Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail

Posted by: Steve C

Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/04/10 10:44 AM

This thread is designed to hold posts displaying pictures and describing the current conditions of the Main Mount Whitney Trail (MMWT).  I hope everyone will contribute.

Please feel free to post pictures of your own or from any source (please post a reference to the original location), so that everyone can come here and easily find/read/see the conditions.

Older posts will be moved as conditions change. (As a result, some posts may appear to answer comments that are no longer in the thread.)

Thanks for everyone's help. Your posting trip reports helps untold numbers of hikers following you.

Older posts moved here:   Whitney Main Trail Conditions 2018 (Old)

Note: Sometimes this thread spans a number of pages. You can click through all the pages, or click here to display all in one page.

Posted by: robbie

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/11/18 08:41 AM

Did a two day trip this weekend (June 9th-10th) with a group of 10.

We camped at trail camp which had patches of snow, but was mostly clear. The wind was pretty bad the entire time we were there. I saw several tents pretty much destroyed from the wind and someone said a tent had blown into the lake the day before. Temperatures dipped below freezing (maybe high 20's) Saturday night with many of the small puddles freezing over by morning.

I left trail camp around 5:20am, reached the top of the chute around 6:20 and summited just before 8:00am. I was moving pretty quick thanks to a night of acclimating at 12,000'. The slower people in my group started at 4am and summited around 9:00am.

At 6:00am the chute was slightly icy, but I felt very solid with micro spikes and an ice axe. Most people in my group had micro spikes and hiking poles and had no problem going up. There were a few snowy/icy areas past trail crest, but nothing that required me to put on micro spikes or use my ice axe.

On the way down from the peak we were warned that several people were seriously injured on the chute. I heard a couple different stories, but from what I can gather a girl and her boyfriend were ascending the chute with Yaktraxs and hiking poles when one or both of them slipped and crashed into another group below them. They all slid down the chute and crashed into the rocks at the base. The girl broke her arm and one guy may have fractured his skull. By the time I got to them they were wrapped in sleeping bags so I did not see the extent of their injuries. People who saw them earlier said it was really bad and that they were not doing well. I could see a search and rescue helicopter for the rest of the day going back and forth trying to evac them.

After hearing about this incident everyone in my group was pretty nervous descending the chute. Using an ice axe I glissaded very slowly to the first rocky area and scrambled down a couple hundred feet before glissading down the less steep area. Everyone else inched their way down with micro spikes on facing the chute and stabbing the ground in front of them with shortened poles. It took some of them 2+ hours to get from the top of the chute to trail camp.

I would highly recommend an ice axe if you’re planning on going up in the next couple weeks. I bought one specifically for this trip and only had a couple hours at trail camp to practice the night before. Even with my lack of experience I was much better off than other people in my group. Everyone was wishing they had purchased/rented one.
Posted by: 203WEST

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/11/18 08:57 AM

Thanks for the report Robbie! I hope those other hikers are OK. We're heading up next week, but I probably won't take my wife/son past Trail Camp without the switchbacks clear.
Posted by: Steve C

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/11/18 10:55 AM

Robbie, thanks so much for the report.

It is good that people are being warned by reports like yours.

What I don't understand this year, is that usually, a couple of hiking groups will push up or down the switchbacks, which will make a good boot track, and then everyone hears the news and uses them. It takes about a day for the masses to really open up the switchbacks.

I just don't understand why that hasn't occurred yet this year!!!
Posted by: PeteK.

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/11/18 08:06 PM

WOW. If anyone read my trip report from Thursday, and other peoples, they would see that microspikes/Yaktraks and hiking poles are not the way to go up or down the chute....you need an ice axe and crampons to ascend and axe to descend safely. My buddy and I saw lots of people really struggling to ascend with 'spikes and poles...no idea how they fared on the way down..luckily no one got hurt that day (I don't think!?).
Stay safe out there folks!!
Posted by: Steve C

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/11/18 10:57 PM

This posted by Ellen S: Mt Whitney multiple injuries on 6/10/18

Quote:
My daughter and I left Whitney portal at 2:45 a m on June 10, 2018. Arrived at trail camp at about 7 a m. Started up chute and were considering turning back when four people slid down at over 30 mph completely out of control. They fell over 1,000 vertical feet. Screaming, bouncing, did not stop til bottom snow pack. Head injuries, broken bones, hypothermia, among injuries. Helicopters took between 5 and 8 hours. Worst accident I’ve ever witnessed. Please please do not let summit fever cloud your judgement on this stretch of the whitney trail. If anyone has an update of these climbers please post.
Posted by: KevinR

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/12/18 05:22 AM

It's also worth pointing out that just because you may be a skilled mountaineer, are competent with an ice axe and crampons, you're not out of danger when descending the 'chute below Trail Crest. Always keep an eagle eye out UPHILL for people (and rocks/ice, etc) which may be hurtling in your direction, and always have a plan about which way to go (right or left) in the event someone/thing is falling rapidly towards you. Falling without crampons is bad enough; having them on and falling is even worse. Don't become a casualty yourself.
Posted by: 203WEST

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/12/18 11:48 AM

I keep hoping to hear any updates on the switchbacks, but nothing yet. It definitely sounds like plenty of inexperienced folks taking their chances on the chute. Not us.
Originally Posted By: Steve C
Robbie, thanks so much for the report.

