Mt Whitney Zone
Admin edit:   The following posts were moved from the main Current Conditions thread.     2012 Conditions


Me and two friends have overnight permits to hike Mount Whitney for the 19th and 20th of June. We are inexperienced hikers and have never hiked on snow, used crampons, ice axes, snow shoes etc.

Having looked at the weather reports and conditions it seems like there will still be a lot of snow by next weekend. Do you think it will still be possible for us to do this trip given our lack of experience?

And if so, do you have any advice for us? Do we need snowshoes or will our normal hiking boots be ok? Do we need crampons and ice axes?

Any advice you might have for novices like us would be greatly appreciated!

Also, if anyone is going around that time, let me know, we'll be arriving at Whitney Portal on the 19th
I too have a question along those same lines... Is the chute negotiatible without an ice axe? We have crampons.
I'll see you there. My daughter and I are leaving on the same date. This will be my 3rd trip and her first. Neither of us have used crampons before, but we have them. I already figured if we don't summit, it will be an adventure for her. Looking for some input as well.
Hi derryg, Welcome. The hike up Whitney on the main trail is difficult under any circumstances. 22 miles round trip is just under a marathon distance, but you have the added difficulty of 6000 foot elevation gain (appx). With that comes 6000 feet you need to go down. Going down is just as hard as going up in light of the fact your legs, lungs, etc are tired. I find that concentration is one of the most difficult things to maintain when heading down the trail.

There will be snow on the trail as seen in the numerous videos put up by Steve this last week. You would absolutely need crampons for snow. Microspikes just won't cut it at this point. The snow has melted and iced over, crusted along the trail, so it's a bit to late for snowshoes.

I will be going to Whitney on July 5th and I don't expect to summit as I'm uncomfortable in the snow and ice. I would think you could make a goal of Trail Camp as long as you have crampons. Going any farther might not be the best idea. The hike is gorgeous to TC and you will certainly learn a lot just going there. Great prep for another hike down the line. If you want to try it again, anytime during the week in September should be an okay time to get a walk in permit.
Thanks very much for the advice everyone!

I think Trail Camp might be the best we can expect at this stage, which I think will still be a challenge given our lack of experience!

Reading about the switchbacks and the chute makes it sound very challenging!

Thanks again for the advice, still looking forward to the adventure, even if we don't make it to the top!

I was there yesterday. For those asking about the switchbacks and going up in a week or so, there are none. You MUST use the chute.

I saw one guy go up yesterday with Microspikes and trekking poles. So, it is doable. However, he was on his knees many times, and slipping and sliding. Tough guy, but it was not fun to watch. I would never take any friends or family up there in the current condition without crampons and an ice axe. BTW, the guy who made it to Trail Crest with the Microspikes and poles was still there when I got back from the summit and pondering how he'll get down. When you're back from the summit, tired with numb legs, and the adrenaline gone from reaching the peak, looking down that chute can be very scary. I heard one guy advising people glissade down with the trekking poles, says he's done it before. Nice guy, and I trust he did do just that but I also think he got lucky. I heard another "experienced" hiker talking with his friend about doing the same. Please don't. I glissaded down, but wouldn't have done so with trekking poles. Call me a sissy. You're going very fast. At one point, I could not slow myself down fast enough and had to flip over onto my belly and used the axe head to self arrest.

Snowshoes are dead weight. The snow is currently very firm. I postholed not more than a few times. Just make sure your boots are waterproof or add some Sno Seal.

The trail is very confusing near Lone Pine Lake. What other posters said are true, there are boot tracks just going every where. Hell, it looks confusing in the daylight when I was coming back. If you hear the loud rush of water too close, you're off track. I took the most direct path up the slopes. Once past that small section, it's virtually impossible to get lost since the main chute or Whitney is always in front of you.

Be careful on the backside of Whitney after Trail Crest. The trail is very visible but there are a few sketchy parts. Not very wide, and a slip would be disastrous. It's not oh-my-god scary...just be careful is all.

Also, the ice axe is not just for the chute but a lot of the traversing you'll have to do. Most likely you won't fall, but having the axe sunk-in just has a very secure feeling, and if you do happen to fall while traversing it's nice to know the axe is there to save your butt.

Great pics!

Did you happen to summit in a single day? A group of us are set to hike on the 24th and hoping for blue skies. Thx for the photos, really appreciated when talking to my group about current conditions and the fact that hey WILL need crampons and ice axes.

It seems like in the chute there was a lot of tracks from hikers but would you say that the majority of the trail before the lone pine lake is well worn and navigation is okay?

Hoping to get to the summit as we will be leaving portal around 330am

Thx again for the condition report, it really helps!

Wellness Force


Josh, yes, I only day hike Whitney. I started at around 3 AM and got back a little past 4 PM. It's doable, and trust me, I am NOT a fine specimen of human health.

I went up Gorgonio a few weeks ago with Microspikes and it was just not fun at all. They were worthless on steep slopes and had no bite. If I had a choice, I'll ditch the poles for the axe in a heartbeat, no questions asked.

The only place you'll have problem finding the trail is after the log crossing and nearing Lone Pine Lake. Be very careful there. Everything else is very straight forward; you would have to try very hard to get lost at any point before or after that. It was dark, and I'm not good with all the names and landmark, but once around Lone Pine Lake, and you have trouble deciding which boot track to follow, take the high ground. I made a direct bee-line and skipped Outpost Camp. Headed up the slopes, and voila, I see the chute in the distance and one main track traversing over there. I know that's lousy directions, but you have to understand I was fishing around in the dark myself. :-)
Here are two pictures posted by joistix of a summit trip. They show the snow slope very well. It would be treacherous without crampons and ice axe.

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Great post 2600fromatari, can you tell me what the trail down to guitar lake from trail crest is like? Did it look like people had been using it?
Posted By: Anonymous Re: Whitney Main Trail Conditions 2011 (Out-of-Date) - 06/13/11 01:04 PM
Atari...out representing San Diego again, I see? Nicely done. Since I have to one-up you, I'll do Mt Rainier next weekend.
LOL, Burchey, usually, I take up the challenge, but I think I'd end up dead trying to one-up you. grin

Good luck on Rainier. I was talking to a guy from L.A. (and almost every hiker on Saturday was from L.A.) who did Rainier recently. I have to tackle a few other peaks before I'm ready for that one.

You are pumping me up step up the tempo!!! I want to scratch off Langley (via Tuttle Creek), Williamson, Tyndall, and Russell soon.

Remember to post those cool trip reports once you're back.
Kevin, I didn't see anyone coming from the JMT. Guitar Lake and every lake down there was frozen stiff. I saw no signs of human activity down below. I'll post some pictures of the West side for you when I get home tonight. From what little I can see near Trail Crest, the JMT coming up shouldn't be a problem; Whitney's backside was mostly clear.
Posted By: Anonymous Re: Whitney Main Trail Conditions 2011 (Out-of-Date) - 06/13/11 04:34 PM
Atari, I'd be down for a Russell run some day if you're looking for company.
Atari, I would love to see the pictures. It looks like the trail is still covered though, any chance that I would be able follow it down without getting lost? I had been planning on camping at guitar lake.
Hey Everybody.
So my wife and I are scheduled for a day hike up the main trail this Sunday 06/19/11. This will be our first time on the mountain and we would not consider ourselves experienced snow hikers/climbers. Actually we have found ourselves to be more versed in desert backpacking with eight Spring time trips in as many years to the Grand Canyon ranging anywhere from 3 to 7 days backpacking.

That being said, we do not have cramp-ons or Ice axes and have decided that we will not attempt to summit this weekend. Instead we are hoping to make it to Trail Camp and back. Is this possible to do without cramp-ons? We will have trekking poles and yaktrax with us in case the trail is icy, but I don't necessarily trust them on an icy unbeaten downhill slope.

We may also decide to skip the 2-3am start time since we will be cutting about a third of the mileage out of our hike. Although we were looking forward to a nice full(ish) moon hike.

Any thoughts on making it to Trail Camp w/o cramp-ons would be helpful. Thanks!!

