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#55425 - 06/16/19 10:43 AM Main trail 6/9-6/12 (Darwin awards candidate)
jaym Offline


Registered: 09/10/18
Posts: 16
Loc: San Pedro
I summited Whitney with my dog Leah (Great Pyrenees/"Satellite Phone Service Dog" (post)) 6/12 on the main trail.

Third times a charm: I summited without puking using Diamox. One night camping at Horseshoe Meadows, one night Outpost Camp, 2 night Trail Camp.

I grabbed a multi-day (overnight) permit 8PM before I started the trip in the morning. So the new reservation system seems to be working well.

Some areas were snow covered and a bit confusing. The snow trails diverge from the actual trails in many spots. Just following snow tracks can get you in trouble. Confusing areas:

= Top switchbacks just below Lone Pine Lake.

= Switchbacks above Lone Pine Lake.

= On the way down, don't miss turnoff (normal trail)
to Mirror Lake and go the "Waterfall route" to Outpost Camp.
Especially, if you are just trying to get down
in the dark and have a very heavy pack!!!

= On the way down, don't accidently go down to Lone Pine Lake
and waste energy.

The Whitney Summit ridge traverse was easy even walking with a dog if you just use the rock walls on the side for handholds.

The snow is melting fast. Never had to camp on snow or melt snow for water. When in the morning the snow gets slushy varies from day to day.


Dog vs The Chute (99 Switchbacks bypass):

After practicing (self arrest/glissading) the day before above Trail Camp, I did not have much trouble going up or glissading down (soft conditions) the Chute with my dog. The equipment I used was: Animal Suspension Technology Custom Support Suit Dog Harness (a re-customized hand me down) connected to carabiner and a 10 meter 8mm climbing rope, the rope was connected to a GriGri hooked to a climbing harness I was wearing. The dog harness is really for older mobility impared dogs such as amputee dogs and not for mountain climbing. I noticed it caused chafing on the front straps on Leah (but it was "hacked" and was not originally customized for her). If I used the harness again, I would put plush seat belt cover pads on the chafing straps. But the harness is fully padded and thus is very heavy (packed weight) so a Ruffwear DoubleBack Harness is probably more approprate for climbing and a lot lighter.

I used "Mushers Secret" on her paws and experimented with her expensive dog shoes with attachable ice cleats. I found that the dog shoes gripped the ice and snow worse than her paws and her crampon's/cleat's metal points were not long enough to give a good grip on crunchy snow. Furthermore, the attachment of the cleats to the shoes was not up to the rigors of Whitney's Chute. The shoes went back into my pack.

Darwin award candidate stuff:

Mistake #1: I should have stayed at Trail Camp for another night and went down at the crack of dawn. Instead I started down too late and it eventually got dark. Leah needed a nap after her summit and I take forever packing up camp (my backpack is at its limit). Both Leah and I even had tons of food left.

Mistake #2: I bought a forearm smartphone holder so as to theoretically use my smartphone as smartwatch. Well the piece of ****'s velcro is garbage and the vecro straps popped off at least 20 times during this trip. I became enraged and put it in my pack. After my summit, I proceded to drop my unprotected smartphone on a rock in Trail Camp, cracking the screen. Because it was not on my wrist I was not watching the GaiaGPS map when marching down from Trail Camp leading to mistake #3.

Mistake #3: I missed the turnoff to the real trail to Mirror Lake. It was dark. Most of the footprints seem to be going to the Outpost Camp Waterfall route.

Mistake #4: I did not turn around and go back to the turnoff. But there were so many footprints going my route! I was so tired and I didn't want go back up. Plus, this is the way I was tempted to go up in the first place, but was too conservative.

Mistake #5: I did not get out my ice axe and stow my trekking pole. Note getting my 50+ lbs monstrocity pack on and off is a major pain especially because my "backpacking muscle strength" is very low.

Now you can guess what happens...

Well, I slipped on the steep section above the plateau at the top of waterfall and started an uncontrolled glissade (poor Leah being pulled down with me). My addled brain looked incomprehensibly at the stupid trekking pole in my hand. Where's my ice axe???? It was on my backpack.

Eventually, I was smacked up against a side wall of rock which helped me stop and I found myself upside down on a steep slope clinging to the rock attached to a pack which my "babyman muscles" could barely manage on flat ground. Leah had followed me down as I was holding her leash (having long removed her harness). Luckily she had found a nice flat spot above me.

The first thing I did was stablize my position. I wedged my legs down into the crack between the snow and the wall.

Then Mr Diamox came calling with the uncontrollable urge to urinate. I proceeded to soak my running shorts. "Oh the humanity!".

Releaving myself, I then proceded to get the evil monstrocity backpack off my back and retrieve my trusty ice axe. My ice axe had tip protectors which I fumbled one out two down into the crack. I used my trekking pole to help anchor my pack, but once I got my ice axe I threw it down the slope to retrieve later.

Of course, my backpack's pocket ejectors spit out my Nalgene bottles during the fall and they settled a bit down along the wall. I retrieved them. There was 2-3 items of other people's equipment lost in the same place. This is probably why my mountaineering class instructor hates putting stuff in backpack pockets.

I then proceded to shepherd the bloated pack down the slope, kicking steps with my mountaineering boots and using my ice axe. Going down I saw a cool cave/hole going down 20 feet into the rock, I avoided it as without my backpack I was now skinny enough to fall down it.

Making it down to safety, I had a problem. Leah was still up there on her flat spot observing me but too scared to move. I thus proceded to to climb up there and kicked her some sideways traverse "roads" to safety. We proceded to the bottom to my pack and we continued.

After going over the snow bridge at the top of the waterfall (very cool! and instant death if you slip!), we came to the slope I was tempted to go up out of Outpost Camp. I said, "What the hell" and glisaded down with Leah in my small nylon running shorts.

I was pretty exhausted by this time, and continued down slowly to the Portal, this time with now beloved ice axe in hand. I dropped my nice BD Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking pole somewhere but was too traumatized to go back to look for it (Mistake #6: Not stowing gear you are not using).

Well thats my report and tale of stupidity.



Edited by jaym (06/16/19 10:51 AM)

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#55428 - 06/16/19 12:32 PM Re: Main trail 6/9-6/12 (Darwin awards candidate) [Re: jaym]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7834
Loc: Fresno, CA
Wow, Jaym. At least there isn't a missing person/dog report out for you.

Really glad you made it home safely.

And thank you much for writing about your mis-adventure. People will learn from it.

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#55445 - 06/17/19 01:39 PM Re: Main trail 6/9-6/12 (Darwin awards candidate) [Re: jaym]
Hman Offline


Registered: 06/17/19
Posts: 2
Loc: Flagstaff,AZ
I already learned some hard lessons following a "Lemming Trail" and got in deeper and deeper until I was almost in over my head.

Lesson learned is once you know you're off track, take your medicine and go back, secondly, I hike with a Garmin and use Gaia on my tel as a back up.

Two buddies and I are hiking the standard route from June 27-30.

We're packing crampons and ice axes.

This will be our first attempt at Whitney and I cannot thank all the contributors to this site enough for all the tips and trail reports.

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#55457 - 06/19/19 07:45 AM Re: Main trail 6/9-6/12 (Darwin awards candidate) [Re: jaym]
MikeH Offline


Registered: 04/05/18
Posts: 33
Loc: Escondido, CA
What a story!

As someone who hikes with a dog, I can't imagine the stress of going through what you went through with the addition of caring for the dog. Of course, usually, the dog is looking at you like "you want me to bound down this slope and wait for you?".. while you're holding on to a rock. smile

Thanks for sharing.

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