It is good that people are being warned by reports like yours.

What I don't understand this year, is that usually, a couple of hiking groups will push up or down the switchbacks, which will make a good boot track, and then everyone hears the news and uses them. It takes about a day for the masses to really open up the switchbacks.

I just don't understand why that hasn't occurred yet this year!!!
Posted by: trillmix

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/12/18 12:35 PM

Hi everyone - I also wanted to give back to this community thread as I relied on it heavily to prepare for my overnight trip to Whitney, and my trip had a lot more action than usual…we summited on Sunday 06/10/2018.

I was a part of Robbie's group from the prior post above, and was the last/slow group. The main Whitney trail was very well graded - it's the distance and elevation that would play the biggest factors in your ascent. I am from SoCal and did the 6 Pack of Peak challenge and that really helped me prepare for the hike, distance-wise. For the elevation, I had Diamox prescribed to me and will attribute 95% of my summit success to it. If you can get your hands on some - do it!

The hike up to Trail Camp was smooth. Beautiful trail. Trail Camp was very windy Saturday night and made it feel colder than it should have been. If it wasn't for the wind then the weather would have been a perfect temperature. The wind came in spurts but the time frame when it is the worst/really picks up is usually between 3pm-7pmish. Overall, the entire weekend had great weather! We were able to practice self-arresting and glissading on some of the slopes near Trail Camp. I highly recommend doing this before doing the real deal.

Our group of 10 split into sub-groups because of different speed and schedules. I know my body and pace and that I'd need more time for everything. My partner and I started the ascent from Trail Camp around 4am and was surrounded by celestial beauty until daybreak around 5am. You don't really need headlamps after 5/530am. From Trail Camp, follow the path to the switchbacks and hike up until the switchbacks eventually disappear into the snowy parts.

It took us 3 hours to get to the top of the chute: arrival at 7am. Chute conditions were perfect. Hard packed snow that was favorable for cramponing up. I initially was going up with hiking poles but did not feel safe or comfortable and switched them out for my ice axe. Glad I did. Don't underestimate this part. The climb up the chute was brutal for me - but the views at the top are breathtaking! Just go slow and be careful. If you can, try to find a route that already has footsteps in them. It will make for a much easier climb - think of it as climbing up steps, like on a stair master machine! Dig your toe in and secure your footing. Throw your ice axe in front of you for a self-belay.

If you want to skip some of the snow then an alternative (that was recommended to us by the Whitney Portal store owner and other groups) would be to crampon up to the pile of rocks on the chute. It's a long stretch of boulders that are pretty obvious - you can't miss it (I'll try to post photos later). Boulder-hop on those to skip some snow = once at the top, you'll have about 200-300 feet of snow left to climb up on! I would definitely recommend using the rocks if you only have hiking poles. Some people from our group had only micro spikes and hiking poles and were carefully and slowly making their way down to the pile of rocks.

It took my partner and I 2-2.5hrs to ascend from Trail Crest. Perfect weather. Even with the diamox medication, it was very hard to breath on the last 1.9 miles from Trail Crest to summit. Take it slow…

The 1.9 miles from Trail Crest to summit was in good condition! There were 2-3 sections of snow and a bit of ice, but you can get through it without traction if you do a little careful maneuvering. It wasn't enough for me to feel like I had to put on my crampons/microspikes (I had both) but definitely be careful traversing it.

