need some sort of microspike/trail crampon/crampon (unless one has an amazing way of walking up slippery snow slopes; crampons would be the best) and be comfortable climbing up fairly steep snow and glissading down with the ability to slow oneself, an ice axe for safety, and expect to wade before Outpost camp.

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#50685 - 07/08/17 05:50 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
Flatlander Offline


Registered: 07/08/17
Posts: 1
Loc: Texas
My son (25) and I (58) have a multi-day permit for July 25th. We are hikers, but not snow experienced and this is our first attempt at Mt. Whitney. We have microspikes, but have never used them. Have read some of the recent reports and does anyone have experience to know if the switchbacks will be open? Also, I don't read much about it, but are there any cliff exposures to be worried about other than where the cables are?

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#50687 - 07/08/17 12:08 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Flatlander]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7228
Loc: Fresno, CA
Flatlander, there will still be some stretches of snow in two weeks. But more and more people will be tramping a pretty good path in the trail. You will probably be ok with your microspikes, but continue reading the reports.

People are still saying crampons are better than the microspikes.

The cables area is the worst place with the steepest slope exposure.

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