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#53222 - 05/23/18 09:20 AM Whitney first-timer 06/02 seeking some advice
work765 Offline


Registered: 05/23/18
Posts: 4
Loc: los angeles, ca
Ive been reading quite a bit on here and a lot of other sources. But still had some questions.. maybe someone can help

This will be my partner's and mine first time trying to climb Whitney(sleeping at portal Friday, then sleeping at Trail Camp Saturday, wake up(3:30am) and summit and back down on Sunday). We have been hiking, and backpacking pretty regularly and feel semi ready physically for the trek. We've done some of the suggested Socal climbs to prep.

What I didnt really know; because I didnt do enough research is how much snow there's going to be on the weekend of June 2nd. Everything I have been reading up until this point has been about hitting the switch backs, and my biggest concern was about AMS.
But now there's this huge curve-ball in the mix and I have to prepare for lots of snow. My partner and I have zero mountaineering experience.

Some questions I have.
•It seems like not many people are taking the switchbacks at this time. Should we do the switchbacks or hit the chute?
•If doing the chute, we need crampons and and axe?
•does anyone climb the chute with microspikes?
•If we take the chute up, and then we take it down. I keep reading glissade is not recommended for first-timers. Can you walk down the chute?
•If we slide on our butts with an axe down a portion of it, don't you destroy your pants?
•My layering system, does not include any snow gear. well because I have none.(accept for snowboarding gloves) Do I need special pants for the chute?

Thanks for any help!



Edited by work765 (05/23/18 09:23 AM)

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#53223 - 05/23/18 10:26 AM Re: Whitney first-timer 06/02 seeking some advice [Re: work765]
Wiff Offline


Registered: 07/23/14
Posts: 67
Loc: LA
I would not make Whitney my first attempt at climbing in snow and using any of that equipment. Way too dangerous.

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#53224 - 05/23/18 10:27 AM Re: Whitney first-timer 06/02 seeking some advice [Re: work765]
Wiff Offline


Registered: 07/23/14
Posts: 67
Loc: LA
Go have a nice hike as far up as you can without snow, so you don't waste the trip, and save the summit for another time.

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#53225 - 05/23/18 10:40 AM Re: Whitney first-timer 06/02 seeking some advice [Re: Wiff]
work765 Offline


Registered: 05/23/18
Posts: 4
Loc: los angeles, ca
Originally Posted By: Wiff
I would not make Whitney my first attempt at climbing in snow and using any of that equipment. Way too dangerous.


what about getting microspikes and trying for the switchbacks?

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#53226 - 05/23/18 11:19 AM Re: Whitney first-timer 06/02 seeking some advice [Re: work765]
Wiff Offline


Registered: 07/23/14
Posts: 67
Loc: LA
I would not up there, without ever having used them. Others may think differently.

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#53227 - 05/23/18 11:25 AM Re: Whitney first-timer 06/02 seeking some advice [Re: work765]
bobpickering Offline


Registered: 02/07/10
Posts: 431
Loc: Reno, Nevada
Originally Posted By: work765
Originally Posted By: Wiff
I would not make Whitney my first attempt at climbing in snow and using any of that equipment. Way too dangerous.


what about getting microspikes and trying for the switchbacks?

I’ve been mountaineering for 30 years. If I were climbing Whitney on June 2, I would bring medium-weight climbing boots, 10-point crampons, an ice axe, ski poles, and proper clothing. I bypass the switchbacks any time there is sufficient snow in “the chute.” I would not try to climb Whitney without proper clothing, proper gear, or the slightest clue about how to use that gear. I would not try to climb to 14,500’ without knowing that I tolerate high altitude reasonably well.

Every year, there are people who want to say they climbed Whitney, but don’t want to do it right. Can you do it in June with trail runners and microspikes and no experience? Probably not. Will you die trying? Again, probably not. But every year, a few people die because they just wandered out into the wilderness with insufficient experience and gear, and got in over their heads. Don’t get your name on the evening news.

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#53230 - 05/23/18 02:57 PM Re: Whitney first-timer 06/02 seeking some advice [Re: bobpickering]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7874
Loc: Fresno, CA
The switchbacks will start being used early in June. Whether anyone goes up them before you is unknown. There might be a path up them when you get there, but unfortunately, you won't know until you go.

Here are the dates from previous years:  When will Mt Whitney switchbacks open?

