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#53414 - 06/11/18 10:57 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7578
Loc: Fresno, CA
This posted by Ellen S: Mt Whitney multiple injuries on 6/10/18

Quote:
My daughter and I left Whitney portal at 2:45 a m on June 10, 2018. Arrived at trail camp at about 7 a m. Started up chute and were considering turning back when four people slid down at over 30 mph completely out of control. They fell over 1,000 vertical feet. Screaming, bouncing, did not stop til bottom snow pack. Head injuries, broken bones, hypothermia, among injuries. Helicopters took between 5 and 8 hours. Worst accident I’ve ever witnessed. Please please do not let summit fever cloud your judgement on this stretch of the whitney trail. If anyone has an update of these climbers please post.

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#53417 - 06/12/18 05:22 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
KevinR Offline


Registered: 11/03/09
Posts: 592
Loc: Manchester, NH
It's also worth pointing out that just because you may be a skilled mountaineer, are competent with an ice axe and crampons, you're not out of danger when descending the 'chute below Trail Crest. Always keep an eagle eye out UPHILL for people (and rocks/ice, etc) which may be hurtling in your direction, and always have a plan about which way to go (right or left) in the event someone/thing is falling rapidly towards you. Falling without crampons is bad enough; having them on and falling is even worse. Don't become a casualty yourself.

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#53430 - 06/12/18 11:48 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
203WEST Offline


Registered: 06/01/18
Posts: 18
Loc: Mammoth Lakes
I keep hoping to hear any updates on the switchbacks, but nothing yet. It definitely sounds like plenty of inexperienced folks taking their chances on the chute. Not us.
Originally Posted By: Steve C
Robbie, thanks so much for the report.

It is good that people are being warned by reports like yours.

What I don't understand this year, is that usually, a couple of hiking groups will push up or down the switchbacks, which will make a good boot track, and then everyone hears the news and uses them. It takes about a day for the masses to really open up the switchbacks.

I just don't understand why that hasn't occurred yet this year!!!

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#53435 - 06/12/18 12:35 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
trillmix Offline


Registered: 06/12/18
Posts: 1
Loc: OC, CA, USA
Hi everyone - I also wanted to give back to this community thread as I relied on it heavily to prepare for my overnight trip to Whitney, and my trip had a lot more action than usual…we summited on Sunday 06/10/2018.

I was a part of Robbie's group from the prior post above, and was the last/slow group. The main Whitney trail was very well graded - it's the distance and elevation that would play the biggest factors in your ascent. I am from SoCal and did the 6 Pack of Peak challenge and that really helped me prepare for the hike, distance-wise. For the elevation, I had Diamox prescribed to me and will attribute 95% of my summit success to it. If you can get your hands on some - do it!

The hike up to Trail Camp was smooth. Beautiful trail. Trail Camp was very windy Saturday night and made it feel colder than it should have been. If it wasn't for the wind then the weather would have been a perfect temperature. The wind came in spurts but the time frame when it is the worst/really picks up is usually between 3pm-7pmish. Overall, the entire weekend had great weather! We were able to practice self-arresting and glissading on some of the slopes near Trail Camp. I highly recommend doing this before doing the real deal.

Our group of 10 split into sub-groups because of different speed and schedules. I know my body and pace and that I'd need more time for everything. My partner and I started the ascent from Trail Camp around 4am and was surrounded by celestial beauty until daybreak around 5am. You don't really need headlamps after 5/530am. From Trail Camp, follow the path to the switchbacks and hike up until the switchbacks eventually disappear into the snowy parts.

It took us 3 hours to get to the top of the chute: arrival at 7am. Chute conditions were perfect. Hard packed snow that was favorable for cramponing up. I initially was going up with hiking poles but did not feel safe or comfortable and switched them out for my ice axe. Glad I did. Don't underestimate this part. The climb up the chute was brutal for me - but the views at the top are breathtaking! Just go slow and be careful. If you can, try to find a route that already has footsteps in them. It will make for a much easier climb - think of it as climbing up steps, like on a stair master machine! Dig your toe in and secure your footing. Throw your ice axe in front of you for a self-belay.

