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#55492 - 06/20/19 09:25 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Melissa]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7877
Loc: Fresno, CA
Melissa, send the pictures via email to the "Contact Us" address at the bottom of each page.

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#55499 - 06/21/19 05:26 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
Geoff Offline


Registered: 06/19/19
Posts: 4
Loc: MA
Great following along with all of you before our big hike next week! I'm gonna keep firing questions if that's alright.

How is the condition of the last 1.9miles leading to the summit. Trail Crest I believe. Is it more perilous/dangerous than the mountaineers route? We don't have an overnight pass for the mountaineers route but we have a party member wanting to pursue it. We have very limited climbing with ice axes.

As of right now we're climbing the chute/switchbacks, but is the mountaineers route a more manageable climb?

Thanks!

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#55504 - 06/21/19 09:30 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Geoff]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7877
Loc: Fresno, CA
The Mountaineers Route is where Ling Dao slipped and died. He was either intentionally or mistakenly trying to descend that route. The exposure there is higher than any areas on the Main Trail.

The Mountaineers Route is best traveled the first time in good conditions with someone else who has been up it before, as it is NOT a trail, and people need to know the key places where the route goes. It is not a once-and-done "piece of cake". The snow cover at this time of year adds to the risk (currently there can be some snow-melt avalanches--was an injury last year).

On the Main Trail, the chute poses a risk, but with ice axe and crampons, it's not that bad. Or you could try the switchbacks...they might be slower, but less risky. The crest (the last 1.9 mile beyond Trail Crest) has had some steep slopes with a 6" wide boot track along them. Slipping there would be serious! Spikes are crucial along that route.

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#55505 - 06/21/19 09:33 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Geoff]
Dirk D. Offline


Registered: 06/21/19
Posts: 4
Loc: Massachusetts
Hello All! Love all of the information and feedback from the hiking community here.

The “other member of the group that wants to pursue MR” here. Can we clarify manageable to mean that it is not in fact the sheer ice wall that is envisioned by many, but in reality is a 37 degree max grade according to GPS mapping that can be accomplished safely by fit individuals exercising caution and care?

The question at hand is one of two parts. 1) degree of difficulty - while the time spent on the trail will be more difficult on a step to step comparison, the Whitney trail adds nearly 6 miles and roughly 800’ additional feet of elevation gain. All of that considered, is MR really more difficult when all is said and done? Or does it simply offer more challenge at certain moments along the way? Looking for a total sum of the route analyses. In totality, much more difficult? Comparable? Somewhat more difficult? Easier??

And 2) degree of danger - given the current state of the switchbacks and the softening of the snow in the chute, in addition to the narrow icy condition of the crest trail with significant exposure at your side at times.....would it be fair to say that whichever route you choose has inherent risk that will require caution and care? Is the 400’ of notch at 37 degrees(45-50 if you believe hiker reports, but GPS says otherwise - even 45-50 is a far cry from a vertical wall) really any more or less of a “risk” than walking trail crest or climbing the chute? I do not believe the notch has lateral exposure. Is this correct? The danger here would be a slide back down?

Appreciate the opinions and perspectives of all. But would really love feedback from someone who has done at least one, even better both, in early season conditions such as those we have now.

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#55507 - 06/21/19 09:44 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Dirk D.]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7877
Loc: Fresno, CA
Dirk, see my post immediately above yours. I can tell you are a mapping geek based on your analyses ...but you missed it on the "roughly 800’ additional feet of elevation gain". There is a 100 to 150' descent from Trail Crest to the junction with the JMT, but outside of that, there is NO place on the Main Trail that descends in any measurable amount.

Let me underscore: The MR is NOT a trail, despite what the Inyo National Forest's description reads. You NEED to know the route, where to turn at key points; snow makes this more complicated. While people get lost in the snow on the Main Trail, a good gps app can keep you on the trail pretty well. On the MR, you need to know the route. I'd encourage you to try it between late July and mid-September--that would be a good time to try it first-time. Answering your question is MR really more difficult when all is said and done? Definitely YES.

