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Chute vs switchbacks
#59927 03/25/23 08:43 AM
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I plan on climbing Whitney early in the season (May 9th). Are the switchbacks closed when there is a heavy snowfall? Or are they inaccessible? It seems as though the chute is a more suitable option in a heavy snow. I just want to make sure before I cross out the switchbacks entirely from my planning.

Thank you!

Re: Chute vs switchbacks
joelcrates #59929 03/26/23 10:18 PM
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Nobody "closes" the switchbacks. With your early date, the switchbacks will just be a deep snow slog, adding extra distance and labor to your climb. Also, the cables section will have so much snow at such a steep angle, that it would be safer to take the chute. And also, others will be taking the chute, so there should be something of a track to follow.

Re: Chute vs switchbacks
joelcrates #59935 04/03/23 09:33 AM
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We also have an early date June 17, also the first time climbing Whitney.
Comfortable with Crampons and an Ice Axe.

With the heavy snow base this year are there any other route changes?
Any areas that become significantly more sketchy?

I think higher up there is a section called the narrows.
With more snow does this become too hectic?

Thanks!

Re: Chute vs switchbacks
intownrunner #59936 04/04/23 09:35 PM
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Originally Posted by intownrunner
With the heavy snow base this year are there any other route changes?
Any areas that become significantly more sketchy?

I think higher up there is a section called the narrows.
In June, you will likely skip the trail and follow Lone Pine Creek after you climb above Mirror Lake, on the route to Trail Camp.

Never heard of the Narrows -- that's in Zion. ;-)

The most "sketchy" part would be glissading down the chute when it's too icy, or not knowing how to brake correctly with your ice axe.

Understand that the Chute will ice up in the afternoon after the sun shadow falls over that area, making it worse.

Re: Chute vs switchbacks
intownrunner #59937 04/05/23 09:29 PM
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When I went on about June 20th in a very heavy snow year, after getting up the Chute, the trail from Trail Crest to the summit was mostly clear of snow. However there were a number of patches of snow and ice that would be 100-200 feet long or so with fairly steep drops off the side. Not wanting to put crampons back on and off for every patch, we did these sections without any kind of traction which felt a bit sketchy, especially when you are already a little lightheaded from the altitude. Mabey those are what someone was calling "Narrows".

Re: Chute vs switchbacks
intownrunner #59967 04/28/23 04:01 AM
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You and me both. Heading there from GA and planning to summit on the 17th. Have a pass for 16-18.

Curious if I can get away with micro spikes and an axe or need to go full crampons.

Re: Chute vs switchbacks
frankthevi #59971 04/28/23 01:19 PM
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Microspikes are intended for walking around your neighborhood, they are NOT suitable for mountaineering. You will want and need full crampons.

Re: Chute vs switchbacks
tif #59974 04/29/23 05:11 PM
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I agree.

When I climbed Whitney, years ago, it was April of a moderate snow year. I used "the chute," and I was very grateful to have full crampons. It wasn't really scary. Proper foot-fangs is what made it okay.

Black Diamond makes a model called a "Contact Strap Crampon" which can be used with ordinary hiking boots. I have a pair of Grivels with a similar design. Each feet has ten points, and it works well.

I would recommend staying away from models made of aluminum. Aluminum is softer than steel, and thus it's more easily damaged. I also own a pair of Salewa aluminum crampons, and they're great on steep snow, but I worry about damaging them. In mixed terrain, where occasionally you have to cross a small patch of jumbled rocks, a pair of steel crampons is just better. They can take the abuse.

I also recommend getting an ice axe. With a leash. A length of paracord is better than nothing.

Re: Chute vs switchbacks
Pencil Strength #59977 04/29/23 05:46 PM
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Appreciate the feed back. Yes, I was planning on getting the ice axe as well. Have decided to go crampons given the feedback here. Hopefully weather lightens up a bit before our ascent, but not counting on it.

Re: Chute vs switchbacks
intownrunner #59978 04/29/23 06:12 PM
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you and I will be on the same flight out I bet!

Re: Chute vs switchbacks
frankthevi #59988 05/02/23 09:03 AM
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Successful MWMT summit 4.24.23. West side of mountain very sketchy, about 8 areas where snow slopes are major concern and traversing without crampons, ice axe, and preferably roped up (as we were) would be highly unadvisable. Last 500 vertical feet is a ice/snow dome. Very slow slow going as well, we descended the chute in the shade (highly unadvisable) due to post holing and general slow going. Snow conditions change EXTREMELY rapidly, and timing becomes even more critical. Soft snow that can be glissaded/plunged stepped can become covered with a sheet of ice in just a few minutes. Ask me how I know. BTW, there is a Chute 2.0 between Outpost and trail camp. It was a slog with no trail to follow.


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