If you want to skip some of the snow then an alternative (that was recommended to us by the Whitney Portal store owner and other groups) would be to crampon up to the pile of rocks on the chute. It's a long stretch of boulders that are pretty obvious - you can't miss it (I'll try to post photos later). Boulder-hop on those to skip some snow = once at the top, you'll have about 200-300 feet of snow left to climb up on! I would definitely recommend using the rocks if you only have hiking poles. Some people from our group had only micro spikes and hiking poles and were carefully and slowly making their way down to the pile of rocks.

It took my partner and I 2-2.5hrs to ascend from Trail Crest. Perfect weather. Even with the diamox medication, it was very hard to breath on the last 1.9 miles from Trail Crest to summit. Take it slow…

The 1.9 miles from Trail Crest to summit was in good condition! There were 2-3 sections of snow and a bit of ice, but you can get through it without traction if you do a little careful maneuvering. It wasn't enough for me to feel like I had to put on my crampons/microspikes (I had both) but definitely be careful traversing it.

On our way back down, we were told the horror stories of the series of unfortunate events that happened… We got to Trail Crest by 10am and the chute conditions were slushy/the sun was melting it already. Don't forget to wear sunscreen!! Because I sure did…

I glissaded down with my rain pants, rain shell jacket, gaiters, waterproof gloves, and an ice axe (among other things). I went very slowly as the beginning is very, very steep. I was braking with my left arm and my entire left arm is sore/done for the next couple of weeks. It is a workout! I got down the chute in 2 hours or less. From the bottom of the chute there is still a stretch of snow to walk on until you're back at the open part of the switchbacks that lead into Trail Camp. You can walk this snow stretch with just your boots, hiking poles, and careful maneuvering.
---
As for the multiple injuries that happened - they were very unfortunate and terrible. Bless those kinds souls who forgo' d their summit to become trail angels and help these folks out! I met the BF of one of the injured people and he told me that his group started to ascend from Trail Camp around 6am. His GF had crampons, no ice axe. Somewhere along the way she had unstable footing/missed a step and slipped….and it was downhill from there. Literally. Thankfully some kind souls were able to help slow down her momentum (I don't know how, didn't ask for details) so she didn't get as injured as she could have been. She had broken bones, sprains, bruises, etc. But shortly after she fell it was a domino effect. Another girl fell 30-60 seconds after she did and sustained worst injuries. The 2nd girl wasn't as high up as the 1st girl but had more serious injuries. She was initially unconscious but on my way down I saw her wrapped up in emergency space blankets in the snow, wailing/groaning. The 1st girl was wrapped in blankets on a rock, not too far from one another. I don't know how long it took search and rescue to come but I did see the helicopter attempt to land multiple times. The chute isn't exactly a place for safe landing. I could still hear the helicopters coming and going as I was making the hike back down to my car between 3pm-7:30pm.

Just some personal tips: Remember to hike your own hike and ascend slowly to acclimate properly! It's a marathon, not a race. Seriously. And, I would highly, highly, recommend crampons and an ice axe. You can get by with micro spikes, but definitely not just hiking poles. Better safe than sorry!! Doesn't matter if you're experienced or a novice - these tools will save your life! Other than that, if you have the right tools and don't underestimate the trail (aka mentally prepare and practice self-arresting/glissading) then you'll do alright! It was my first time doing anything like this and yes, it was scary, but I think it's doable with the right preparation.

Before we started our trip we were told that the temperatures were warming up and that the chute was getting slushy earlier on. I would recommend getting to the top of the chute before 8am latest and down it by 12 noon. It might be too slushy if it's any later and would bring on more potential hazards.

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#53451 - 06/13/18 09:27 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Adventurous]
Snick&Boo Offline


Registered: 06/13/18
Posts: 3
Loc: CA
Hello. I am new here, so be nice. smile
I have a day pass for 6/21. I have microspikes and an ice axe. Have used it before, but it's been awhile. I know my limitations and do not want to slide down the mountain. Que, silly question: Can I walk down the chute or sliding the ONLY option? I don't care what people think, I want to live and not see SAR on my hike. Last year we did Whitney in August, so didn't have to deal with this issue. Any advise helps!