As of June 12th. From the ranger station.
The first 2.5 miles of trail is mostly snow free. From approx. mile 2 to Lone Pine Lake occasional drifts of varying depth cover the trail but route finding isn't too difficult if you are paying attention. Look for red markers in snowy areas indicating location of trail. There are some sections of trail with mud and/or standing water just below and just above Lone Pine Lake. Protect adjacent fragile vegetation and stay on the trail. Do not go around these sections. Beyond Lone Pine Lake, the trail is covered in many areas with large fields of deep snow and good route finding skills are necessary. Ski, snowshoe, and boot tracks lead in many directions, most being off-route.
There are a few snow free campsites in the Lone Pine Lake and Outpost areas but if you plan on doing a multi-day trip be prepared to camp on snow.
Above Trail Camp, the switchbacks are covered with snow and ice. If you are intent on summiting Mt. Whitney, solid winter mountaineering skills and experience are needed. During the past couple of weeks many visitors with inadequate skills, experience and equipment have been observed. Do not underestimate the severity of current conditions on Mount Whitney. Most fatalities on Whitney involve steep snow and ice. Don't get in over your head.
Thanks for the update.

I'm in need of someone with a crystal ball, and the skills to read it. What's a reasonable guess as to when the switchbacks will be an option this summer? Two weeks from now? A month?
I have 3 people going to do Whitney next weekend who have no Mt experience and I want your opinion on trail conditions for beginners? I feel it is to dangerous based on your post but they are not convinced, what do you think? eek
Hey Rock Girl,

I was a first timer on saturday 6/18 on the Whitney trail. My family wouldn't allow me to take an ice ax or crampons with me on my hike because I lacked the experience to use them safely. I was going it alone and didn't want to take chances. The trail was easy until after Lone Pine Lake. Above the lake is the beginning of the end. The trail disappears into the snow. Large cravasses have developed and add to the hazardous conditions. I ran into some other hikers and i borrowed an ice ax and practice glassading until I felt confident on it. It was a BLAST! Then I turned around and headed down. I wasn't tired at all but knew if i continued on I risked losing the trail and possibly falling with no way to stop myself. The snow was softer/slusher but it was very difficult to get traction in going up the incline. So I couldn't imagine coming down it.

Everyone on here always talks about the chute. Well after lone pine lake there are several chutes that have to be traversed. I was shocked at the steepness of these chutes and was surprised people weren't more acurately describing vastness of the snow fields.To me as a beginner these chutes made the trail impassable. Other fellow first timers I ran into on the trail agreed.

I still had a fabulous time and can't wait to tackle Whitney when snow is not a factor. The beauty on the hike was something to be experienced.
one thing that I don't see on the conditions is the nighttime conditions.

I have a +32 and a +15 sleeping bag and a 3-season tent. How cool are the nights at LPL, outpost and trail camp? (I know that no one person will have the answer to all of those questions).
tdtz, I don't have the answer to any of those questions, but the night at 10,000 ft at the Horseshoe Meadows was fine with a 20 degree bag. No thermals, beanie, anything else needed.
Hey RockGirl,

I just did my first trip up Whitney on Sunday 6/19/11 with my wife and our friend of ours who had not summited in over ten years. None of us are experienced with hiking and climbing in snow conditions so we decided not to bring crampons or ice axes. Figured it would just give us a false sense of security and possibly get us into trouble. So we went knowing that however far we got would be "our" summit.

Our goal was trail camp. Although we had heard mixed reviews on the trail conditions. Getting to the Lone Pine Lake junction was no problem at all. As we passed Lone Pine lake and walked though a flat area of snow we saw what looked like the only way to continue was straight up the snow. This is NOT correct!! As we looked at this vertical chute, with plenty of foot traffic on it, we were considering turning around until we saw what looked to be switchbacks to our right (north). These switchbacks lead you to a marsh/meadow just before Outpost camp. Hooray!!

eek !!!!! If you choose to take the chute up from Lone Pine Lake, you will be traversing snow the entire way up. You will miss Outpost Camp and Mirror Lake. You won't meet back up with the trail until just before Consultation Lake. !!!!! eek

From Outpost on up there was a fair amount of snow but we had few problems keeping an eye on the trail and trekking through it without crampons. If you lose it, be patient and observant. And if all else fails, follow your footsteps back the way you came. I would warn you though to be very careful that you do not cross over any of the streams that are covered in snow if you can avoid it. With how soft the snow was I could see just how easy it would be to fall through the snow and into the creek below.

Ultimately we were able to make it to a ridge overlooking the still frozen Consultation Lake and a great view of Trail Camp and "The Chute". I'm gonna try to put up a trip report tonight when I get home with some pics. The mountain was beautiful, the weather was amazing and everyone on trail was helpful and nice.

I cannot wait to come back when the snow has melted and stand on top of this inspiring Mountain!!!

I have seen several people mention that mosquitoes (mossies) are out now. So people should include repellent or appropriate clothing for that condition -- probably from now until late August, depending on the elevation.

And a second note: I have seen second-hand info saying someone has successfully negotiated the switchbacks -- "a little hairy, but doable." I would assume that they were using crampons.
Yow! Mossies and switchbacks and snowmelt, Oh My! Signs of summer all over the place. At last! You can see the snow melting off the web cam shot. Might make it over Kaweah Gap in 3 weeks after all.

Thank you, Sellers and Steve,
With the amount of snowmelt coming this summer - and the extended "wet" season that can be expected from it, those damn skeeters are gonna breed like crazy - the black flies, and the no-see-ums as well. I wouldn't be surprised if Outpost Camp is insufferable the entire summer without netting.

Permethrin and Deet should be high on everyone's essentials list real soon.
Here is a great weather conditions forecast for climbers. This is for the summit. Lower conditions are warmer. 12,000 seems to have little difference from the 14,505.
WSB, that looks like a good weather website. I'll bet they are pulling their information from the NOAA site we use on the Mt Whitney Weather page (link is in the Feature Topics box above on the left.)

The curious thing about the NOAA site, though: If you plug in the Lat/Lon coordinates for Mt. Whitney on the NOAA site, it returns with an elevation of 12162 ft, and temps that correspond closely with the temps on the "Climbing Weather" page. I have tried contacting NOAA people in regards to the elevation problem, but have never received even a single response.

We played with the NOAA site locations, and by changing the coordinates slightly, got it to give us an elevation of 13107 ft. Closer to the actual 14505, but still 1400 ft low!
Hey everyone,

I posted a while ago looking for info on whether hikers with no experience of snow, like ourselves, would be able to tackle Mt Whitney. Thought I would share our experience for anyone in the same position.

We went up on Sun/Mon and it was a great experience. We made it to Trail Camp in good time on the first day. One of us was suffering a little from altitude. We had a restless night trying to sleep with the altitude. I slept for a while, but my two friends couldn't sleep at all. We started tackling the chute at 5am, after watching the sunrise (one of the most beautiful things I have seen, don't miss it!).

It was all going good on the chute until my friend got dizzy and sick near the top of the chute, altitude sickness. He couldn't go on so we decided we should all descend with him, he was really sick until we got back to Lone Pine. We were lucky it was a hot day and the snow was soft early so we glissaded down which was really cool! We were worried about it as we had not done it before (and people warn against it), but as long as you are careful and sensible you will be fine going down, it's a rush! Try to practice stopping a little and then go for it! We had ice axes and crampons (definitely necessary if you are going past trail camp and going up the chute). Snow is soft and slippery so expect a slip or two at some point and to posthole! You can go off trail sometimes as it is not always clear where to go, but not too difficult to get back on track!

All in all, it is a grand hike, as long as you are physically fit and sensible enough... If it wasn't for the altitude sickness we definitely would have made it to the top, so I am sure if you are inexperienced like us, you can make it too!

Thanks to the people who responded to our questions on this forum, it really helped us!

It was a great adventure, even if we didn't make it to the top!

Thanks for the good report, derryg! With the AMS trouble, can you tell us what your schedule was like:

When did you first arrive at significant altitude (example to Whitney Portal)?

When did you start hiking?

How long did it take to get to Trail Camp?

Just for others' reference, people have varying levels of AMS if they don't acclimate. Some are ok (~20%), some have mild symptoms (headache, can't eat) (~50%), and some really suffer (~30%). Two things help: #1, Best is acclimatization, such as sleeping TWO nights at Whitney Portal, or better at Horseshoe Meadows. And #2, taking a small dose of Diamox twice a day before and during the hike. I personally do both.
Hi all
My husband and I will try Mt. Whitney this coming Fri (6/24). We do have crampons and ice axes, although not much experience with it. Pls let me know if the chute from Trail Camp is the only way to summit and down? Can we still use the switchback, or it's completely covered in snow and undoable? We were there last yr about the same time and tried to go up the switchback but I heard a lot of people turn back at the cable so we didn't go on. Also about glissade, is there an alternative when going down? And if we decide to glissade, where to find out more info in terms of techniques. I heard about it and kinda picture how it is from some You tube video but hasn't found a good description of how to do it correctly and safely. Thanks all.
I just climbed Whitney yesterday June 21st. The only way to the top from the WT side is up the snow chute. The switch backs are not passable. The chute is over 30 degrees and crampons/ax with experience is certainly preferable.
Thx skicoach. So, the chute it is. Now, how long, or I should say how high is that chute? I remember standing at Trail Camp looking at it and it's pretty GRAND. On average, how long does it take for a person to get to the top of the chute? 3, 4 hours? Thx
Ann -

How long it will take depends upon your fitness and acclimatization level. I'm on the slow side, and figure about 1-1,200'/hour, so for me that slope takes about an hour, maybe a bit more.

