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#56659 - 02/11/20 12:02 PM Mt Whitney Mountaineers Trail---First Time Help
rralston3 Offline


Registered: 02/11/20
Posts: 7
Loc: TX
Hey All,

I and 3 other friends are planning to hike Mt. Whitney via the Mountaineers route in June this year. While we have never Mountanieered before, we do have plenty of experience backpacking. Our most recent trip was Teton Crest Trail which offered decent altitude (compared to sea level where we live) and steep terrain.

I wanted to ask for general advice and guidance on how we can best prepare for this trip, and make sound decisions while on the trip.

Here is our Itinerary:

Day 1: Fly into LAX, drive to the sierras, sleep at Whitney Portal
Day 2: Perform day hike to get as high as we can, return and sleep at Whitney Portal (any recommended routes for this??)
Day 3: Hike from Whitney Portal to Iceberg Lake, sleep at Iceberg Lake, Practice using crampons and ice ax near Ice burg lake. Practice climbing with crampons and Ice Axe.
Day 4: Wake at 4:30 am, Summit Mt. Whitney, go to Consultation lake, sleep at Consultation lake.
Day 5: Hike out, Fly home.

Questions:
1. We have not used crampons or Ice ax before, and some people make this route sound like you're going to die if you haven't climbed everest before. However, I've seen plenty of people hike this in shorts and minimal gear. Even people I would say are not "in shape" Aside from the altitude problem, how hard is it really? How should we best prepare besides running and doing stairs?

2. Any recommended sources of maps or other trail information for this route? I've found a few good things online already.

3. Any recommended day hikes for Day 2 of our trip? The goal of this is to "hike high sleep low" to help aclimate to altitude.

4. Can you recommend any good reading sources for learning to navigate snowfileds and class 3 climbes like this one? Unfortunately taking a class or training trip before this is not an option, so I'm doing as much research as possible, and if we get up there and don't summit, so be it, that is a goal, bu I also want to come home smile


Thanks!

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#56661 - 02/11/20 06:32 PM Re: Mt Whitney Mountaineers Trail---First Time Help [Re: rralston3]
WanderingJim Offline


Registered: 02/09/15
Posts: 301
Loc: California
One note:

If you're descending down via Consultation Lake, that means going down the switchbacks.

So what are you doing with your camping gear? Taking it up to the summit with you or figuring on going back to Iceberg lake after returning near the Portal?
There is no easy way to get back to Iceberg Lake from Consultation Lake.

Taking full gear up the Mountaineer's Route will be challenging, especially if you haven't done similar climbs with full gear.
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#56662 - 02/11/20 07:16 PM Re: Mt Whitney Mountaineers Trail---First Time Help [Re: rralston3]
fit2climb Offline


Registered: 05/25/16
Posts: 11
Loc: California
Horseshoe Meadows would be a great place for you and your group to acclimate and great for a day hike. You could hike up to Cottonwood Pass or even up to Trail Peak. Not too far from Whitney portal. There are many posts on here regarding horseshoe meadows. Make sure you find out an=bout road conditions first before going up.
As for the crampons and ice axe, I would advise to way more practice with both before you go up the MR. It's a steep ascent and can be icy in parts - depending on snow conditions in June.

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#56663 - 02/11/20 07:19 PM Re: Mt Whitney Mountaineers Trail---First Time Help [Re: WanderingJim]
rralston3 Offline


Registered: 02/11/20
Posts: 7
Loc: TX
Our plan is to hike up to the summit from Iceberg Lake, then go down the regular trail via the switchbacks and stop at Consultation Lake for the 2nd night, then wake up and hike out continuing down from there. Not returning to Iceberg lake.

The plan is to carry full gear up the Mountaineer's Route, but if that is a horrible idea I suppose we could consider going back to Iceberg lake, I just didn't like the idea of trying to descend that route.

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#56664 - 02/11/20 07:25 PM Re: Mt Whitney Mountaineers Trail---First Time Help [Re: fit2climb]
rralston3 Offline


Registered: 02/11/20
Posts: 7
Loc: TX
Thanks for the advice!

I agree, more practice with crampons and ice axe would be best. Just not sure how to get that practice before we go. My thought was we could try and practice a bit during our day hike, and if we felt pretty comfortable at the end of that day then we could try pursuing it, but if not then forgo the summit or take the regular trail up.

