I led a group of 10 up to the summit yesterday and successfully took the switchbacks in both directions. I can confirm that the switchbacks are not only open, but actually very clear!
Like most on this board with permits around this time, I scanned for the last few weeks waiting for a glimpse of the conditions with no luck. My group was extremely mixed in experience (not ability) with some having never used any of the equipment; ice axe, crampons, microspikes, or trekking poles. With that in mind we made a group decision that we would take our time and go up the switch back blazing the trail if necessary for those in our group (and others on this forum) with less experience.
The switchbacks were 90% dry, 9% light ice that melts by mid morning into running streams, and 1% snow that becomes slushy by mid morning. I feel very confident that nearly anyone with any level of experience can make it with microspikes (true microspikes, not those ones with little pins like golf shoes) and poles. We had one in our group with no poles (or ice axe) and a couple that never got their microspikes out of the bag - for reference.
The first of the 2 primary "tough" sections is the cables... the snow is down to about a 15 foot section where the cables themselves tilt perpendicular to the trail. We had a little bit of anxiety with one of our noobs in this section, so we actually used the ice axe a carved out about a 12-15" wide path to walk it... you still want to be surefooted each step and I would use microspikes for safety, but it should be good - our anxious member made it and was later crossing other snow sections with confidence!
The second of the 2 primary "tough" sections is the very top of the switchbacks headed into Trail Crest. This section is about 75 feet long and is not difficult when the snow is still frozen from the night, you just need to watch your step and use a pole for balance... the tricky parts are: 1) there has been some post holes made that you don't want to fall down and 2) after mid morning when things get slushy its obviously more slick and easier to post hole. If you're patient it shouldn't be a problem - even our least experienced person in the group took no more than 4-5min to cross.
In my opinion, I would not be glissadding the chute at this point... I did watch people successfully do it, but there are little exposed rock points all the way down and I would hate to catch one on my a$$ and ruin a great trip! A few in our group (the more experienced) wanted to do it to speed things up, but we wanted to keep everyone together as well...
Timeline for us:
2:20am - Portal
5:20am - Trail Camp (20min for water fill ups)
6:20am - Cables (about 20min here clearing trail with ice axe)
8:10am - Trail Crest
9:20-10:30am - Peak (split into two groups for the descent at 10:30a)
11:15am & 11:45am - Trail Crest
12:05pm & 1:20pm - Trail Camp
1:40pm - Portal (first group)
4:15pm - Portal (second group)
I would love to post pics and may get to eventually, but others in my group have them and we're off to some work events in Mammoth and Tahoe areas... feel free to ask questions and I will try to answer as available. In a nut shell, if you have microspikes and poles, I have little doubt you will make it up the switchbacks with a little patience, a sunrise ascent and late morning, early afternoon descent.
Last edited by altra_ben; 06/16/18 10:38 AM.