Trail Camp is about 12.4', and Trail Crest is 13.6, or about 1,200' gain. You'll gain part of this more gradually (maybe 400') on the trudge from Trail Camp to the base of the steeper slope.

It's most a head game. One step at a time, remember to breathe, and don't look up - 3 things a friend used to recite frequently. Don't psych yourself out. It doesn't last forever.
skicoach, any idea when the switchbacks might be accessible? We are schedule to come down them on July 17th.

Does anyone else have to log in multiple times for it to stay logged in in a session?
lesper, the switchers should be in pretty decent shape by 7/17. The snow is melting fast and, barring a cold snap or more snow, the only sensitive area that might be iced would be the cables. There was a fair amount of concern in June last year regarding when the switchbacks would open up due to spring snow levels, but by early July they were mostly OK. The cables opened up the second week of July with a dry-footed path, narrow though it was, at the outside edge.

I was up the 14th/15th of July last year and trekked through only moderate snow in two sections (Trail Camp and near the summit), and expect conditions to be not that much worse this year for a 7/20 hike. I suspect the cables might still be packed, but I also expect a pretty solid path beaten through them by then. At the worst, micro-spikes and trekkiing poles should be all you'd need for this, and any other patchy areas.

As this unusually heavy snow melts away over the coming weeks, the North Fork crossing may actually be the worst part of the trek. Those rock-hops may be under water for quite a while. This can be bypassed by taking the old trail up, near the waterfall and wooden bridge, instead of starting at the trailhead near the store. It intersects the MMWT on the other side of the NF, at the JM Wilderness sign.

Keep watching the TRs, but I believe we'll see dramatic improvement over the next 4 weeks if the heat continues to be dialed up.
My son and I are going on Whitney Trail for a Day hike on July 12th and no one knows at this point if the cables will be dicey or if the rocks hops at the North Fork may be under water. I will be camping at Cottonwood the two nights previous to acclimate, so I am wondering what will be the best way to get up to date information as to the hike conditions, specifically in these two areas of concern, before we set out?

Is the best advise at this point to be prepared with Microspikes and Treking poles for the cables section and then ask around at the Whitney Portal Store if the alternate route of taking the old trail to bypass the high water levels that might be in place at that time over the North Fork Crossing.

As I am a first timer armed with the route tracks on GPS, it should not be much trouble to get back on the main Whitney trail after the bypass, should it?

The area you are acclimatizing is actually called Horseshoe Meadow. Cottonwood is the name of the creek on the way in.

Watch here for conditions... that is probably the best way to plan. We are all watching for the conditions at the cables.

The old trail is a nice shortcut. Finding its beginning past the Portal Store may be the most difficult part, but even that is not hard. If you go up, you cannot miss the main trail -- the old trail stops AT and ON the main trail.

Here's BobR's map of the old trail

It would sure be nice if someone going up in the next month would take a series of pictures showing the start of old the trail, and the end, too.
Originally Posted By: Steve C
Thanks for the good report, derryg! With the AMS trouble, can you tell us what your schedule was like:

When did you first arrive at significant altitude (example to Whitney Portal)?

When did you start hiking?

How long did it take to get to Trail Camp?

We didn't camp at high altitude beforehand, Whitney Portal campsite was full so we stayed at a hostel in Lone Pine. This obviously didn't help with my friends acclimatizing. I was a little nauseous the next morning but nothing major, could carry on no problem, just a little slow to start in the morning.

We started at about 9.30 on the first day, took it fairly easy on the way to trail camp and arrived there around 3, maybe a bit later. We got up at 5 the next day and started tackling the chute. Most people we talked to said they were getting up at 3.30 and planned to start in darkness.

Hope this is useful,

My daughter and I went up the snow chute Tuesday(my third trip). First time with crampons and ice axes. We learned pretty fast as it was the only way up. Early morning with the crampons. Even at that, it took us and others we were watching and spoke to about 3 hours. But, what an adventure and sense of accomplishment. Have some really great photos that will show the conditions with perspective, but I can't figure out how to attach them. We came back down around 3 in the afternoon and the chute was like a big slurpy. We walked, if you can call it that, down in about 1 hour. Did some glissading, which was fun and using the axe really came in handy, but found we got soaked. The snow was still about 3 feet deep.
I could see signs of the switch backs especially when we able to look back at them from the Windows.
during the day, it warm and we noticed over 4 days that the rush of water from the melt got louder and louder. The second stream up from the Portal was noticeably more difficult to cross on our return. Freaked my daughter out.
Just make sure to start early and finish before the snow hardens in the chute.
She found the social aspect of the climb almost as enjoyable as the climb itself. So many nice people. Enjoy your trip.

Steve C edit: lynnbern's pictures are in the picture gallery

View of the snow slope west of the switchbacks.

Snow at the cables

Climbing the snow slope (the "chute")

Crossing to the west side at Trail Crest
Assuming I am able to pick up a permit in the morning, I am planning on going up the old trail tomorrow. I'll be taking photos.

If I get the permit, planning on staying at outpost camp tomorrow night and trail camp area on Saturday night.

Not planning on making it to the summit. On Sunday I may see how far up the switchbacks I can go without cramps. Or I might head over to the chute and hike up a little bit so I can practice glissading and self arrest.

If I can't get a permit.....gonna see how far up meysan trail I can go.

Hey, Tom: Could you put your SPOT on Track so we can follow you up the old trail and switches?
yup.....I have to put batteries in it in the morning, but it is all set up.

and the permanent link to this hike will be:
at LP subway. Have permit. Plenty available. Sent SPOT message to test. On trail by 2pm. Heading to outpost. Beautiful day here.
Hey Tom, Congrats on the permit. PM me when you get back, I may have a couple of open spots for next Tuesday, but waiting on my friends to confirm if they are going or not. Let us all know the conditions when you get back. AND have fun..............
on the trail . Tried to findd old trail. Got lost . Had to double back and ended up significantly higher than the sign that marks start of old trail. Did some class three scramblimg. Even had to take the pack off and throw it up on ledge so I could get up.

my trail finding skills suck!!

onward and upward
That's too bad, Tom! From your SPOT track, I can see you were too far south. The old trail runs generally in a west-northwest angle. Your SPOT track points are a touch south of due west.

Try to find it on the way down. Hit the North Fork Lone Pine Creek, then backtrack a little looking for tracks that cut down-slope from the main trail. At that point, the trail heads southwest.
Thanks Steve. Going to attempt the summit the 28th. Leaving for the portal today so we low landers can acclimate.... Thanks!
Volunteer Ranger Bob R has posted a trip report here:

Whitney Trail, June 22 & 23

The details of the report are in the captions to the pictures, so please view them: 2011-06-22 Mt. Whitney via the trail

Heed the warnings about going up the snow slope without any hardware (ice axe and crampons): The slope can ice-up after the late afternoon shadow hits!

Here's his intro to the pictures:
I hiked to Trail Camp, spent the night. Next morning ascended 'the chute' to Trail Crest and went on to the summit. Got back to the Portal in time for a burger and beer.

The trail was pretty much snow-free up to Trailside Meadow, then constant snow from there on.

Temperatures were mild, and my 40 deg bag was fine. Water was available all the way to Trail Camp. Snow in 'the chute' was great for climbing and glissading during the mid-day hours. Icy at night, though.

It appeared that a party tried the switchbacks, but bailed after the cables. My guess is that 'the chute' will be the preferred route to Trail Crest for at least the next two weeks and maybe four.

Thank you for posting the report, Bob R!
Inyo National Forest has posted a web page showing current conditions as of June 18:
Looks like tdtz may have had a rough time. Spent the night at LPL, then got a late start this am headed back down to the Portal. Does look like he found the old trail on the way out.
I'll post a whole trip report, but yes, I had a rough time yesterday. I actually asked the girl in the portal store how to find the old trail. She said "look for the big rock at the behind the fishing pond and go behind it. The communication error was in the definition of "big". I saw a prominent 20'/sq boulder that I would call "big". She was referring to the massive granite outcropping 50' to the right of my "big" boulder.