When you say practice, do you mean really just put in some time walking with the crampons? Or also practicing self-arrest with an ice axe? I've seen training videos of self-arrest with ice axe, but the instructions were not to wear crampons..... which you would have on during a real fall presumably. (I know it's so that they don't catch, but seams like you would want to practice the real deal)

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#56666 - 02/11/20 09:07 PM Re: Mt Whitney Mountaineers Trail---First Time Help [Re: rralston3]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7996
Loc: Fresno, CA
It's looking like a low snow year, so you may not encounter much ice or snow, even in June.

Your bigger issue is obtaining the permits. To go up the North Fork Lone Pine Creek and spend the night, you need an overnight wilderness permit. For that route, there are only 6 per day available exactly 6 months in advance of your start date. Probably already reserved, on recreation.gov. There are sometimes no-shows, that can be had at 10 AM to start up the same day. Also 4 slots are available the day before -- there's a drawing of numbers out of a hat to see who gets to the counter first at the Visitor Center a mile south of Lone Pine. Those may be your best chance. (not sure what time that drawing is, you should call to find out).

And then it gets worse... If you DO summit, and then exit via the Main Trail, you also need a Trail Crest Exit Permit. I am sure they are already gobbled up, since people coming from trailheads farther away get 7-days advance choice on them. There are 25 slots of the exit permits, 40% held back, but again, people coming from farther north get those first, too. Really sorry to bear such bad news.

Using crampons is not rocket science. Just make sure you put them on tight, so they can't work their way loose if you try walking sideways across a slope. The ice axe on that route... if you're anywhere that you might slip, it's going to be planted in the snow/ice up above you. If your crampons break loose, you'll need to hang on like crazy. The snow/ice slope will be so rough in June that you won't have much chance to self-arrest. Just make sure you plant the axe and crampons so they won't slip.

I've hauled overnight gear up the MR twice to sleep on the summit. It's fun, but on short trips, you usually have a rough night due to the altitude issues, and can't wait to exit next morning.

So... if you still plan on coming on your trip with the permit uncertainties, you might want to think about having a Plan B, such as hiking in from Horseshoe Meadows, and climbing Mt Langley just a few miles to the south. It's mostly a trail all the way, so a lot less mountaineering, but will surely give you the high-altitude experience. You also need overnight wilderness permits for that, but not nearly as hard to get.

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#56668 - 02/12/20 06:21 AM Re: Mt Whitney Mountaineers Trail---First Time Help [Re: Steve C]
rralston3 Offline


Registered: 02/11/20
Posts: 7
Loc: TX
Thanks!

I already purchased the permit for the MR route, and in the itinerary included that we were staying at Consultation Lake, I was assuming that since it let me select Consultation Lake as a camping spot our second night my permit covered it. Seems really dumb to have to get a second permit, How is that enforced anyway?


I went ahead and entered the lottery too....


Edited by rralston3 (02/12/20 06:42 AM)

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#56669 - 02/12/20 08:30 AM Re: Mt Whitney Mountaineers Trail---First Time Help [Re: rralston3]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7996
Loc: Fresno, CA
Yeah, I know it's crazy, but Mt Whitney is the most visited mountain in the Sierra except Half Dome in Yosemite, which has dayhike quotas, too. People were booking hikes from the north and south and exiting via the Main Trail, so they set a limit on the numbers -- 25 exit permits a day.

When you booked the permit, you should have started with the "exiting Mt Whitney" option. That would have set you up to enter on the North Fork, and then get the second permits to exit. When you stop in to pick up your permit, you can ask if there are any no-show or walk-in Exit permits available. Ask about day before and day after your planned exit as well (those are usually ok with rangers). You might get lucky.

Permits are checked regularly, but not everyone is checked. With the permit you have, you are set to camp first night as you indicated, and then you can go up and come back down the Mountaineers Route. Actually 99% of people using the MR do just that. The descent really isn't that bad.

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#56672 - 02/12/20 06:55 PM Re: Mt Whitney Mountaineers Trail---First Time Help [Re: Steve C]
rralston3 Offline


Registered: 02/11/20
Posts: 7
Loc: TX
Ok great, thanks so much for the help!