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#53455 - 06/13/18 10:33 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Snick&Boo]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7578
Loc: Fresno, CA
Other posts have stated that people with microspikes have down-walked the steep slope, and have done it facing the snow. It can take two hours to get down, but it is possible. Crampons would sure be best.

If I were you, I'd plan on following the switchbacks using those spikes, both up and down. It only takes a few people to establish a walkable path on the switchbacks, even if they have snow.

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#53460 - 06/13/18 11:50 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
OChikers8073 Offline


Registered: 06/12/18
Posts: 22
Loc: CA
planning on a day hike mid July, does anyone know if the switchbacks are typically hikable during this time of year? I know it wasn't a heavy snow year from looking at the stats on this site.
I don't have mountaineering experience so all the conversation about glissading/ice axes/crampons is a little intimidating to say the least!

Thanks!

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#53461 - 06/13/18 12:43 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
SWriverstone Offline


Registered: 06/12/18
Posts: 9
Loc: Oregon
I've got another thread going in which I've been trying to analyze the risk of climbing Whitney on a PCT/JMT hike I'm doing next week. I would be at Whitney on either Thursday June 21 or Friday June 22.

• I do not have winter mountaineering experience.
• I do not have an ice axe, nor know how to use one.
• I do have Kahtoola Microspikes (but not crampons).
• I do have trekking poles.

In my other thread...
http://www.whitneyzone.com/wz/ubbthreads.php/topics/53432/Whitney_reality_check:_hike_pl#Post53432

...wbtravis states:
Quote:
9 people have died in SoCal the last 3 winters...8 were utilizing light traction devices and poles.

If the trail is not an option on the north side of Forester Pass or at the Chute, skills, helmet, crampons and axe are required. You cannot self-belay with a collapsible trekking pole.


Though I really want to climb Whitney (and believe I have the physical conditioning to do it), I'm not going to assume even slight risk (much less serious risk). If necessary, I'm prepared to change my southbound hike (Kearsarge Pass to Whitney Portal) to an out-and-back hike from Kearsarge Pass.

So for me, the critical factor that will determine my hike itinerary will be: will the Mt. Whitney Trail be safely walkable (without ice axe or crampons) in its entirety by Thursday, June 21?

I'm not sure how I can know by this weekend, which is when I'll be starting my hike from Onion Valley/Kearsarge Pass.

I'm an extremely fit and competent hiker who is not easily spooked. But I'm not going to assume that because some people have successfully navigated The Chute with microspikes and trekking poles means "it's safe." (Some of those people have also gotten seriously hurt.)

I'm looking for suggestions as to any other good sources of up-to-the-minute intel on the Mt. Whitney Trail (besides here!)—if anyone has any, please post up!

Thanks,
Scott

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#53462 - 06/13/18 12:46 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: OChikers8073]
203WEST Offline


Registered: 06/01/18
Posts: 18
Loc: Mammoth Lakes
Originally Posted By: OChikers8073
planning on a day hike mid July, does anyone know if the switchbacks are typically hikable during this time of year? I know it wasn't a heavy snow year from looking at the stats on this site.
I don't have mountaineering experience so all the conversation about glissading/ice axes/crampons is a little intimidating to say the least!

Thanks!


Switchbacks should be wide open in July.

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#53466 - 06/13/18 01:31 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: SWriverstone]
BFR Offline


Registered: 04/07/16
Posts: 98
Loc: Santa Monica, CA
Originally Posted By: SWriverstone
So for me, the critical factor that will determine my hike itinerary will be: will the Mt. Whitney Trail be safely walkable (without ice axe or crampons) in its entirety by Thursday, June 21?


No
_________________________
Strava, IG

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#53467 - 06/13/18 01:39 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: 203WEST]
OChikers8073 Offline


Registered: 06/12/18
Posts: 22
Loc: CA
Awesome! Thank you for the reply smile

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#53469 - 06/13/18 02:12 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: BFR]
Robert W Offline


Registered: 06/04/16
Posts: 7
Loc: California
Why are you making the statement NO? I will be up there with large group on the 21st this month and I plan on my 8th Whitney summit via the 99 switchbacks> I know show conditions will be a little tricky but the 99 are starting to open up!