Basically, I was off trail the minute I got on it. I ended up significantly south of the trail near lone pine creek. Most of my tracks do not show up because I was in a heavily wooded area with a steep cliff to one side.

If you look at my 5th track and go south into the woods, that's about the point where I decided to double back and see if I could find another way to the trail.

If you look at my 7th track, that's where I finally found the main trail.

And though i was lost, I wasn't ever worried...I was only lost in the sense that I couldn't find the old trail (or the main trail at that point). It would have been easy enough to get back to the portal and I knew that if I went up just to the north of lone pine creek that I would have to hit the main trail eventually. Unfortunately, the trail that I was following ended so I had to turn around.

I got pretty cut up climbing the rocks And I was just beat up in general, so I decided to head back today.

Lots more detail in the forthcoming trip report. And, I did take photos of the starting point of the old trail as well as others along the way.

Needless to say, I feel a bit like a bonehead.

Do not feel bad.

There was the time I lost my car at the trailhead parking lot, because my headlight burned out...and it was pitch black -- ready to camp in lot, until I bumped into car.

Once, I went too far off trail for bathroom stop, and it took too long to find the trail; almost did not find it.

Once on a date to a symphony , I came back too late from intermission. It was dark. I did not have my ticket stub. I sat in the back row alone for 90min til the end of the performance. The date did not end well.

Tomorrow is another chance to get it right.

Absolutely, not a time to feel bad at all. Look at it as taking one for the team. Probably lots of us who would like to knock a half mile or so off that end of the trail, and your spot track is now a really valuable tool. Your sacrifice is appreciated.
one of the advantages of being a guy. Don't really have to wander too far off the trail to take care of business.

I tell ya what though, on my route yesterday, I had all the privacy you could ever want...

I don't really feel bad. More frustrated with myself for making more work than necessary. I really do hate having to double back and hike down when I am trying to hike up.
photo album of my trip:

feel free to post any photos that you like.

Old trail start has notes
Did the day hike on June 21st. I know things have probably changed a little bit. But I am hoping my experience and the timings are of some use for the next few days since the snow and ice will still remain on the switchbacks.

First off, hats off to Doug at portal store. I was a nervous wreck till I met him and he made it feel like I could hike up with a baby stroller. He also gave me the precious Oklahoma gortex, which are life savers.

My friend and I started the day hike at 4am. We had 3 quarts of water, gatorade and food. We consumed over 8 quarts of water during the entire trip. There is plenty of creeks along the way to fill up. We got a portable pump that filters the water.

As soon as we hit the Carillon creek, around mile 1, we wet all the socks. I wore the waterproof, Merrell hiking boots and soon realized by the cold tingling sensation that its not running creek water proof. This is where Doug's Oklahoma gortex would come handy.

The trail all the way till trail camp is fairly straight forward. You will hit snow on and off but finding the trail will not be hard. Once at trail camp, the beast of a chute reveals itself. My friend has climbed Rainier and I have done hikes on Shasta. But this 2000 feet in less than a mile was pretty daunting. We arrived at trail camp at 9:15 and started up at 9:30. We had crampons and ice ax and got to trail crest by 12:00. I think the slow pace helped me get up there without getting too tired. Not to be a chicken, I was scared when I looked down the chute. The snow was soft and traction was hard.

After trail crest, there are couple of places where there is ice on one side, a narrow step next to it and then a few hundred feet of rock face next to it. So take a deep breath and keep going. Like someone who posted a while ago. This thing is not an everest or k2. But for a beginner its good to be afraid and be careful. We got up to the summit at around 2PM, stayed there for an hour or so and headed back.

We got lost right after we left the summit and the only way to get back to the trail was cutting across snow fields. Be WARNED that the snow here is soft and on more than one occasion we were waist deep in snow. I was stuck for good 15 minutes and the snow started icing up. I panicked and somehow found the brains to free myself by digging myself out with the ice ax. We took the extreme step of glissading down the snow near the summit to reach the rocks below, which were easier to walk on to get back on trail. We also ran out of water and we had left the pump at trail camp to shed some weight. Bad move. Luckily I had some tablets. I collected some stream water, treated it and drank it till we reached trail crest. It was 5pm when we got there.

We looked down the chute and decided it will be too long to walk down so the sliding began. It was tough since the snow was still too soft and each step caused us to sink knee deep. But sliding down was fun. We were cautious of going too fast so we dug in the ice ax to control the speed. It helps to have some upper body strength for this.

We got off the chute, freshened up and headed to get off the mountain. One the way down, we got lost somewhere in outpost camp. We wandered for almost an hour before we ran into some campers who showed us the way. By this time darkness fell and we would get lost few more times.

The final time we got lost it was near lone pine lake. Each time there is snow, the trail just seemed to disappear. It was dark and we had only the head spot light. After another hour of resting and searching, we fell back on the trail and hurried down to the parking lot. It was close to 10PM when we got off the mountain.

In summary, we took longer than expected but were prepared to collect more water, carried spare socks and a trail running shoe to replace the heavy and hard hiking boots. We didnt rush, took our time and made it. It was very tiring, but worth every minute. But for day hike, you better be prepared and be in some shape to get through the day.
Great job!!! Many try few succeed. You are in a special category of a select group who have summited Mt. Whitney.
wow, what a story and accomplishment... by the way what is Oklahoma Gortex?
Thats what I asked Doug sr at the portal store, when he mentioned the Oklahoma Gortex.

I thought he was trying to sell something from his store. He goes back to the register, pulls out two plastic bags used for bagging groceries and tells me to wrap it around my feet over the socks and wear the boots...! And apparently the plastic bags were made in Oklahoma...and it works..
I hear alot of references to Doug Sr. at the Portal Store on this Board so will have to make sure part of my trip to the summit includes pre-trip coaching from him and the all-important celebratory burger when back down from a successful trip to the Summit

"Oklahoma Gortex"...I like the guy already!
every time that I have returned from a MW hike it has been after dark and the portal store has been closed. Perhaps one of the benefits to my shortened hike this past weekend was that I got to have a famous portal cheeseburger. I pondered the mooseburger, but it looked like just too damned much food.

Love the fries too.
Any reference to homemade or cheap imitation is reffered to as "Okie" or Oklahoma. Oklahoma Gortex is another way of saying that the plastic bags is a Redneck cheap fix and will do the same job as an expensive pair of water proof gortex socks.That Doug Sr. has a wicked dry sense of humor.
Hello everyone, just got back home from a successful summit of Whitney on June 30th 10:00 AM
Just wanted to give a big thanks to everyone for posting trip reports and pictures of the trail. They were a huge help in trip planning! I only took a few pictures along the way, and they can be viewed at the link below. I did the climb in two days with one night at trail camp.

My trip report:
The trail is mostly snow free to just before trail camp. Then mostly snow up to trail crest. We did find quite a few dry campsites at trail camp, but Wednesday evening was very windy. We got lucky and found a site sheltered by rocks piled by climbers before us. I started the summit push 6 AM and the snow was nice and firm. Back behind the needles I didn't see any snow at all until just before the summit about a 40 or 50 yard patch. I put on the crampons again and just climbed straight up.

It was a great trip, except for the mosquitoes lower on the trail. If you forget bug spray the portal store carries a nice little tube, and yes I did try the moose burger! After a summit from trail crest and the entire hike down it's the best burger in the world smile

JohnW, thanks for the report. It looks like Honey stayed in Trail Camp, right?

Your picture looking down toward Trail Camp shows just how much snow is still left to melt.

Unfortunately Honey had enough AMS she didn't feel save to continue ascending. If we can get a permit next year we will try it again with a few more days of acclimation.

We came from sea level and tried this:
1 night at Lone Pine ~4000
1 night at the portal ~8000
1 night at Trail Camp ~12,000

Next year we will perhaps camp a few nights at horseshoe meadow, and see if that helps.

She had a good time none the less, and one thing that will perhaps last a lifetime is the night we spent at trail camp looking up at the stars. I could not believe how clear they were. I could see the band of the Milky Way from horizon to horizon. We live too close to large cities that drown out the wonder of the night sky. We felt like kids again for a night. Well except for the aching knees wink
Hey derryg- Crampons but more importantly, ice axes do require at least a working knowledge of their use in practice. Crampons can cut the tar out of your lower legs or far worse if you lose your footing...twenty or so sharp for the ice axe, this is a great safety and stabilizing tool but has a decent learning curve to master the techniques of self arrest, glissade ect. Without the practice on gentle slopes with safe runouts, you might find it better to wait for less technical conditions. I will post the conditions on the main trail next week (Tues or Wed.)if no one posts before and if all goes well on our little trip. Stay safe, have fun!- Mark
Our group of four is back. Three of us summited, one stopped short about 1/4th mile from the summit.

