Mt Whitney Webcam
Mt Williamson Webcam
Feature Topics
Who's Online
0 registered (), 3 Guests and 5 Spiders online.
Key: Admin, Global Mod, Mod
Forum Stats
4041 Members
10 Forums
5865 Topics
52684 Posts

Max Online: 1443 @ 07/29/19 08:40 AM
Page 1 of 2 1 2 >
Topic Options
#56665 - 02/11/20 08:17 PM Presidents Day Weekend Summit Attempt
123Zero Offline


Registered: 04/21/19
Posts: 10
Loc: Nor Cal
My buddy and I are going for it via Mountaineer's Route during the nice weather window. I was up there in early April last year during winter conditions and took the regular route to summit. Was ok (weather got dicey during a squall, but otherwise ideal). Has anyone been up past Whitney Portal recently?

Intel from the rangers is that the road is closed all the way down to that first parking lot, but snow doesn't start until just before Whitney Portal. Coincidentally, I was just at a local water board meeting at my county and they gave a drought forecast for flood planning. California snow-pack is at 38% of the April average (when snowpack is officially measured by the state) as of this week, with 58% of total snow falling by this time of year on average. So unless there's a lot of storms over next two months we're heading for another dry year, and a minor drought in Northern part of state.

Sort of tempted to rent a scooter or something and ride it up the road to save time and energy.

Anyway, pardon my digression. If anyone has some recent beta on conditions that they'd like to share it would be much appreciated!


Edited by 123Zero (02/11/20 08:23 PM)

Top
#56667 - 02/11/20 09:19 PM Re: Presidents Day Weekend Summit Attempt [Re: 123Zero]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7979
Loc: Fresno, CA
Hi 123Z, Nice report from last year. As you can see there just aren't many people reporting things.

Mostly guided groups go up the MR this time of year, so I hope you at least find a packed path in the snow. It's sure a bummer that they lock the gate in winter now. Up until a few years ago, they put a road closed sign that people would drive around and drive up as far as they could.

If you get up there, please do make a report. If you send me pictures, I'll post them. Good luck!

Top
#56671 - 02/12/20 02:45 PM Re: Presidents Day Weekend Summit Attempt [Re: Steve C]
123Zero Offline


Registered: 04/21/19
Posts: 10
Loc: Nor Cal
No problem.
I just called up High Elevation in Lone Pine. He said that a few large parties went up the MR last weekend. Conditions tended to be icy due to cold temps. At least one party made it up w/out snow shoes, just crampons and axes. More importantly, there is only a soft road closure, so the bottom gate is apparently open this year. Last year it was closed until lottery season began. That's a huge difference; a ranger told me the snow is melted up to near Whitney Portal, which means the hike to the trailhead is probably not too bad (depending on rockfall and ice of course).

Can anyone verify that there is a soft closure? Yesterday I called the Inyo ranger station and a woman there made it sound like the gate is closed, but she admitted she was "sitting in a cubicle all day so I haven't been up there."

I'm tempted to trust the outfitter more, but always good to verify.

Top
#56674 - 02/12/20 09:10 PM Re: Presidents Day Weekend Summit Attempt [Re: 123Zero]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7979
Loc: Fresno, CA
Pictures I saw from a month ago was hard closure. Maybe Inyo County roads dept has a heart. You could call them yourself: 760-878-0202. But again, you'll talk to a person who sits behind a desk all day.

This picture is from a month ago. Soft closure lower down, then a locked gate farther up. The upper gate is about a mile from the Portal.






Top
#56680 - 02/13/20 06:43 PM Re: Presidents Day Weekend Summit Attempt [Re: 123Zero]
Pert Offline


Registered: 02/13/20
Posts: 2
Loc: AR
Good to know I won’t be the only one up there on Presidents’ Day. Well likely to try and summit the day after. If you hear anymore details on conditions let us know.