On our way back down, we were told the horror stories of the series of unfortunate events that happened… We got to Trail Crest by 10am and the chute conditions were slushy/the sun was melting it already. Don't forget to wear sunscreen!! Because I sure did…

I glissaded down with my rain pants, rain shell jacket, gaiters, waterproof gloves, and an ice axe (among other things). I went very slowly as the beginning is very, very steep. I was braking with my left arm and my entire left arm is sore/done for the next couple of weeks. It is a workout! I got down the chute in 2 hours or less. From the bottom of the chute there is still a stretch of snow to walk on until you're back at the open part of the switchbacks that lead into Trail Camp. You can walk this snow stretch with just your boots, hiking poles, and careful maneuvering.
---
As for the multiple injuries that happened - they were very unfortunate and terrible. Bless those kinds souls who forgo' d their summit to become trail angels and help these folks out! I met the BF of one of the injured people and he told me that his group started to ascend from Trail Camp around 6am. His GF had crampons, no ice axe. Somewhere along the way she had unstable footing/missed a step and slipped….and it was downhill from there. Literally. Thankfully some kind souls were able to help slow down her momentum (I don't know how, didn't ask for details) so she didn't get as injured as she could have been. She had broken bones, sprains, bruises, etc. But shortly after she fell it was a domino effect. Another girl fell 30-60 seconds after she did and sustained worst injuries. The 2nd girl wasn't as high up as the 1st girl but had more serious injuries. She was initially unconscious but on my way down I saw her wrapped up in emergency space blankets in the snow, wailing/groaning. The 1st girl was wrapped in blankets on a rock, not too far from one another. I don't know how long it took search and rescue to come but I did see the helicopter attempt to land multiple times. The chute isn't exactly a place for safe landing. I could still hear the helicopters coming and going as I was making the hike back down to my car between 3pm-7:30pm.

Just some personal tips: Remember to hike your own hike and ascend slowly to acclimate properly! It's a marathon, not a race. Seriously. And, I would highly, highly, recommend crampons and an ice axe. You can get by with micro spikes, but definitely not just hiking poles. Better safe than sorry!! Doesn't matter if you're experienced or a novice - these tools will save your life! Other than that, if you have the right tools and don't underestimate the trail (aka mentally prepare and practice self-arresting/glissading) then you'll do alright! It was my first time doing anything like this and yes, it was scary, but I think it's doable with the right preparation.

Before we started our trip we were told that the temperatures were warming up and that the chute was getting slushy earlier on. I would recommend getting to the top of the chute before 8am latest and down it by 12 noon. It might be too slushy if it's any later and would bring on more potential hazards.
Posted by: SWriverstone

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/13/18 12:43 PM

I've got another thread going in which I've been trying to analyze the risk of climbing Whitney on a PCT/JMT hike I'm doing next week. I would be at Whitney on either Thursday June 21 or Friday June 22.

• I do not have winter mountaineering experience.
• I do not have an ice axe, nor know how to use one.
• I do have Kahtoola Microspikes (but not crampons).
• I do have trekking poles.

In my other thread...
http://www.whitneyzone.com/wz/ubbthreads.php/topics/53432/Whitney_reality_check:_hike_pl#Post53432

...wbtravis states:
Quote:
9 people have died in SoCal the last 3 winters...8 were utilizing light traction devices and poles.

If the trail is not an option on the north side of Forester Pass or at the Chute, skills, helmet, crampons and axe are required. You cannot self-belay with a collapsible trekking pole.


Though I really want to climb Whitney (and believe I have the physical conditioning to do it), I'm not going to assume even slight risk (much less serious risk). If necessary, I'm prepared to change my southbound hike (Kearsarge Pass to Whitney Portal) to an out-and-back hike from Kearsarge Pass.

So for me, the critical factor that will determine my hike itinerary will be: will the Mt. Whitney Trail be safely walkable (without ice axe or crampons) in its entirety by Thursday, June 21?

I'm not sure how I can know by this weekend, which is when I'll be starting my hike from Onion Valley/Kearsarge Pass.

I'm an extremely fit and competent hiker who is not easily spooked. But I'm not going to assume that because some people have successfully navigated The Chute with microspikes and trekking poles means "it's safe." (Some of those people have also gotten seriously hurt.)

I'm looking for suggestions as to any other good sources of up-to-the-minute intel on the Mt. Whitney Trail (besides here!)—if anyone has any, please post up!

Thanks,
Scott
Posted by: Blair

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/13/18 06:49 PM

Hey all,

I am planning a trip for the 22nd. This will be my second time on Whitney and we plan to take the switchbacks. Figured this time of year microspikes shall do. With the ever so melting snow conditions i'm hesitant on bringing an ice axe but that will be tentative pretty much the day prior to our hike. Hopefully people have been breaking in trail! If anyone has completed a summit would love to see more pictures of switchbacks and current snow conditions! Hot weather looks to be in favor of more melt off.

Cheers!
Posted by: al_novice

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/14/18 06:43 AM

Summited on 06/13/18. Hike Time= 8:00 ascending, 1:05 at the summit, and 6:40 descending, total time 15:45.

Left the portal at 12:45a

Got to the chute at around 5:15, conditions were perfect for climbing wearing "Hillsound Trail Crampons" and an Ice axe.

Summited around 8:45 and stayed for about an hour

Made it back to the chute around 11:00 and glissaded down. I had an ice axe, but 0 experience. It was probably one of the scariest things i've ever done.