I have two take-aways:

1) Don't underestimate the trail between the Trail Crest and the peak. We assumed 1.9 miles should be easy compared to the snow chute, but it was certainly not. After taming the 600m of snow wall, even horizontal hiking at 4000m altitude is no fun. In this case it is not horizontal - it goes both up and down. Mostly up, of course. We took 3.5 hours to go from trail crest to the peak. Two of our group developed light AMS in the middle of the trail, having no indications before. One (wisely) decided/was-convinced not to summit, another summited, but was quite disoriented, spacing out from time to time, and made us all worry.

2) Crampons are designed to be used on ice and on hard snow. In the upper part of the chute the snow is harder and perhaps can get icy, so please do bring crampons and axe. That said, about the 2/3 of the snow chute's lower part the snow is soft and the foot gets in to the snow easily over the ankle. I found that in these conditions kick-in climb works better and saves energy. Axe is still helpful in case you need to self-arrest.

The same day, on July 3rd, I think the last to summit was an Asian-looking girl. We passed her on our way back and it seems like she should have made the summit, if she continued, at 3:30-4PM. At around 7:30PM she was still somewhere at the mountain and we did not see her on the chute. Does anyone know if she made it back alright?

A couple more possible take aways: your climber, and the group, exercised admirable discipline and judgement, in stopping / convincing to stop, with so little distance to the summit. Not always easy to do.

Second climber "disoriented, spacing out", different story, possibly was more serious than "mild AMS". I would look up the signs and symptomology of HACE (high altitude cerebral edema) and compare to your climber's condition and experience. Don't know whether any medical follow-up is indicated now, but others on this board will.

In any event, congratulations on your summit, but more important congratulations for getting everyone down safely.
Originally Posted By: valas
another summited, but was quite disoriented, spacing out from time to time, and made us all worry.

Originally Posted By: saltydog
Second climber "disoriented, spacing out", different story, possibly was more serious than "mild AMS". I would look up the signs and symptomology of HACE (high altitude cerebral edema) and compare to your climber's condition and experience. Don't know whether any medical follow-up is indicated now, but others on this board will.

Could be hypoglycemia, or hypothermia, or perhaps simple exhaustion. Yes, HACE is a possibility although quite rare at moderate altitude of Whitney. Not enough information on this possible case of AMS or its complications. Does anyone know if anyone went missing or needed evacuation?
Originally Posted By: valas
...1) Don't underestimate the trail between the Trail Crest and the peak.

For me, the toughest section of the entire hike is on the return - the quarter mile between the intersection of the trail going down to Guitar Lake and Trail Crest. That last bit of "up" tests my resolve. I make an effort to eat a pinapple ring about 20 minutes before the intersection to get a sugar boost.
Great pictures, thanks for sharing them. I can't believe there is still that much snow. Our permit was for June 28 and 29 but decided to postpone the trip since we don't have any experience with an ice ax or crampons. Since you were just there, do you for see the main trial being clear at all this summer? My availability is wide open through most of Aug. and I still have hopes to head up and try for a walk-up permit later in the summer. I'm still hopeful but wondering if it's time to let it go? Thanks for any input you may have.
iteach4th and other folks concerned about the snow,

based on what i saw on my successful summit attempt on July 2 (I posted a Trip Report in that forum), snow is melting FAST! we are having a heat wave in the Sierra so rivers are flowing and trails are drying up... finally!

my wife and i went up the Chute, since it was earlier in the morning (7:15am).... and we glissaded down the Chute around noon. while resting at Trail Camp, we saw several groups going up the switchbacks from the cables on up. we passed these groups earlier in the morning, and judging from the way they hiked etc., i don't think many of them had much experience with ice axes/crampons.... but they were all successfully negotiating the climb up. in fact, i think several just had trekking poles and that was it.

anyhow, i think the main trail will for the most part be clearing up pretty quickly over the next few weeks. there might still be small patches of snow here or there.... but i think it will be fine and just add to the "adventure" of hiking Whitney smile.
Debbie, I tend to agree with onehotchili, it was very warm when we went up also. At points below trail camp I heard rivers of water under the snow! I'm sure you will see mostly snow free trail soon even if snow is still present on the chute. I would keep an eye on the trail reports for signs of folks making it up the switchbacks.
Thank you! That's what I was hoping to hear.
I would like to hear from anyone that has done the switchbacks in the last couple of days as to how much snow still covers them. I just purchased some microspikes today figuring they would be useful over snow covered sections, but then I read a post which says they saw plenty of people going up the switchbacks with just treking poles. Thus, I hate to spend money where not neccessary so would love to hear from someone on the conditon of the switchbacks and their opinion is mircospikes might come in handy. We are starting on the trail next Monday,July 11th, so conditions might again change rapidly from here.

Good info Valas...How long did the chute take to navigate? Might head up a bit before dawn if the crust will be more solid. Going up this weekend. Glad you had fun... Mark
Dudimus...we'll be on the mountain this weekend, I'll post as soon as we are back in Lone Pine Wednesday..possibly sooner.- Mark

About the snow chute. Going up, we started 9AM and finished at 11:30AM. The snow was soft. In our group of four, three were climbing with just boots, one used crampons. I think the crampons on that snow just made him more tired.

Going down, we started at 4PM and finished at 5:30PM. The snow at the top was getting somewhat icy and hard. Without an ice ax for self-arrest it does not feel very safe.

Many folks were really panicking going down. I ended up guiding one of my team members by making stairs in the snow most of the way down. Another fellow tried to glissade from very top but started going too fast and self-arrested. He lost his hat, his goggles and was really scared. The resulting mental block was really strong - he waited quite some time until two other climbers passed him and he just followed their footprints down.

Not sure what the snow condition will be when you go, it certainly depends on the time of the day. Again: hard snow - crampons, soft snow - just hard boots. In all cases, an ax provides assurance that you can stop your slide in case you slip.
thanks I will look forward to hearing your report. I am leaving this Saturday and have an overnight permit for Monday, so it sounds like you are coming back on the day I am leaving.
Scott- Looks like we'll be on the trail at the same time. Planning on trail camp on Sunday and Christine and I will summit Monday if conditions permit...Probably out on Tues. for a bit of fly-fishing in the valley. Best of luck- Mark

Pictures of switchbacks 7/6/2011:
Switchbacks pictures 7/6/2011
Excellent pics. I really appreicate that information. I leave cottonwood lakes TH on july hopefully by the time i am heading down the switchbacks, they may quite clear, or mostly. Thanks a lot.....Eric..
Just returned-- camped at Trail Camp Thur. the 7th and summited Fri. the 8th. Part of our group took the chute up/down (with axe/crampons), and rest took switchbacks up/down (they had axe/crampons too but not everyone used them; some were ok with just poles). Both routes were quite do-able and the weather held up beautifully. Gratefully, all of us who started from T-Camp made the peak and back.

We started from T-Camp around 4:30-4:45AM. Summited around 10-10:40 and got back to camp between 1-2PM. My pals who took the switchbacks said they were mostly clear with some crusty/snowy/slushy/wet parts depending on the time of day. Just take care on the snowy traverses. They're only small patches now, but a slip would still be dangerous.

The snow was quite soft by the time we began our descent from the summit around 11AM. IMHO, if you glissade from the top of the chute where the angle is steep, you should definitely know how to use your axe or poles to control your speed-- do begin slowly! The deep gutter carved by the many buttocks sliding down is very soft by midday and will not keep you from heading straight down toward the rocks if you gain too much speed at the top. Of course, you don't have to follow that track; you can just make your own way down, which is what my buddy did. He slid straight past the right-turn and eventually self-arrested before the rocks.

Many thanks to this forum and its members! Good luck and safe hikes, everyone!
wncj, thanks for that update. I plan to be on the MMWT in about 10 days with my wife and 11 YO daughter. First time for both of them, so I really want that snow gone along the higher switchbacks. I've read that there's already a narrow dry-footed path along the cables - that didn't really bother me, having dealt with pretty much the same conditions each of the past two years. I'm just not real keen on my daughter micro-spiking her away along a snowy, steep traverse. Sounds as if we'll be copacetic with 10 more days of melt before we begin.

Thanks again for the TR!
Ah, what you said about the narrow path made me realize that I should clarify what i said-- by "switchbacks [sic] were mostly clear" i meant that there's usually a place to put one's foot on the trail much of the way up. Not that the whole trail was actually nearly clear of snow. Zzyzx's photos above were still pretty accurate for conditions on the 8th.