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#53231 - 05/23/18 03:07 PM Re: Whitney first-timer 06/02 seeking some advice [Re: Steve C]
work765 Offline


Registered: 05/23/18
Posts: 4
Loc: los angeles, ca
Originally Posted By: Steve C
The switchbacks will start being used early in June. Whether anyone goes up them before you is unknown. There might be a path up them when you get there, but unfortunately, you won't know until you go.

Here are the dates from previous years:  When will Mt Whitney switchbacks open?


We called up to the Rangers station yesterday(05/23) and they said that "only a couple people have used the switch backs. That everyone was taking the chute".

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#53232 - 05/23/18 04:58 PM Re: Whitney first-timer 06/02 seeking some advice [Re: work765]
mountainmike Offline


Registered: 06/02/16
Posts: 10
Loc: northOrangeCounty
You shouldn't climb without experience. You can get experience unless you climb?

Every climber brings "stuff" to the mountain. Sometimes its enough sometimes its not. Very few die based on a bad decision. But there are many who suffer based on a bad decision. that's experience. please don't die. but go

I think the riskiest part on the main Whitney trail is falling at the top of the chute and not being able to self-arrest. The lower portions and middle portions are not as risky as there is a pretty good run-out at the bottom of the chute. As the snow on the chute melts the rocks become obstacles that can kill with blunt force trauma if you fall and cant stop. However there are many other risks. The switchbacks are icy and are more unsafe IMO. The weather can be an issue. lightning has killed on the summit. Timing is also important as most climbers time their descent to glissade the chute in the afternoon when self arrest is easier and it is not icy. So with that the temp also matters. Your fitness and gear and experience and that of your party members.

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#53233 - 05/23/18 05:18 PM Re: Whitney first-timer 06/02 seeking some advice [Re: work765]
Bob West Offline


Registered: 11/13/09
Posts: 828
Loc: Bishop, CA, USA
As a former Search and Rescue team leader, having done many rescues and dead body recoveries on Mt. Whitney, my advice to you is forget about it until all the snow is gone in a couple of months and then hike up the switchbacks on dry ground.

I am telling you this to scare you off. You are not ready for Mt. Whitney in current conditions and your obvious lack of experience. Of course, you may choose to ignore my advice and the advice of other experienced climbers, in which case, you may proceed like the other brain-less idiots who have either died on Whitney or had to have a SAR team come and bail their asses out. Are you getting the picture?


Edited by Bob West (05/23/18 05:18 PM)

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#53235 - 05/23/18 06:47 PM Re: Whitney first-timer 06/02 seeking some advice [Re: work765]
mountainmike Offline


Registered: 06/02/16
Posts: 10
Loc: northOrangeCounty
Some questions I have.
•It seems like not many people are taking the switchbacks at this time. Should we do the switchbacks or hit the chute?

switchbacks are dangerous ice/rock compared to chute.

•If doing the chute, we need crampons and and axe?

Yes and you should know how to use them effectivley

•does anyone climb the chute with microspikes?

yes but not advisable. micro spikes are generally used for flat traverses when you don't want to take crampons on and off. ie., over flat rock and icy sections.

•If we take the chute up, and then we take it down. I keep reading glissade is not recommended for first-timers. Can you walk down the chute?

Yes you can walk down the chute. but not knowing snow (freeze thaw cycle) conditions the timing and the weather and stamina have contributed to bad outcomes.

•If we slide on our butts with an axe down a portion of it, don't you destroy your pants?

The more I analyze this question.......
"Knowledge is the accumulation of facts
Wisdom is correct application of those facts"

•My layering system, does not include any snow gear. well because I have none.(accept for snowboarding gloves) Do I need special pants for the chute?

slacks for work
jeans for da club
board shorts for the beach.....

don't mean to be trite. there's a lot to be learned from everyone posts!


Edited by mountainmike (05/23/18 08:32 PM)

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#53239 - 05/24/18 10:43 AM Re: Whitney first-timer 06/02 seeking some advice [Re: mountainmike]
work765 Offline


Registered: 05/23/18
Posts: 4
Loc: los angeles, ca
Thanks everyone for the response. Nice to get a good sense of what we are getting ourselves into and setting a sense of limitations.