With the right equipment, people go up the MR nearly every day now, but they really need steep ice-climbing experience. The steepest sections on the Final 400 (or access to the (deadly-when-icy) Easy Walk-off) are steeper and more exposed than anything on the Main Trail. Commercial guides take groups up that way all spring, but they are always roped up. Ropes are never used on the Main Trail.


Edited by Steve C (06/21/19 09:50 AM)

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#55510 - 06/21/19 11:28 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
Dirk D. Offline


Registered: 06/21/19
Posts: 4
Loc: Massachusetts
Thanks for the quick response, Steve! So on the 800’ comes from reviewing route recordings of hikers that have done both routes as found on various websites. The general consensus is about 5,975’ for MR, 6,775’ for Whitney.

I totally agree on the route finding. It should be taken seriously, and I certainly do. I have GPS coordinates for many points along the way to log into my InReach as outlined in the Mt Whitney Hiker’s Guidebook. I also have a detailed write up that describes all of the critical junctures along the way.

I like to push limits. But I would never do so without being fully prepared and well researched.

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#55512 - 06/21/19 11:49 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Dirk D.]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7877
Loc: Fresno, CA
Dirk... Note that gps locations and elevations don't work well in the Lone Pine Creek drainage -- the GPS satellites that are low on the horizon are out of reach due to the high mountain ridges. So GPS readings can be way off.

Now, if you're determined, then go here and pick up as much info as possible: Mountaineers Route info links within... Much if the info is old--broken links, etc, but what is there is well worth reading.

A note about the MR Notch: View these two pictures from last year, May. The first one is looking eastward toward the Notch, from the Easy(deadly) walk-off. Second one is looking westward from the Notch, tracks following the walk-off. The Final 400 is immediately to the left not in the picture.
http://www.whitneyzone.com/wz/ubbthreads...tney_#Post55459

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#55513 - 06/21/19 12:03 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7877
Loc: Fresno, CA
Here's a picture of the more exposed snow sections between Trail Crest and the Summit.
Posted on FB by Josh R.

His comment:
Quote:
On 6/19 there were still 5 or so stretches where I felt crampons were required for a safe traverse. But I spent more time on dirt and rock than snow. There's also a steep snow slope when you make the final push for the summit. The snow/ice is melting fast and the trail is getting better by the day.



From Grant A:




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#55514 - 06/21/19 01:24 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
Dirk D. Offline


Registered: 06/21/19
Posts: 4
Loc: Massachusetts
Steve, thank you for this! Good info on the GPS. Not having known I might not have packed the trail book. The book also offers very detailed descriptions of junctures with landmarks, so that should be helpful. But I agree, the route finding, for me, is really the critical thing here. Your videos of the final 400 were great. They actually made me feel much more confident in my thinking that it’s not as bad(steep) as is fabled.

Ultimately I will probably be out-voted, so it will all be moot. But I’ve climbed very similar terrain with very similar grades. That part isn’t an issue for me at all. Its hard. But it’s very manageable for cautious, fit folks. It’s the altitude variable(which is present regardless of route), and it’s the route finding, which I fully acknowledge is critically important, but I feel confident we could manage with preparation and care.

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#55515 - 06/21/19 03:30 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Dirk D.]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7877
Loc: Fresno, CA
> Not having known I might not have packed the trail book.
What book are you referring to?

> Ultimately I will probably be out-voted, so it will all be moot.
If you have the experience, confidence and knowledge, then this is really sweet: Climb the MR, meet your friends at the summit (you would likely wait several hours), and then descend the Main Trail. (It would be really helpful if both parties had an InReach to text back-and-forth. Cell reception is spotty at best; FRS 2-way radios only work line-of-site.)

> It’s the altitude variable(which is present regardless of route)
Take Diamox before you start (half a 125mg tab 2x per day) starting 12 or 24 hours before you ascend above 8k. Better yet, all your group should overnight at Horseshoe Meadows 1 night then Whitney Portal the next, THEN start the climb. First timers on the MR should definitely do the Ebersbacher Ledges the day before in daylight!