Hope my rushing to put up the trail condition info didn't mislead anyone...

Best wishes for your trip, Bulldog34!
This was my first time up Whitney 7/10/11 was hike day
The weather was perfect. We went up the switchbacks which were easy to navigate and glissaded down the chute. First time glissading for me. Unless you are planning to glissade down all you need are trekking poles. One person in our group only used one pole but I liked having 2. No crampons, micro spikes, stiletos, ice axes or gaiters are required. We started on the trail at 4am and got back at 9pm. We had a fair number of stops so we were a little slow starting. We han a 10yr old in our group who only made it to just below Trail Camp. However the 85yr old stud in our group made it to the top of Trail Camp
Glissading: The people who know what they're doing make it look easy. Don't be deceived if you don't know what you're doing, it could cost you your life on the Chute. My son and I just made it back from a successful summiting on July 9th. We were dead tired after climbing the entire Mountain including the Chute, making the summit in one day. By the time we returned to Trail Crest, the thought of an easy slide down the Chute overcame my natural fear of heights. We decided to try glissading and though we made it down, our inexperience made the trip harrowing and bloody. The problem was the ice/snow on the Chute had such variable consistency. One moment you'd be sliding nicely and the next you're out-of-control because your axe can find no purchase in the slush. Then, in the next instant your axe hits hard ice and stops dead but your body is still hurdling down the glacier causing a wrenching stop, if you are able to hold on to your axe! If you do it anyway, make sure your axe is well teathered to your hand. Bring gloves and be prepared for a bloody elbow.
Hi everyone,
We have two nights (sat jul 16 and sun jul 17) at trail camp and would like to attempt Whitney and Muir on Sat. I've seen posts that crampons and ice axes are not really necessary now on Whitney except for glissading. What about Muir from the whitney trail? Any advice on current conditions or generally what to expect on that route?
Muir will be like the rest of the western slope: dry
Hi Steve.

Any last words of wisdom re Whitney? I'm leaving today to get to Lone Pine to get ready for the climb on Sunday morning with my two sons. Any updates on trail conditions including ice, snow and crossing swollen streams would be appreciated. Thanks.
Try to spend most of Saturday up high to get the boys acclimated -- Horseshoe Meadows is the closest.

At Whitney Portal, you might walk up to the first (and the only major stream crossing) to see how bad it is. If you try crossing it as practice, you could then come down the old trail (just across the stream, look for it on the left.) If you used that in the actual climb, you could skip the crossing.

Take layers of clothing. Use sunscreen. Snack and drink water often.

Good luck!! smile
Thanks for sharing the pictures, heading up on Aug 2nd for a first attempt! Cant wait. Looked like you guys got a beautiful day to summit! Keeping my fingers crossed for such a nice day!
Thanks Steve!

I think we'll be good to go!
Hello all, Mark Rimmer here. I sure wish I had a great report for you all on the conditions. Christine and I received a call just an hour or so before we hit the trail...the call no one ever wants to get. Christine's mother, my mother-in-law suffered a tragic stroke last Saturday morning. Needless to say that call came in at 4:42am and we were on the 395 southbound at 5:00...We lost a wonderful mom and wife at 8:28...She was truely loved and will be sorely missed... Best of luck to all of you as you summit. Christine and I will be there again next season...Godspeed.
I am sorry for the loss to your family, Mark. I hope that in the days to follow, you find comfort in her loving memory.

My thoughts are with you and your family. If you need anything, let me know. I'm in nearby Murrieta. JQ
I'm sorry for your family's loss, Mark.
My condolences to you and your family.

Mark, I am so sorry for you and your family.

Be well.

Very sorry to hear this, Mark.

My group did the day hike on July 17th. The weather was perfect and the trail condition was very good. I appreciated Steve C's advice about scouting out the stream crossing and the old trail, which I did the day before our hike. The stream crossing was do-able, but had a significant chance of getting one foot wet. So we found the old trail and used that on the big day.

There were a few patches of snow on the main trail, but they were all well packed down by the boots of earlier hikers. My non-waterproof hiking shoes did not get wet.

All in all, we were lucky with the timing, though I had been worried about the snow as recently as a week ago.

It was truly a wonderful hike, and everything went smoothly.
I am set to hike the trail Friday the 22nd with my daughter, I've been a little worried about the snow. Do you need any special equipment or skill? I don't want to put her in any particularly dangerous situations, nor do I want for her to make the climb only to not be able to finish it because we can't get across the snow. Any updates would be welcomed.
Royal if you read report right above yours they say that snow is not an issue.Everyday the snow is melting rapidly and what snow there is left is minimal and well traveled over patches of snow. You should not have trouble with snow. You concern should be in acclimating to the altitude.That is a greater concern for your daughter than snow at this time.

Like a lot of the posters here, I made it to the top of MW on the 17th on a 1-day permit. I was there with 3 of my brothers and I'm quite sure we were the last group to make it to the top (3PM) and the last group to get off the trail (midnight). (There were 2 solo dudes left on MW, but I think they were camping there for the night.) Let me tell you, it was an eerie feeling to not have "friends" on the way down before reaching Trail Camp again. Well, in hindsight, it was pretty cool, but not on that day.

That was my first time ever hiking Whitney and we weren't all that familiar dealing with snow. Yes, the trail is mostly clear of snow, but it sure as hell seemed like there was a ton of snow still in the surrounding areas around Trail Camp & the switchbacks. As you can imagine, it was pretty F'ing cold in the evening.

But let me cut to chase. It was my idea to hike MW with my brothers and I felt a lot of responsibility to make sure we made it back safe and sound. I wasn't going to be the one to bring bad news home to mom. I'm the kind of guy that would insist on having a tank and a machine gun before I go strolling around South Central LA.

I remember there being 5 snow crossings the entire trail. 2 crossings before Trail Camp, 2 crossings at the very top of the switchbacks and 1 at the summit. I wouldn't stress out over the first 2. The 2 crossings at the top of the switchbacks were pretty safe, but the potential damage from slipping and falling does screw with your mind a little. I would consider those switchback snow crossings as 1-way only at a time. So please be patient there. The summit snow crossing was a little tricky since there were a couple big boulders to navigate around. I think this was the toughest crossing, though not the most intimidating. Again, 1-way at a time. Oh yeah, bring gloves!

As you are coming back down, be extra careful as you are about to get off the cables section of the switchbacks. It's a slight jump, but a stumble and loss of balance could be deadly. Not trying to scare you or anything like that, but you will see what I mean.

One other thing, try not to lose the trail from Trail Camp on down. For some reason we lost the trail, and lost a lot of time trying to find it again. It was dark, cold, tiring and of course, momma bear concerns.

Hope I was able to help! Have fun! Good luck!

Rod and Keo thanks for the info we are looking forward to the hike.

I just hiked to the summit on Wednesday July 20th, woo-hoo! We arrived on Monday afternoon and it was very smokey. I was concerned about hiking as I have asthma and decided that if it was as smokey as this on Wednesday then I would not do the hike. =( Lucky for me the winds died down from 20 mph to 9 mph. The Man at the WHitney Portal store told me to keep an eye on the moon and the stars and if they appear orange at all that means there's a lot of smoke. I checked on Tuesday night and all looked well and Wednesday morning we got on the trail at 2 AM with no smoke all day. It started to get smokey at 5 PM and that is when I summited. I had absolutely no issue with smoke on my way down. The last two days though I have had some lingering congestion but it is clearing up. All is well. Good luck!
I will try to do a more detailed report later, but this report will just be for trail conditions on the MWMT as of July 21st. The first water crossing .6 miles from the portal has genrated a lot of discussion, prompting people to use the old trail. The rocks were not covered by water in the morning or in the early evening (7:00 pm). You will not need the old trail in the morning in any event. If a particularly strong melt occurs in the afternoon, you can always double back to the old trail which is just a stone's trhow away from the water crossing that has concerned some folks in the last few weeks. Just above Mirror Lake as you prepare to leave it, lots of foot prints will lead up to the left--that is a wrong turn. Turn to the right. Someone scratched out an arrow to point the way. You have one non-frightening snow crossing just before you get to Trail Side Meadows. Consultation Lake is thawing. Trail Camp is mostly thawed--just sections around the Lake have appreciable snow. You will encounter some snow in the first few switchbacks and will encounter ice in the teens switchbacks up through switchback 23 where the spring is. The trail will be largely dry until you hit the snow at the cables, but you have a very comfortable margin of rock on the cables. However, to get to the cables, you have to scramble up about 8 feet of rock as one of the switchbacks is covered in snow. (Mind you, I was seeing all of this through my own eyes as well as the eyes and ability of my 13 year old son.) This scramble was not frightening for us, but might be for someone who has a fear of heights. You will have three snow crossings in the upper 90 switchbacks. The first two were in deep (2 foot) snow troughs, meaning if one were to slip, they would not likely slip down the chute. The last snow crossing, however (which was on the last switchback) was far more precarious. A slip here could mean you slip down the chute. In the mid-morning, the snow was slushy and microspikes did little to maintain traction. In fact, my 13 year old did slip here, with his legs slipping down the chute side, but he was able to stay on the trail. Treking poles with good sized snow cups will help you here. We did not encounter any snow on the Western side past Trail Crest. Unfortunately, we had to turn around with the hut in sight when we were at 13,760 feet with one mile to go when my son developed a headache and started a slight slur in his speech that Dex and a 1 hour rest couldn't fix. I can't tell you what conditions were like after that, but I couldn't see any ice patches left.
In my mind, the most precarious part of the hike is the 97th switchback. There is still a lot of snow there. Conditions were relatively warm, but it could be a a couple of weeks before that section thaws out.