Top
#56681 - 02/14/20 03:46 PM Re: Presidents Day Weekend Summit Attempt [Re: 123Zero]
Pert Offline


Registered: 02/13/20
Posts: 2
Loc: AR
Are ropes a must on the MR?

Top
#56682 - 02/14/20 08:50 PM Re: Presidents Day Weekend Summit Attempt [Re: Pert]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7979
Loc: Fresno, CA
All the guiding services use them. Many private groups don't.

Top
#56683 - 02/16/20 02:03 AM Re: Presidents Day Weekend Summit Attempt [Re: Pert]
123Zero Offline


Registered: 04/21/19
Posts: 10
Loc: Nor Cal
Update on conditions.

My climbing partner and I headed up from the gate shown in the picture above (about 1 mile from trailhead) on Thursday. Lots of debris and ice in the road, so watch out! One other car when we arrived Thursday night. When we returned this afternoon (late Saturday) there were over one dozen vehicles park along the road near the gate.

Snow starts on road just after the last gate, continuing almost to summit via Mountaineers Route, with a few bare patches over first 1/2 mile from trailhead. There are still snow bridges in the gully below LBS, so ledges can be skipped. Received report from a hiker on Thursday that Ledges were icy when he took them. On way back down Saturday afternoon (today), saw a small avalanche scar that had released from the wall below the right hand side of the gully, well below Ledges start, that covered the hiking trail that we'd gone up Friday. Enough snow to injure or kill, it must have fallen from the cliff above it. About 20' wide. My guess is that it fell during the very warm afternoon temperatures. Highly recommend hiking up Gully in the morning, as snow is very firm. During afternoon hike down everything seemed to be collapsing.

Snowpack is very low, lots of exposed rocks through entire Mountaineers Route. Temperatures were warm during day, cold at night. Melt/freeze cycles in obvious effect. Some icy sections throughout but all could be avoided. Plentiful running water, including an easy-acces stream just below UBS.

Couloir has variable conditions. In some places the footprints make it like climbing steps, and ice axes easily slide in. In other sections the snow is so firm that technique must be used to stand on it, and ice axes unable to penetrate more than an inch (if at all). Definitely know what you are doing with crampons/axe when heading up the couloir. A fall would likely be fatal, and in some spots an ace would probably not dig in.

Lots of debris/rock fall in couloir. There is an obvious fall zone halfway up that should be moved through quickly. My climbing partner was almost hit by a softball-sized chunk of rock that he managed to dodge. I had a piece of ice almost knock my trekking pole out of my hand.

Final 150-200m of couloir is bare. On left is scree field. On right is relatively clean rock that is about 8 feet above the level of the scree field. Head up the left side of the clean rock about 30 meters past end of couloir snowfield to find an opening that allows you to get up onto the rock. The scree field is hard to go up, and is very dangerous to climbers below.

Class three/four route to summit from the Notch has an icy start. I climbed about 1/2 way up from the Notch, but partner wasn't feeling the ice at the start so we bailed. It'll be there next time. Observed two other climbers above us roping up the steep snow field just below the summit. I'd recommend bringing a rope and some pro for this section unless you feel really confident scrambling on mixed ice and rock, and steep snow.

The class two traverse to gain the summit ridge is thin, dangerous looking snow over top of hard white ice. Looks suicidal to attempt it. Class 3/4 to summit is only real option.

Beginning our return around 11 AM, we found the couloir much too solid to glissade. Most of the route is in the shade all day, so not really surprising. Climbing down almost as hard as climbing up, because feet harder to find.

Over all, great conditions, great weather, but icy on the final 400.

Top
#56684 - 02/16/20 07:51 AM Re: Presidents Day Weekend Summit Attempt [Re: 123Zero]
MikeH Offline


Registered: 04/05/18
Posts: 66
Loc: Escondido, CA
Great report! Thanks for taking the time to type this out. Not having the experience or training, I definitely would never attempt this type of trip but it's nice to read about it from those who do.