Edited by Steve C (06/21/19 03:35 PM)

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#55517 - 06/22/19 05:14 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
Dirk D. Offline


Registered: 06/21/19
Posts: 4
Loc: Massachusetts
This is the book. It seems to be pretty comprehensive.

https://www.amazon.com/Mount-Whitney-Complete-Trailhead-Summit/dp/1594850429

As confident as I am that not only myself, but everyone in the group could handle it, doing it for the first time completely solo doesn’t seem like a good decision. If we don’t end up doing it this time, I’ll be back within a few years, either with a group that is comfortable with it or the same group if they eventually come around. One way or another, I will be getting it in soon.

On the ledges, we are doing this over the course of 3 days for two reasons. One, we’re coming from 3,000 miles away to do it and want to take it all in at a leisurely pace to get good photography and enjoyment along the way. And two, to acclimatize slowly, as we live at sea level.

We are spending one night prior to hitting the trail at either onion valley (12,000’) or the portal(8,000’) to begin the process of acclimatizing.

I worry about going right from sea level to staying the night at 12,000’ at Onion night one. Seems like too much, too soon, for too long to me and would seem to be asking for trouble. But again, I was outvoted. My preference was to stay further down the portal road at 6,000’ night one before hitting the trailhead the next morning.

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#55518 - 06/22/19 09:14 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Dirk D.]
Jonathan C Offline


Registered: 03/03/19
Posts: 31
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
Onion Valley campground is 9200 ft. 12k is roughly the elevation of Kearsarge pass, so maybe you're getting confused by that?

Regarding the steepness of the final 400 (which I have never done, but hope to some day soon): the best pictures I have seen of it in the snow are the ones in this thread, which sadly is about a tragic accident there a couple years ago: http://www.whitneyzone.com/wz/ubbthreads.php/ubb/showflat/Number/49640

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#55527 - 06/23/19 09:35 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
Brett Dean Offline


Registered: 03/18/13
Posts: 28
Loc: Rancho Santa Margarita, CA.
My wife and I are thinking about hiking up to Mirror Lake for a little fly fishing this week.

Quick question: How is the trail heading up to mirror lake? Is the lake still frozen?


Edited by Brett Dean (06/23/19 04:55 PM)
_________________________
How'd you know I was looking at you if you weren't looking at me?

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#55531 - 06/25/19 07:57 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Brett Dean]
bc3 Offline


Registered: 06/20/19
Posts: 2
Loc: Chicago IL
Originally Posted By: Brett Dean
My wife and I are thinking about hiking up to Mirror Lake for a little fly fishing this week.

Quick question: How is the trail heading up to mirror lake? Is the lake still frozen?


I climbed on Sunday. The trail is generally fine although there is some snow and minor route-finding necessary above Lone Pine Lake. In looking at a picture I took of the lake on my descent, I'd say maybe 1/6 of the lake had ice on it.

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#55544 - 06/26/19 03:44 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
Dagmara Offline


Registered: 06/26/19
Posts: 2
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
Summited Monday, June 24, 2019.

Firstly, there were two paths we followed interchangeably, the actual Mt Whitney trail (partly covered by snow) and the “snow trail” made by other hikers before we got there. In some cases it was safer to follow the “snow trail”.

Secondly, it was in our best interest to be at the chute by 5:00 AM PST, before the snow started to get soft. We stayed overnight at the Outpost Camp and left at 2:00 AM PST to get there before sunrise.

Thirdly, having crampons, ice axe, and a helmet were lifesaving to get through the chute. The lake at the Trail Camp was frozen, which meant we could not fill up our water reservoir. However, there were plenty of water streams on the way to the Trail Camp. I had 4L, which was enough for me and the hike from Outpost Camp to the summit and back to the camp.

Fourthly, on our way back from the summit, right at the top we followed the trail. Not recommended! It took us too far to the right, far from the snow trail we used to get to the top.