Brent N
This complements Brent N's report, and also dates from the 21st: in the last mile, the snow field before the summit Keo describes is still very much in evidence. I found it considerably less nerve-wracking than the SW 97 snow patch. Although longer, it feels less exposed and better trenched. Also, the boulders became less of an impediment when I realized that I was allowed to touch them when maneuvering around them.

I'll file a trip report if and when I'm reunited with a real keypad. The bottom line: my hiking partner, who stumbled and hurt her ankle btw trail meadow and Mirror Lake on Thursday, managed to walk out late that night. Xrays the next morning in LP revealed that she'd broken it. We're both very appreciative of all the expressions of concern and support we received as we hobbled out (she carrying her wag bag bc she considered it impolite either to leave it or to have me carry it --- perhaps I should mention by way of explanation that although currently a resident of LA, she's born and bred a Brit). We're also extremely grateful and apologetic to the search and rescue team we failed to call off before they started up the mountain looking for us.
Our group of four summited on the 21st... like Brent, I plan on doing a more detailed TR later today or tomorrow. In the mean time, below is a link to my Flickr photo set. The first 30 or so photos are pre-hike photos meant for family and friends, the hike photos start at DSCN6249 and include conditions at the cables, the two snow fields at Trail Crest, and the snow field on the west flank of Whitney itself.

Regarding the North Fork crossing of Lone Pine Creek... TAKE THE OLD TRAIL! We did a scouting hike Tuesday afternoon to Lone Pine Lake via the Old Trail and even though it's a few degrees steeper (no sweat), it shaves about half a mile each way and you reduce the chances of getting water in your boots down to ZERO! You run a good chance to get water in your boots at 3:30am on your way up as you try to make your way across the creek in the dark... probably worse on the return as the snowmelt gushes downhill... although less significant with only a mile to go. PM me if you need a photo of where the Old Trail starts.

Regarding snow levels at the cables and switchbacks... Let me start by saying that I have ZERO snow-hiking experience and was born w/o the risk gene. I'm from Puerto Rico and left the island at age 22... didn't see snow fall until age 30... my comfort level around snow is still close to none at age 48. I recall at least four small snow fields above Trailside Meadows. Some longer, some shorter, but all are passable w/o poles for the average outdoors type folk. There is one a little steeper and slushier that is nothing to worry about with poles... if you happen to lose your footing there and slip, the only thing hurt will be your ego. I did not see any dead-end snow paths above Trailside Meadows (there were more than a few on my failed summit attempt on July 8th last year).

Up the switchbacks there were 2-3 corners where I had to scramble up the rocks because of snow. If you are uncoordinated, like I am, take your poles off and go hand over hand. No sweat. The toughest hand over hand for me was the switchback before the cables... like Brent said, just be careful and focus on the job at hand instead of the view below.

The cable are a NON-ISSUE! Just look at the photos in my Flickr set... enough said about that.

Regarding the two snow fields below Trail Crest... the first was scary for me, but well trodden. I did it w/o my micro spikes on the way up, but put them on on the way down for a little re-assurance. The snow field on the last switchback before Trail Crest was SCARY for me... if you're not confident around snow make sure you have two poles. Hold one short (mountain side) and use it to pull yourself in, keep the other one long to push yourself against the drop. Do not look down... focus on your feet and the next step. Do not look up ahead... it will take however long it takes to get across... nobody cares, but your family and children. Enough said. PM me if you have any questions and/or take a look at my photos for answers.

From there on its only a battle w/ AMS (if you are susceptible) or vertigo... I found two to three uncomfortable spots on the west side ridge... window #1 and two spots where rock falls made the trail footing only a foot wide... again, take your poles off and go hand over hand if your are freaked out by the cliff drops. Having done the snow fields at Trail Crest I can say the West face snow field below the summit is nothing at all.

Hmm... after reading this post, I may not have to do a TR after all... between Brent's report, my Flickr photo set, and the summary above you should have a good idea of our hiking conditions last Thursday, July 21st.

Regards and good luck,
Stay hydrated,
Do not stop eating,
and most of all enjoy.

@torpified: glad to hear both of you got off the mountain safely. My friend David and I passed you just above Mirror Lake... David offered you Ibuprofen, but you were well equipped. Sorry to hear about your friend's broken ankle.

Did the two of you make it to the summit?

I've posted a detailed TR with photos under "Trip Reports". Enjoy and thanks to all who posted here. Your help was invaluable in planning for the hike.

Thank you for the fantastic pictures! My group will be going up on August 2!
Dear Luis,

We made it! We took the easy, three-day way up the back. I'm going to try to post a trip report today. Thanks for yours, and congratulations!
I am So BUMMED!! We are supposed to get married on Mt. Whitney this Sunday 31st. We only have a day pass and there is a 40% chance of thunderstorms. Does anyone have any ideas of beautiful place on or around Mt.Whitney to do ceremony? since making it to the summit isn't looking good :-(

Drive to the Sierra Overlook on White Mountain road. Great view of Owens Valley and the Sierra. You could even hike White Mountain afterward. Could be rain or hail on White Mtn as well, so be prepared.

But then with the Lion Fire increasing again, the views may be smoky.

You could always hike to Lone Pine Lake -- T-storms shouldn't be as threatening there, and you'd be able to make an easier exit if there indeed is a thunderstorm.

hmmm... threatening weather, flexibility, plans changing... sounds like a normal marriage to me. wink
Hiking in from Horseshow Meadows for a 5 day route to Whitney over New Army Pass. I wonder what the snow conditions will be like August 26-31. I've seen some recent photos of the pass and it's got snow. This is our desired route... Horsehoe, New Army Pass, Rock Creek, Crabtree, Whitney Portal.
Originally Posted By: wedbe11
I am So BUMMED!! We are supposed to get married on Mt. Whitney this Sunday 31st.

Send a PM to + @ti2d - his wife & he did it right there!
Bet Doug could cater your reception at the Portal Store ! Pretty location and you might even get a black bear to attend, without an invitation of course.
Originally Posted By: wedbe11
I am So BUMMED!! We are supposed to get married on Mt. Whitney this Sunday 31st. We only have a day pass and there is a 40% chance of thunderstorms.

Thunderstorms!!! It will only add some "spark" to your wedding :-)

Originally Posted By: wedbe11
I am So BUMMED!! We are supposed to get married on Mt. Whitney this Sunday 31st. We only have a day pass and there is a 40% chance of thunderstorms. Does anyone have any ideas of beautiful place on or around Mt.Whitney to do ceremony? since making it to the summit isn't looking good :-(

Whitney Portal Cascades at the far end of the loop.

My wife and I got married there (07/14/07) in and took our "honeymoon" hike to Lone Pine Lake.

We couldn't ask for a more beautiful setting...

The following year, we celebrated our 1st with a hike to the top...lightning, rain, graupel, wind...yeah, what a way to celebrate!
Originally Posted By: + @ti2d

Whitney Portal Cascades at the far end of the loop.

My wife and I got married there (07/14/07) in and took our "honeymoon" hike to Lone Pine Lake.

We couldn't ask for a more beautiful setting...

The following year, we celebrated our 1st with a hike to the top...lightning, rain, graupel, wind...yeah, what a way to celebrate!

Gary- post a picture of your wedding we would love to see it!
Happy belated Anniversary!
We missed seeing you and your lovely wife Pam this year! Maybe next year......
Lady Bulldawg
There's been a flash flood at the portal. Here's the link to Doug's warning!
Originally Posted By: wazzu
There's been a flash flood at the portal. Here's the link to Doug's warning!