Top
#56688 - 02/17/20 04:55 AM Re: Presidents Day Weekend Summit Attempt [Re: 123Zero]
Graham Offline


Registered: 01/22/20
Posts: 2
Loc: Connecticut
Thanks so much for the write-up 123Zero. Few quick questions for you or anyone else:

- How risky did it feel going up the final 400? My partner and i plan to rope up together and maybe bring some pickets. I am just wondering how bad it had to be for your climbing partner to bail.

- Are there good opportunities coming down the final 400 to set up a rope for a handrail or rappel? I'm guessing there's some exposed rocks that would be suitable for that but wanted to get your take given the snow conditions.

- For the icy parts on final 400, is it icy snow where you can still get some stick with your cramps/ice axe or is it hard ice?

Thanks so much!

Top
#56690 - 02/17/20 10:06 AM Re: Presidents Day Weekend Summit Attempt [Re: 123Zero]
BFR Offline


Registered: 04/07/16
Posts: 145
Loc: Santa Monica, CA
Originally Posted By: 123Zero

The class two traverse to gain the summit ridge is thin, dangerous looking snow over top of hard white ice. Looks suicidal to attempt it. Class 3/4 to summit is only real option.


I am going to reiterate again to all who climb the MR that the traverse from the notch is a never an easy walk off, and in the winter may as well be class 5.
_________________________
Strava, IG

Top
#56691 - 02/17/20 08:09 PM Re: Presidents Day Weekend Summit Attempt [Re: BFR]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7979
Loc: Fresno, CA
This was posted on FB. The picture and the climber's narrative made it look and sound way less daunting than it really is. While the "traverse" from the Notch may be called the "easy walk-off" during summer, it can be deadly with ice and snow.



Top
#56692 - 02/17/20 09:41 PM Re: Presidents Day Weekend Summit Attempt [Re: Graham]
123Zero Offline


Registered: 04/21/19
Posts: 10
Loc: Nor Cal
I only went about half way up the final 400, above the notch, so take this for what it's worth. And, conditions will have changed already.

But that said...
It's mostly rock from 150' or so below the notch, so you can leave the snow picket. And above the Notch there are plenty of bare, dry cracks that can be used for gear placement. You'd only need a light alpine rack to protect it well. It's only Class 3, but....

The first move to get onto the "final 400 feet" is on a corner. The move requires you to turn left around the corner. The ground right in front of that corner is slick, compacted snow, almost ice, and leads down a slope to a cliff. Definitely no-fall territory. The first move from that spot is Class 4; you have to sort of hug a tiny, icy arete and drag your way up it, and I recommend taking your gloves off to make it. The ice is thin, and the obvious footholds are filled with crunchy snow. It isn't that hard a move; if it wasn't above a potential cliff fall you wouldn't think twice about it, but the cliff makes you think. I had crampons on and it was easy enough.

Above that first move there are a series of steps, each about two to four feet high that are exactly Class 3. Like the Mid Palisade chute; pretty easy with no serious exposure. Some snow, not much ice, honestly. Wasn't bad.

Above those steps there is a 4th Class route to the left (I didn't get close enough to get good eyes on it) and a Class 3 route to the right.

Check out this website for an excellent set of pictures of the route: Mountaineers Route

The Class 3 route to the right is now covered entirely in steep snow; a party above me had roped up and the leader went up with two ice axes. I've seen youtube videos of guys doing it with axe and trekking pole, which is how I was outfitted. But my partner wasn't feeling it after he slipped on that first move, so we decided to head back instead of splitting the party up.

All that said, the final 400 is definitely protectable with a light alpine rack and a 30m rope. If you've got some alpine experience you might not even feel that it's necessary. But since conditions aren't knowable until you're there, I'd take a rack. Most importantly for rapping if it comes to that. I was able to get down the steps by sitting on my butt and pushing off each step, then down-climbing the last move with my crampons on. But next time I'm definitely taking a rope.

