First I'd like to say how much of an asset this forum was for my first ascent of Mt. Whitney last year on June 30th 2017 up the Trail. We made it to the summit, and were helped immensely by the amount of up to date information on here about trail and weather conditions. It was that hike that I found so fun (going up the chute instead of the switchbacks!) that made me want to do the Mountaineer's Route, so I signed up with a guide service, and headed back up the mountain.
Day 1 (2/9/2018):
Got a pretty late start on the day after gear checks and what not, and drove as far as we could up Whitney portal road. The road was gated about 1.5 miles from the portal, so we parked the cars, and donned our packs and headed up. The road was completely clear of snow from Lone pine all the way to portal. That night, we made camp at Whitney Portal, and appeared to be the only ones there.
Day 2 (2/10/2018):
We packed up and left camp at portal around 8am. The main trail was clear all the way to where the MR branches off, and the first part of the MR was relatively clear of snow. Upon the first water crossing on the MR, we started to encounter more ice and snow, walking through atleast 1 small avalanche zone. All of the water crossings were still flowing lots of water, and were generally clear of ice. Once we got out of the shade, the snow once again disappeared and we made it to the E-Ledges. The ledges were completely clear of snow and ice, and we traversed them easily. The rest of the MR was clear of snow until we reached Lower Boy Scout Lake, which had a decent covering of snow, but up at camp, there were several bare patches of earth to pitch tents on.
Day 3 (2/11/2018):
We struck camp and left at around 7am making our way to the outlet of Upper Boy Scout lake. Here, there was lots of bare ice, so progress up the trail in several places had to be made in the plants, so we were not slipping and sliding everywhere. We skipped the camp section of Upper Boy Scout Lake, and made our way to about 12K feet and set up camp pretty early in the day to get some rest, as our summit attempt was going to be the next day. Weather reports were calling for wind gusts of up to 60mph that night, so everyone made sure their tents were securely guyed out. It was shortly after we made camp that we noticed the SAR helicopter searching for someone on the MR. After the helicopter left, we were approached by someone who had come down from Iceberg Lake telling about somebody who had taken a nasty fall and needed rescue. It was too windy for the helicopter to land on their first attempt, but during their second attempt, they were able to pick up the injured climber. That night we did indeed experience high wind gusts at time.
Day 4 (2/12/201/):
On summit day, we left camp at 5am, and made our way to the base of the mountaineer's couloir above Iceberg Lake at just about sunrise, under clear skies. There we put on our crampons, and started making our way up. The snow in the couloir was firm and made good kick steps. About half way up the couloir, we noticed that there was some weather rolling in from the north, and it started to lightly snow. The last 200 feet or so of the couloir was all scree until we got to the larger rocks at the base of the notch. By the time we got to the notch, all of our clear skies were gone, and it was consistently snowing. From the notch, only 3 members of our group headed to the summit, while the rest of us returned to our high camp for any number of reasons. It snowed on us the whole way back, and didn't stop snowing until the next morning. The 3 that went for the summit made it, and apparently it was still clear and sunny up there, of which I am jealous that I did not experience. That night it was predicted that we were going to receive ~1 inch of snow.
Day 5 (2/13/2018):
The 1 inch of snow that was forecast was in reality more like a couple feet of snow, as we all had to dig our tents and gear out to pack up and get moving. Rocks and patches of ground that were dry the day before were now under at least 1~2 feet of snow, and it was still snowing. It continued to snow as we made our way down to Upper Boy Scout Lake, and as we made our way down to Lower Boy Scout Lake, we encountered waist deep snow. We made our way through waist deep snow all the way from the outlet of Upper Boy Scout down to the E Ledges. The Ledges, which only 3 days earlier were bone dry, were themselves now covered in about a foot of snow. We traversed the ledges, and under them we encountered the deepest snow of the day, about chest deep for a couple hundred feet. The depth of the snow on the MR declined steadily until we got to the Whitney Trail, where the snow was about ankle deep. The road, which was dry 4 days earlier was completely covered in snow and ice till about 300 yards from the gate. After that, driving down, there was some snow and ice on the road in the shady parts all the way down to the closed sign, just after the parking lot.
Although I did not reach the summit on this climb, it was still a ton of fun, especially with the large amounts of snow we got! I'll shoot for the summit next winter, and hopefully make it!