Praying for the safety of everyone affected by this storm! Feeling very blessed to have had wonderful weather while we were there the week before.

Please be SMART and stay safe everyone!

Lady Bulldawg
Here's some more info:

I hope everyone made it out safely and is OK. frown
Praying for their safe return.

Brent N
Holy crap. Prayers for everyone stranded on the trail.Poor Doug's business during peak season to have the campground and Portal closed also. Safety of people first but what damage a rogue rain/hail summer thunderstorm can do.
here's the link to a post from Bob R and he has a link to some incredible pictures of some of the damage. His post mentions only 1 person needing to be flown out. Based on a few of his pictures, that's incredible.
Here's the link to Bob R's set of pictures from his SAR participation.

    2011-07-29 Wild day on Mt. Whitney

They were carried up to Mirror Lake by helicopter, and he and a partner swept parts of the trail down to the portal.

Here's a picture of what used to be the log crossing. Maybe someone can find an old picture.
this was taken in late June
with snow

this was taken in late June

...which looks the same as it did 2 days before the 7/29 flood, which was the last of several times I crossed it during the past week.
Wow ... the power of running water is amazing!

4 days prior....7/25/2011

Regarding the log crossing...

Doug at the store has reported "Fire crew worked on the logs today and put them back in place."

Also note: The Interagency Visitor Center where you pick up permits NOW CLOSES AT 4:30 p.m.

Here's the press release (July 29, 2011): Inyo National Forest Responds to Budget Reductions...

I just called the Ranger and listened to a recording about the snow conditions. I could not tell but it seemed like it has not been updated since July. We are going up the Mountaineers route and looking to find out where/ if any the snow starts. Are the chutes free of snow?!
This is Late August. Until the next snow storm, there should be no snow anywhere on the main trail, except maybe for a little patch just before the summit. And that one always has a deep groove through it where the thousands of hikers have walked all summer.

As for the Mountaineer's Route, no snow except the center of the main chute below the notch. But that is usually avoided by staying on the rocks on the left side as you go up.
Thanks Steve. Its the exact piece of Info I was looking for.. Cheers!
Hello All,

I am from Columbus, Ohio and have never even been to California so I need some help as to what to expect for late September weather.

I will be climbing on September 26th, and could use a little help on current weather conditions and predictions for the mountain.

I believe I read a post that there was some early September snow? How much snow should I expect in late September? How cold and windy should I expect the summit to be?

I've climbed in the Rockies in snowy conditions, but nothing that required crampons. Will I be ok without them in light snow on Whitney?

Any help would be greatly appreciated for this down and out Buckeyes fan this Monday morning.

Thanks guys.
The snow that arrived 8-9 days ago has disappeared from the Main Trail, but it exists in the lows and cracks around the boulders. So unless another storm comes, you will have a fine hike.

As for the weather on your particular hike day, it could be a quiet, sunny day, or it could be stormy. The storms are infrequent in September, so your chances are very good.

Keep an eye on the links on the Mt Whitney Weather page.
hello everyone. new here to the board. finding all the information here quite useful. would like to know a little more about the trail this week. does anyone have any news on the current conditions as of 9/26/11? planning to head out and hike on friday 9/30/11 and would like to be as prepared as possible. thanks in advance!

Here are several pictures that DobeMom posted from Sept. 16.

Some of the snow on the trail at the summit may have melted, but the shaded icy sections won't thaw out much.

From the west side just beyond Trail Crest:

The trail near the summit:

The cable section:

I hiked the mountain this weekend (came down yesterday). The cables section has a bit more snow/ice than is shown in the above posting (from 9/16). It wasn't bad going up, but coming down was a little 'fun'. From the cables up there was spotty snow up the switchbacks. Some may have melted off - there was a hailstorm Sat morning that deposited quite a bit of consolidated hail - especially on the last long switchback.

The back side actually isn't too bad. There are a few places you have to watch your step due to a bit of ice or snow, but not long stretches. The 50yd or so snowfield is still there just before the trail switchbacks up the last bit of the actual summit. Those switchbacks had an inch or two of consolidated but very easy to walk on snow pretty much up to the summit itself.

I did the hike in just hiking boots with my trekking poles. A few stretches would have been made easier with yaktrax or microspikes (esp that last long switch back and the cables) but other than that, most snowy/icy spots weren't long enough to warrent them.

I think weather is supposed to be good this week, so more of the snow/ice may melt away before any more comes along.

I have pictures of the switchbacks and cables and will try to post them later.

=) tif
thank you steve and tif! the information is very much appreciated! tif, looking forward to your pictures! thanks in advance and congrats on a successful summit! smile
here's the cables:

and i thought i had a better one of the switchbacks, but i can't find it. this one shows the amount of snow accumulation on the rocks and only a tiny bit of the trail

=) tif
thank you for posting these pictures tif. will be starting tomorrow at 1am. these pics help better prepare for tomorrow. will post update when i come back. cheers!
Our group had an excellent summit day on Sept 30. We left the summit a little before noon and experienced some "snowy hail" on the way past the pinnacles and down the switchbacks over the course of the next ~2 hours.
Thanks to all who posted comments and photos regarding current conditions on the trail. My friend and I are hiking up Oct. 7th, so it's nice to get a heads up. I realize things can change drastically in a day, but it's still nice to know what the conditions have been.
With this weather system rolling down from the north this week we may be out of luck for a summit attempt. My group is scheduled to be at the portal on the 8th, and on the trail the 9th and 10th of Oct. This is a great forum and I hope we get some updates on the trail as the week progresses. Good luck.
Here is a picture from perhaps the last of late summer conditions on Mt Whitney, taken Oct. 2, by Bob R:

Bob's pictures are here: 2011-10-01 Mt. Whitney
Here are several pictures taken by JG1975 on Oct 7, following the first winter storm on Oct 4. Most of this snow is likely to stay until spring, so the trail will be more difficult.

Fall conditions are here, winter conditions will be soon.

Click on each picture for the full size. More pictures here: Day Hike Attempt, Whitney Trail Oct. 7, 2011

Trail before Outpost Camp

Trailside Meadow
Pictures taken Oct 8 can be found in the thread started by So.BayMark: Main trail 10-8-2011
Trail conditions in a backward form:

Conditions were pretty sweet after Trail Crest too. Snow was powdery mostly unconsolidated with a 1/2 inch styrofoam crust beginning to form. Thin single track with a bit of crumbling wrapped around the Westside slog. Easy route finding up to hut. No ice as of yet.

Coming down the switchbacks we encountered more fluffy break-away snow. Steps were finally solid at about the 1/2 way down point. Bottom 1/3 nice and firm. Great trail all the way down, ice reforming on the trail slightly after Outpost and significantly after Lone Pine Lake. Off trail time - 7pm.
Did you do an overnighter or a day hike? What was your start time? Thanks.
It was just a day hike & start time was 3:30am.
Last of the dry conditions for this year, since a storm is heading in for Nov. 3. The last snow field before the summit.

Tommyb's trip report is here: Oct 29th Whitney Main Trail Report!!

Here's a picture from Tommyb's report:
Any updates on trail conditions within the past day or two? We are flying out after Christmas and going up the mountaineer's route. Haven't had much luck determining snow conditions, road conditions to the portal, etc...

This is turning out to be a very dry winter, so there is not too much snow yet. However, what is there is being blown around with a few places with thigh-deep drifts.

Richard P climbed the main trail Dec. 17, and posted a few pictures: Mt. Whitney - December 17, 2011

Here's his summit picture. There is never much snow on the summit since the wind blows it away. You would find deeper snow below.
How is the mountaineers route looking? I know this thread is specific to the main trail, but I did not see another specific to that route. Enough snow to merit snowshoes?
I don't think snowshoes would be good on the MR due to steepness of sections and such. All winter, professional guides take people up the MR, and I have always seen them using winter boots and crampons. And ice axe too, of course!

Look at the other pictures in the link above. The snow levels in the MR will be similar to the Main Trail.

Will definitely have the usual climbing gear: crampons, axe, etc.... However, in your opinion, would snow shoes be advisable for lower approach portion of the trail? I.e. road and/or portal to Upper Boyscout or Iceberg?
If I were going, I'd leave snow shoes home. You might encounter some deeper drifts where snow shoes would help, but the majority is going to be 6" or so deep.

Snow is too thin to walk over the bushes in the north fork drainage, so the Ebersbacher Ledges will be the way to go. Be sure you have crampons ready for that, as the exposure combined with potential ice could be dicey.

And take pictures for all of us!
Will do!
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