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#56673 - 02/12/20 08:47 PM Re: Mt Whitney Mountaineers Trail---First Time Help [Re: rralston3]
MalibuMike Offline


Registered: 07/18/19
Posts: 4
Loc: Malibu
I would say this is not a trip to do if you only have backpacking experience. I did the MR last year and I could not have done it without the guides we hired.
The snow chute up from Iceberg wasn't too bad but the final climb on the rocks would be outright daunting if I didn't have someone showing me how to go up or down. I posted a story about it last year if you search my posts. Lots of details about how gnarly it was!

My opinion would be to first have someone show you how to safely do the MR then do it again on your own if you felt confident enough.

Even with doing it last year with a guide, I wouldn't do it again without a guide because I really didnt learn enough to do it on my own. Maybe my next trip with a guide will involve learning a bit more about rope and knot skills and how to deal with members of the group who a dropping like flies from AMS.

http://www.whitneyzone.com/wz/ubbthreads.php/topics/55759/Tuesday_July_16_Mountaineer_Ro#Post55759


Edited by MalibuMike (02/12/20 08:47 PM)

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#56675 - 02/13/20 06:37 AM Re: Mt Whitney Mountaineers Trail---First Time Help [Re: MalibuMike]
rralston3 Offline


Registered: 02/11/20
Posts: 7
Loc: TX
Thanks! Great writeup and nice pictures.

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#56676 - 02/13/20 07:12 AM Re: Mt Whitney Mountaineers Trail---First Time Help [Re: rralston3]
Bob West Offline


Registered: 11/13/09
Posts: 857
Loc: Bishop, CA, USA
As a former local mountain rescue troop, I firmly tell you not to do this with your limited experience. It would be far better for you to do this with an experienced guide who has done the MR.

Check out this video of experienced climbers doing the MR.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJ9oAGllI7Q

Can you do this?

Do the regular trail instead. This would give you a better idea how you will perform at 14,000.

Don't let ambition cloud your judgement.


Edited by Bob West (02/13/20 07:21 AM)

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#56677 - 02/13/20 07:32 AM Re: Mt Whitney Mountaineers Trail---First Time Help [Re: Bob West]
rralston3 Offline


Registered: 02/11/20
Posts: 7
Loc: TX
Physically speaking? yes, I can do that. I've done half-ironman triathlons and enjoy long physical workouts.

The altitude will certainly be a challenge, but that's why we are trying to do a day hike and two nights at altitude before starting the trail; if I feel bad I'll just turn around. I would like to summit, but not so badly that I wouldn't turn around if I was feeling nauseous. The climbing at the end does not look bad, but obviously the consequences of a fall are high. That being said, I'm totally ok turning around. I want to be challenged and have fun, summiting is a tertiary goal.

I'll look into the guide, and really would love to hire one, but I'm guessing it would be expensive. Thanks for your input though, I agree it is better to err on the side of caution with this type of endeavor

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#56678 - 02/13/20 08:02 AM Re: Mt Whitney Mountaineers Trail---First Time Help [Re: rralston3]
Bob West Offline


Registered: 11/13/09
Posts: 857
Loc: Bishop, CA, USA
Here is a good local guide service:

https://www.sierramountaincenter.com/tours/mt-whitney-the-mountaineers-route/

Yes, it is expensive, but how much is your life worth?

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#56711 - 02/25/20 07:48 PM Re: Mt Whitney Mountaineers Trail---First Time Help [Re: rralston3]
Anton Online


Registered: 08/02/17
Posts: 41
Loc: San Diego
I would take Bob's advice very seriously. Trying MR with no mountaineering experience and no knowledge of the approach/route is a bad idea. There are at least two places where you cannot fall (meaning that a fall would be fatal). Good physical fitness will not help route finding and navigating sections where basic mountaineering skills are essential for safe travel.


Edited by Anton (02/25/20 07:51 PM)

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#56745 - 03/04/20 12:42 PM Re: Mt Whitney Mountaineers Trail---First Time Help [Re: rralston3]
terraelise Offline


Registered: 06/29/17
Posts: 31
Loc: CA
Please take the advice of the last few posts! Based on your comment "we have never Mountanieered before" and "we have not used crampons or Ice ax before" I cannot understand why you'd think yourselves capable of starting with Whitney. Please, for your life and the lives of rescue personnel, do not attempt this route with your current experience level. <3
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