The traverse is absolutely not an option right now unless you've got some ice climbing experience. You'd have to traverse across hard, white ice on a cliff-side. Definitely the hard way to go. Also, the picture at the link which shows the traverse route was taken from very far away, and the depth of focus hides just how far the traverse takes you. It's hundred meters or more.

Top
#56693 - 02/17/20 09:43 PM Re: Presidents Day Weekend Summit Attempt [Re: Steve C]
123Zero Offline


Registered: 04/21/19
Posts: 10
Loc: Nor Cal
It's way steeper than that picture makes it look. If you fall and don't arrest you'd probably die, or else get really badly injured. The couloir is also a bowling alley; rocks and ice were coming down the entire time we were on it; the top of the couloir is a base scree-field filled with rocks ranging in size from your fist to a car.

Top
#56694 - 02/18/20 07:14 AM Re: Presidents Day Weekend Summit Attempt [Re: 123Zero]
Graham Offline


Registered: 01/22/20
Posts: 2
Loc: Connecticut
Thanks so much for the detailed reply, 123Zero, and everyone else for your input as well. Our plan is to attempt MR route and if a summit is not in the cards, retry on the main trail after restocking food. I will let you all know how our trip goes next week. We're watching the weather and waiting for a good window between 2/24 and 3/3.

Top
#56695 - 02/19/20 09:34 AM Re: Presidents Day Weekend Summit Attempt [Re: Graham]
sapere-incipe Offline


Registered: 02/19/20
Posts: 2
Loc: OH
Hi Graham,

Looking forward to hearing how your trip goes. I'll be attempting on 3/9 with friends and would appreciate your report.

-A


Edited by sapere-incipe (02/19/20 09:34 AM)

Top
#56696 - 02/19/20 09:46 PM Re: Presidents Day Weekend Summit Attempt [Re: Graham]
123Zero Offline


Registered: 04/21/19
Posts: 10
Loc: Nor Cal
Originally Posted By: Graham
Thanks so much for the detailed reply, 123Zero, and everyone else for your input as well. Our plan is to attempt MR route and if a summit is not in the cards, retry on the main trail after restocking food. I will let you all know how our trip goes next week. We're watching the weather and waiting for a good window between 2/24 and 3/3.


Just keep in mind that they're calling for ten inches of new snow this coming weekend. That will change things up a bit.


Edited by 123Zero (02/19/20 11:50 PM)

Top
#56697 - 02/19/20 09:54 PM Re: Presidents Day Weekend Summit Attempt [Re: 123Zero]
123Zero Offline


Registered: 04/21/19
Posts: 10
Loc: Nor Cal
Believe it or not, the Mountaineer's Route is easier and much more fun than the regular route in winter conditions. I summited via the regular route last April, right before the lottery season opened (check out my profile history for my trip report). It was a record snow year and it was full-on winter conditions at the time. In winter I'd argue that it is more dangerous than the Mountaineer's Route.

What makes it more dangerous is the John Muir trail section. In summer it's a sidewalk hike from above the switchbacks to the summit. In winter, the trail can be covered with snow. Last year my partners and I had to cross more than two dozen snow barriers including some as high as fifteen feet, through no-falls zones, in order to reach the summit. You're also further from help on the standard route, if something does go wrong.


Edited by 123Zero (02/19/20 11:47 PM)

Top
#56699 - 02/20/20 08:17 AM Re: Presidents Day Weekend Summit Attempt [Re: sapere-incipe]
Leon Offline


Registered: 06/08/19
Posts: 7
Loc: California
Maybe Ill see you out there Party of two going for Whitney MR....I hope we can still avoid the Ledges

insta : hikingartistadventure

Top
#56700 - 02/20/20 08:25 AM Re: Presidents Day Weekend Summit Attempt [Re: 123Zero]
Leon Offline


Registered: 06/08/19
Posts: 7
Loc: California
can you explain this Gully to me I can picture I've never skipped the ledges before so I am trying to picture what you talking about

any pictures? you can email me

Top
Page 1 of 2 1 2 >