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#53245 - 05/25/18 10:58 AM Re: Whitney first-timer 06/02 seeking some advice [Re: work765]
Andrewzuber Offline


Registered: 06/01/15
Posts: 15
Loc: Tarzana, CA
The first time I summited Mt. Whitney, our group did it in mid-June. As we reached Trail Camp, we caught the last people of the season glissading down the chute, and it was a rough go for them.

We did the switchbacks with microspikes and there were a few rough areas, especially around the cables. Altogether we had an easy go of it but as first timers who had attended seminars, trained, acclimated and brought all the proper gear, it was still a LOT of work.

My advice would be to go, be extremely cautious and proceed only as far as you can. There's no harm in getting to Trail Camp, seeing the chute up close and enjoying the scenery. It's a beautiful hike up to that point - one of the most picturesque places I've ever been - and in our experience, the real work began as soon as we left camp at midnight and headed for the switchbacks.

Photos don't convey just how incredibly massive the chute and the switchbacks are. It's something you can only understand by standing there and seeing it for yourself. No sense in getting stuck halfway up and realizing you're not prepared.

Talk to hikers coming off the trail and see what they have to say at the Whitney Portal store. Those are going to be the most accurate reports you'll get in terms of what the conditions are, but not much is likely to change over the course of just a few days. Take it slow and enjoy however much of it you're able to do!

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#53249 - 05/27/18 09:15 AM Re: Whitney first-timer 06/02 seeking some advice [Re: work765]
songsta Offline


Registered: 05/27/18
Posts: 1
Loc: LA
work765, thanks for your posting. as a first timer myself, it was helpful to see the responses to many of the same questions I've had. please post back once you're back from your trip. would appreciate your intelligence based on your personal experience. i'm going up on June 12.

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#53256 - 05/28/18 06:36 AM Re: Whitney first-timer 06/02 seeking some advice [Re: work765]
Hobbes Offline


Registered: 03/28/14
Posts: 144
Loc: The OC
Tough crew but with good advice. If I may add two considerations, it would be these:

1. Definitely go with what you have and are familiar with. What I haven't seen really emphasized here is that people turn around all the time. I myself have turned around twice in the past simply because of either the weather or I wasn't 'feeling it'.

Whitney is so much more than just the peak - the entire creek drainage canyon is spectacular. If it wasn't for the permitting system and crowds, it would be a destination in its own right like Yosemite. But, people are focused on the summit, and don't pay much attention to the trip.

Go with an open mind knowing that you can turn around at any point - just being out & up there is incredible. Note that the danger zone begins above Outpost - there are places where people have walked off the cliffs. The trail above Trailside meadow also doesn't get much mention, but it to can be dangerous when icy. Then, of course there is the Chute vs 99.

2. Having mentioned the permitting system, I should add that I have never either reserved or gone through the lottery process. IMO, unless you're in some kind of large group, it simply isn't necessary. There are always cancellations and no shows available for walk up permits.

Knowing that, it's actually quite trivial for someone within 4-6 hrs driving distance to tackle Whitney whenever they feel like it. For example, say you used your 6/2 permit and made it to Trail camp, but decided to head back. If would be a giant nothing burger to simply decide on the spur of the moment (assuming you had 3 days available) to get yourself right back up there in 3-4 weeks.

If the weather was nice, the trial clear, and you had already done the basics, then your chances of success would begin to become quite high. In fact, like many of us here, once you discover just how doable Whitney is - under the right circumstances - then it becomes a habit/addiction.


Edited by Hobbes (05/28/18 06:37 AM)

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#53258 - 05/28/18 11:04 AM Re: Whitney first-timer 06/02 seeking some advice [Re: Hobbes]
G4u2 Offline


Registered: 08/03/17
Posts: 30
Loc: San Diego, CA
I second Hobbes' opinion 100%.

I summited Mt. Whitney last year on my first attempt. I did it by myself inspite of many experienced folks telling me not to. I took all the advices in and I am thankful for them. To Hobbes'point, I was ready to turned back at any moment I felt my skills or condition were putting me at risk. I ended up going from Portal to summit in about 7-8 hours and felt fine all the way. The point is, it is hard to know where you are in terms of condition and skill by only reading opinions here. People have a wide array of risk tolerances as well, so be mindful of that. Go for the hike, enjoy, and respect your limits!


Edited by G4u2 (05/28/18 11:05 AM)

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