Conditions for July 13th -- https://youtu.be/qrdkArX_Yek
Firstly, many thanks to the valuable info my partner and I gathered from this forum. We felt prepared and confident. Thank you!
Secondly and in summary, micro spikes, trekking poles and an ice axe are absolutely useful. That extra 2 pounds of gear will keep you feeling confident and secure while you're traversing some 40 degree, slushy and slippery snowfields. Use the switchbacks. 80% clear is a fair estimate. Do not glissade. Add at least 2 to 3 hours on your hike to adjust for these conditions. Our packs weighed about 18lbs fully loaded. It included:
3 liters of water
2 pounds of macro bars and food
first aid/survival/hard map/gps
2 wag bags
Sun protection is a must. That sun bouncing off of the snow and onto your skin is gnarly. We both had hats, sunglasses and wore sunscreen and often used our face sleeves to shield us from the glare. Perhaps some light duty gloves also.
JULY 13th, 2017
0230 – Starting our hike on the Old Mt Whitney Trail
We chose this path to avoid the first water crossing. It's an easy deviation and gets you passed the crossing in the same amount of time, or sooner, as the Main Whitney Trail takes to get you to the crossing. I mapped it on my viewranger. If anyone would like the topo or gpx file, hit me up.
0350 – Arrived at Lone Pine Lake
Trail is clearly marked and easy to stay on with our headlamps. Some snow along the slopes but none on our path yet. The sunrise was spectacular. We ran into one water crossing before Out Post Camp where you were forced to get wet. It was deep to only about 4 to 6 inches but it was about 40 feet long. Wet boots or wet feet. You choose. I choose to keep them on and walk through and my partner choose to take her boots and socks off and walk through. I was happy while she instantly regretted it.
0515 – Arrived at Out Post Camp
So far so good. Starting to see more snow now that the sun is giving us light and warmth. About a mile passed the camp we ran into patches of snow on the trail. Once we got to the meadows, we donned our micro spikes and used them for traction through the icy snow and rock and found that we had to traverse across 2 snow fields. We each had trekking poles and an ice axes as part of our gear. They came in handy through this section.
0730 – Arrived at Consultation Lake/Trail Camp
We took a good 45 minute break here. We saw lots of marmots and ate and refilled our water. We both carried a 2 liter water bladder for clean water and a 1 liter Nalgene which we were using for electrolytes. We elected to purify our water. We probably saw 20 wagbags that were left behind during our whole hike. The bulk of which we spotted at this lake. Although we picked up empty water bottles, empty bags of dehydrated food, wrappers and other trash, we didn't touch the wagbags. We felt guilty that we didn't. That won't happen again. Anyhow, our break is over and now comes the hard part of the hike. The decision to use the switchbacks or hike the chute. If you have crampons (not micro spikes) and an ice axe, go for the chute if you'd like. However, I do think that the switchbacks are the way to go. 80% percent clear is a fair estimate. Although the beginning of the switchbacks are off and on, snow covered for the first 20 switches, you'll find that the rest of it except for a small section at the cables, are free of snow. Your last 50' feet is across a snow field. Once you cross it you'll be at Trail Crest. On our ascent, we headed for the chute, following the track line in the snow until we saw the cables to our left about 20 mins later and at around 12,600 feet. We turned towards them and were happy we did since our micro spikes weren't providing efficient traction on the slush. We used the switchbacks all of the way back down.
1030 – Arrived at Trail Crest
My partner is feeling her first signs of AMS. Unfortunately, do to work schedules, we didn't have time to acclimate. We arrived at Whitney Portal on July 12th at noon and started our hike 14 hours later. My partner went the Diamox route and I choose the Ibuprofin route instead. Google Diamox vs Ibuprofen at altitude for more info. We took our time through the rocky trail, being extra careful around the scree, resting a few minutes here and there until roughly 3/4's of the way up Trail Crest. We got some summit beta from a few who were descending. All of them used a cairn route to summit because of the rather large and slippery snow field that's in the way, so we did. It was pretty easy to spot the cairns. We made our way up through the rock and scree all the while watching as the hut grew closer and closer.
1220 – Arrived at Summit
We made it! Spectacular, amazing, grateful.
We started our descent some 45 minutes later. We used this time to contemplate some big decisions that were soon approaching. To glissading or not to glissade. At this point in the season, I would advise against glissading from the top of the chute. It may save you up to a couple of hours but it can seriously cost you a lot more. Use your head. Especially if you've never done it before. There's a lot of shallow snow which means you're likely to hit a rock and if you can't self-arrest or otherwise slow yourself down, the rock islands certainly will. The chute at the start is 60 degrees for the first 300 feet or so before it decreases in slope to 40 degrees for the next 800 feet. Elect to use the safer switchbacks and perhaps glissading down from the much easier slope at the cables if you feel antsy for a wet ass. Glissading from the cables may save you about 30 minutes. The decision is up to you. As I said, we used the switchbacks all of the way down. Not much to it.
1950 – Made it to the car 17 and a half hours later.
All and all, we felt we did great. Even though it took us over 17 hours, we never rushed, soaking it all in and taking loads of picture. We felt privileged to see the beauty of the Eastern Sierras. PLEASE don't leave your shit behind! We certainly left it cleaner than we found it. I hope this info helps. I'll update this post with pics later this evening. Good luck and leave no trace!! https://youtu.be/qrdkArX_Yek