Fifthly, once we got back to the chute the fastest way to get down was to glissade (slide down), using our ice axe to slowdown. I have never done this before. It was a scary experience to say the least. Would I do it again? Yes. I would learn more about it for sure. Also, I would make sure the shirt and other layers were tucked in my pants. Otherwise, I would end up having nice snow tattoos on my belly and back, again. Gladly they are not permanent!:)

Sixthly, in order to avoid walking through many waterfalls and getting our feet wet we came down via the Old Trail, which goes from the Whitney Portal Parking lot Picnic Area and to the John Muir Wilderness sign on the trail. On the way to the Outpost Camp I walked through one of the water falls barefoot. It was very refreshing!:)

Lastly, I highly recommend for everyone who is doing this hike to stop at the Lone Pine Lake on the way in and out. Trust me, it will be worth your time!!!:)

HIKER NOTES: For only $7 one can take a shower at Mt Whitney Hostel. The price includes a towel, soap, and shampoo.
As a treat to ourselves for job well done we treated ourselves to a nice meal at Alabama Hills Bakery (they close at 3:00 PM PST). OMG their food and baked goods are absolutely mdelicious!:)
We split into two groups of three each. One group completed the trip from Outpost Camp to the top and back in 14h and the other group in 17h.

I love this mountain and hope you will find this information helpful. Have a safe and enjoyable adventure!:)

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#55545 - 06/26/19 03:49 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Dagmara]
Hobbes Offline


Registered: 03/28/14
Posts: 144
Loc: The OC
Originally Posted By: Dagmara
In order to avoid walking through many waterfalls and getting our feet wet we came down via the Old Trail, which goes from the Whitney Portal Parking lot Picnic Area and to the John Muir Wilderness sign on the trail.


Seems a lot of people are going back to taking the original hiking trail vs the newer, super long equestrian trail. Might cut off almost 1 mile?

You can see the switchbacks 50 yards to the east of the wilderness border. That is, basically parallel to the main trail between N fork and the next set of switchbacks heading up towards LP lake:

https://caltopo.com/map.html#ll=36.58663,-118.24454&z=19&b=sat&o=r&n=0.3&a=c%2Cmba

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#55546 - 06/26/19 06:48 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Hobbes]
bruce Offline


Registered: 09/27/13
Posts: 112
Loc: Novato, CA
Originally Posted By: Hobbes
Originally Posted By: Dagmara
In order to avoid walking through many waterfalls and getting our feet wet we came down via the Old Trail, which goes from the Whitney Portal Parking lot Picnic Area and to the John Muir Wilderness sign on the trail.


Seems a lot of people are going back to taking the original hiking trail vs the newer, super long equestrian trail. Might cut off almost 1 mile?



The old trail is about a half mile shorter, but it leaves you perhaps a quarter mile further from your vehicle (assuming it was parked near the equestrian trailhead). I figured I saved at most 5 minutes descending it, but it's not a very good trail and steep, so it takes more effort IMO. I prefer the mindless descent of the newer trail, particular if I'm jogging down (which I do now and ends up being faster). So the faster you descend, the less appealing the old trail is, of course except when the water crossing is too deep to not get wet (I always go in September so not an issue then).

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#55551 - 06/26/19 09:18 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: bruce]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7877
Loc: Fresno, CA
I descended the Old Trail two weeks ago, and a couple I was hiking with took the Main Trail. We agreed to keep hiking our regular pace. It takes an extra 3 minutes to walk past the store to the regular trail head. I was unloading stuff and changing at the car when they finally showed up. I was at least 10 minutes -- maybe 12 -- ahead of them.

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#55560 - 06/27/19 10:38 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Dagmara]
Wedggy Offline


Registered: 07/12/18
Posts: 5
Loc: 91387
Originally Posted By: Dagmara
Summited Monday, June 24, 2019.



HIKER NOTES: For only $7 one can take a shower at Mt Whitney Hostel. The price includes a towel, soap, and shampoo.


If it's too late you can always use the do it yourself car wash !!

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#55563 - 06/27/19 03:22 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Bensta]
jbinsb Offline


Registered: 06/27/19
Posts: 5
Loc: CA
I just spoke with the Whitney Ranger Station. The woman said that because of the work done to clear the swtchbacks, they are too dangerous and as of this moment you have to use the chutes.

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