Edited by Robert W (06/13/18 02:14 PM)

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#53472 - 06/13/18 03:29 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
Caroline H. Offline


Registered: 06/13/18
Posts: 2
Loc: CA
Hi,
I am scheduled to summit on June 25th. What are the chances to have the switchbacks open by then? And even if they are open, should we assume there will be snow still and we will require ice axe and crampons?

Anyone experienced going up there on that day that wants to partner? smile

Thanks,
Caroline.

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#53478 - 06/13/18 05:51 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Robert W]
Greg6182 Offline


Registered: 06/13/18
Posts: 1
Loc: New Hampshire
I’m with you on this one. A buddy and I intend on doing the switchbacks on the 19th next week. We’ve done them in April before so I’m not too worried about a little bit of snow. We’re happy to pack the trail for everyone else if need be.

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#53479 - 06/13/18 05:59 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Greg6182]
dunavice321 Offline


Registered: 04/11/18
Posts: 4
Loc: Earth
Will my long johns tucked into my socks be enough to protect me in case my pant legs ride up while glissading or will gaiters be necessary?

Don't want to buy gaiters just for this occasion. Thanks.

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#53481 - 06/13/18 06:49 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
Blair Offline


Registered: 06/13/18
Posts: 1
Loc: California
Hey all,

I am planning a trip for the 22nd. This will be my second time on Whitney and we plan to take the switchbacks. Figured this time of year microspikes shall do. With the ever so melting snow conditions i'm hesitant on bringing an ice axe but that will be tentative pretty much the day prior to our hike. Hopefully people have been breaking in trail! If anyone has completed a summit would love to see more pictures of switchbacks and current snow conditions! Hot weather looks to be in favor of more melt off.

Cheers!

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#53482 - 06/13/18 08:24 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Greg6182]
203WEST Offline


Registered: 06/01/18
Posts: 18
Loc: Mammoth Lakes
Originally Posted By: Greg6182
I’m with you on this one. A buddy and I intend on doing the switchbacks on the 19th next week. We’ve done them in April before so I’m not too worried about a little bit of snow. We’re happy to pack the trail for everyone else if need be.


We will be on the trail along with you Tuesday, the 19th. If you’re camping at Trail Camp, we’ll be the family of 3. We will be taking the switchbacks early on the 20th in hopes they are passable. We’ll be traveling with micro spikes, hiking poles, and ice axes packed just in case. We might be boot packing the switchbacks along side you!

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#53483 - 06/13/18 09:17 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: 203WEST]
sumo Offline


Registered: 06/12/18
Posts: 15
Loc: CA
Heard from a PR past Monday that the switchbacks are open already. But she still recommended taking the Chute.

Yesterday, I heard (will try to post the FB link once I get it) the warm weather today and tomorrow should pretty much clear the switchbacks of snow.

We are planning on using them on Jun 17th (this Sunday).

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#53484 - 06/13/18 09:21 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: 203WEST]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7578
Loc: Fresno, CA
Originally Posted By: 203WEST
Originally Posted By: Greg6182
I’m with you on this one. A buddy and I intend on doing the switchbacks on the 19th next week. We’ve done them in April before so I’m not too worried about a little bit of snow. We’re happy to pack the trail for everyone else if need be.


We will be on the trail along with you Tuesday, the 19th. If you’re camping at Trail Camp, we’ll be the family of 3. We will be taking the switchbacks early on the 20th in hopes they are passable. We’ll be traveling with micro spikes, hiking poles, and ice axes packed just in case. We might be boot packing the switchbacks along side you!


Robert W, Greg6182 and 203WEST:
You guys are to be commended for committing to the switchbacks. You will be making the hike a whole lot safer for lots of inexperienced first-timers. I can't believe people haven't packed a path on the switchers by this time already.

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#53485 - 06/13/18 09:33 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
203WEST Offline


Registered: 06/01/18
Posts: 18
Loc: Mammoth Lakes
Thanks! We’ll hope the best!

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