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#53569 - 06/18/18 10:15 AM Mt. Whitney Summit & Descent via 99 Switchbacks
sumo Offline


Registered: 06/12/18
Posts: 15
Loc: CA
Completed an over night trip to Mt. Whitney Summit starting on Saturday June 16 and summiting and descending on June 17.

Whitney Portal to Trail camp is great and clear. There is one part with about a foot of snow on a flat area and it's well packed to cross just before trail camp.

Many people are using the 99 switchbacks. I can estimate in the time that we were on it we saw at least 20 people. Some with just hiking shoes and poles.

Many people are also using the chute to glissade down and hike up. But the snow is getting thin on the chute.

The 99 switchbacks still have 7 snow patches that are fully covering the trail. 2 of them were a bit tricky.

Note: The snow patches are melting heavily but hard to estimate when they will completely clear.

Unfortunately, in my opinion two of the trickiest parts may take the longest to clear. Good news is they are being crossed by hikers now and the snow is well very well packed by usage in these parts. The snow is hard early morning so offers for better grip if you are using ice axe and micro crampons or yak tracks. It was was getting soft and slushy by 11am where there is better grip on the packed trail but ice axe may simply sink into the snow completely. For details read below.

Not so tricky parts of the snow patches...
There are 4 parts on the trail and 3 at the edge of the switch backs. Both at the edge of the switchbacks can be avoided by simply scrambling up/down to the next level. Easy! Or you can use the snow path that is packed. Little difficult. So look for scrambling paths where there is snow covering any switch back turns. Note: The path to the cables is one of these.

The two straight paths on the trail are well packed by foot so they can be crossed easily as well. However, having an ice axe helped me feel safe. One of the paths had about a 20ft slide slope.

Now the 2 tricky parts...
One is by the cables which about only 10 feet long but it's at a very steep part of that stretch and it's iced at the top due to lots of snow melt that is falling from above and freezing on the shaded snow on the trail. The packed path is setup in a way that you have to walk above the cable fence height to cross.

The other is near trail crest. This is about 40ft long. This is where the glissaders start their slide from the top. So there is a good 1000+ feet drop from this point.

We had to use ice axe and crampons/yak tracks to cross these points. We saw some people do it with just hiking poles and shoes.

Good luck to the hikers that are going in the next couple of weeks. Be safe, careful and enjoy!

Please post any questions you have and I'll answer.




Edited by sumo (06/18/18 10:36 AM)

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#53574 - 06/18/18 10:46 AM Re: Mt. Whitney Summit & Descent via 99 Switchbacks [Re: sumo]
Little Breezy Offline


Registered: 06/15/18
Posts: 1
Loc: Tennessee
Thank you so much for the update! My husband and I make our attempt this coming weekend.

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#53575 - 06/18/18 11:03 AM Re: Mt. Whitney Summit & Descent via 99 Switchbacks [Re: sumo]
meltedcheez Offline


Registered: 06/18/18
Posts: 3
Loc: CA
A great trip report. Thanks for the details. I will be attempting a summit on the 21st and still wondering if I will need to bring an ice axe. I will be using trekking poles and will probably have crampons.

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#53577 - 06/18/18 11:51 AM Re: Mt. Whitney Summit & Descent via 99 Switchbacks [Re: meltedcheez]
sumo Offline


Registered: 06/12/18
Posts: 15
Loc: CA
Originally Posted By: meltedcheez
A great trip report. Thanks for the details. I will be attempting a summit on the 21st and still wondering if I will need to bring an ice axe. I will be using trekking poles and will probably have crampons.


I felt safe with ice axe. Pretty good chance there will be snow on the trail by the Trail crest as well as at the cables around 21st.

There were 4 of us and we had one trekking pole and one ice axe each.


Edited by sumo (06/18/18 12:01 PM)

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#53621 - 06/20/18 09:11 PM Re: Mt. Whitney Summit & Descent via 99 Switchbacks [Re: sumo]
Bianca B Offline


Registered: 06/20/18
Posts: 3
Loc: CA
Thank you for the info. Are people wearing helmets going up and down the switchbacks?

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#53624 - 06/21/18 12:09 AM Re: Mt. Whitney Summit & Descent via 99 Switchbacks [Re: Bianca B]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7554
Loc: Fresno, CA
no helmets used on the main trail.

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#53655 - 06/22/18 06:28 PM Re: Mt. Whitney Summit & Descent via 99 Switchbacks [Re: Bianca B]
sumo Offline


Registered: 06/12/18
Posts: 15
Loc: CA
Originally Posted By: Bianca B
Thank you for the info. Are people wearing helmets going up and down the switchbacks?



No I didn't see anyone wearing helmets on the trail.

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#53656 - 06/22/18 11:02 PM Re: Mt. Whitney Summit & Descent via 99 Switchbacks [Re: sumo]
Panorama Paul Offline


Registered: 06/12/17
Posts: 20
Loc: Ridgecrest, CA, USA
Did you take long enough on top to really take in the view? You might want to remember the names of the other peaks: https://www.summitpost.org/labeled-mount-whitney-panorama/1002719/c-841725 . FREE Download before your trek, go on-line while on top AND/OR buy a 2x3-foot fine print from https://www.panoramapaul.com/ .

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#53700 - 06/26/18 04:59 PM Re: Mt. Whitney Summit & Descent via 99 Switchbacks [Re: sumo]
Shishir Offline


Registered: 06/26/18
Posts: 8
Loc: Cupertino, CA, USA
Thank you for the post. and details of tricky parts of snow. We are hiking on August 4th and hoping the conditions change a lot. Would be great if you could post some pictures of those tricky parts , specially where you were required to use Axe.

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#53716 - 06/27/18 06:04 PM Re: Mt. Whitney Summit & Descent via 99 Switchbacks [Re: Shishir]
sumo Offline


Registered: 06/12/18
Posts: 15
Loc: CA
Originally Posted By: Shishir
Thank you for the post. and details of tricky parts of snow. We are hiking on August 4th and hoping the conditions change a lot. Would be great if you could post some pictures of those tricky parts , specially where you were required to use Axe.


By the cables around 45th switchback of the 99 switchbacks. This is from over a week ago. I'm certain more snow has melted in this part.




This is before trail crest during ascent. Again more snow should be melted in these parts now.
https://prnt.sc/jwh1qf

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#53718 - 06/27/18 09:10 PM Re: Mt. Whitney Summit & Descent via 99 Switchbacks [Re: Shishir]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7554
Loc: Fresno, CA
Shishir, by August, the trail will be clear and dry. What you see in the pictures will be completely gone by then.

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#53726 - 06/28/18 01:45 PM Re: Mt. Whitney Summit & Descent via 99 Switchbacks [Re: Steve C]
Shishir Offline


Registered: 06/26/18
Posts: 8
Loc: Cupertino, CA, USA
Thanks a lot for posting pictures. Gives a much better idea. And yes hoping for snow to melt by August 4

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