Made it back o the portal around 4:30p

My take away: The chute is serious. Like I took it serious, after reading about it and seeing pictures on this forum, and I still under estimated it. I'm an endurance athlete, did a half ironman May 20th, and the chute killed my legs and energy going up. I only took one break from the portal to the chute, took one break before and after the chute, but then had to take 3 breaks between the chute and the summit. This may have been contributed to by the altitude as well.

Like i said I have 0 experience glissading, so maybe 11 o'clock is perfect for descending, but the snow was absolute slush and I felt like I didn't have control some of the time. I went slow, took me like 30 min to glissade, but there were a couple times i didn't think I was going to be able to stop. I would aim to try to descend the chute by about 10 o'clock.

I would not make an attempt at the chute without an ice axe, just my opinion.

Switchbacks are getting close. Like an admin said, all it will take is a couple groups to trudge through the remaining snow, and it will melt quick.
Posted by: Steve C

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/14/18 08:39 AM

Stephen S posted a video on Facebook of a person sliding/tumbling completely out of control down "the chute" above Trail Camp, west of the switchbacks. I think you need to be a facebook member to view it.

https://www.facebook.com/stephen.schneider.969/videos/1746826488726698/
His main videos: https://www.facebook.com/stephen.schneider.969/posts/1747914878617859

WZ thread: Mt Whitney multiple injuries on 6/10/18
Posted by: SWriverstone

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/14/18 11:47 AM

Can someone enlighten me as to the cables on the route up? Where exactly are they? (I'm assuming along the trail/switchbacks somewhere, but don't know where.) Are they between Trail Crest and the summit? Or between Trail Camp and Trail Crest?

A photo on page 1 of this thread showed them completely exposed and (seemingly) easy to grasp. Are they in fact there for the purpose of hanging on to while moving along the trail or ridge? Are they safe?

It sounds like many people will be taking the switchbacks over the next few days. Please keep us all posted (I wouldn't be there until Thursday June 21). I'm still waiting on a decision to go for Whitney? Or abort completely and do a different hike.

It sounds like conditions for non-winter-mountaineering experts could become considerably safer over the next 5-7 days...(allowing for continued warm, sunny weather).

Scott
Posted by: sumo

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/14/18 12:10 PM

See this image http://www.whitneyzone.com/docs/BobR/switchbacks_waynep.jpg
(Make sure you are viewing full resolution)
You will see the numbers on the bottom left to the top left marking the switchbacks.
(I don't know the date of this photo though)

The fence(not really cables) is between 45 and 46.

As of June 8 this is what it looked like https://photos.smugmug.com/Other/Whitney/i-d9jXJ3W/0/b5184590/O/WhitCables180606.jpg

Hope this helps.

p.s. As of today my plan is to take the switchbacks on Sunday(June 17) morning.
Posted by: 203WEST

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/14/18 12:11 PM

Originally Posted By: Steve C
Stephen S posted a video on Facebook of a person sliding/tumbling completely out of control down "the chute" above Trail Camp, west of the switchbacks. I think you need to be a facebook member to view it.

https://www.facebook.com/stephen.schneider.969/videos/1746826488726698/
His main videos: https://www.facebook.com/stephen.schneider.969/posts/1747914878617859

WZ thread: Mt Whitney multiple injuries on 6/10/18
Holy smokes! In the skiing world, we call people like that a "Jerry". Is there a comparable term in the mountaineering community?
Posted by: Mermaid14

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/14/18 12:29 PM

This is my favorite map of the switchbacks: http://www.icorva.com/Photography/Whitney/Switchbacks.JPG

There is more good information on the Hiking Guy's website.
Posted by: SWriverstone

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/14/18 01:00 PM

Thanks sumo and others for the info on the cables. Great map of the switchbacks too. I'm driving from Oregon to Bishop, CA tomorrow and Saturday (arriving Saturday). I hope by then to have reliable news about the status of the switchbacks! If not, I may just hike up to Rae Lakes and go fishing. <grin>

Thanks,
Scott
Posted by: Steve C

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/14/18 05:01 PM

Originally Posted By: SWriverstone
Can someone enlighten me as to the cables on the route up? Where exactly are they? (I'm assuming along the trail/switchbacks somewhere, but don't know where.) Are they between Trail Crest and the summit? Or between Trail Camp and Trail Crest?

A photo on page 1 of this thread showed them completely exposed and (seemingly) easy to grasp. Are they in fact there for the purpose of hanging on to while moving along the trail or ridge? Are they safe?

It sounds like many people will be taking the switchbacks over the next few days. Please keep us all posted (I wouldn't be there until Thursday June 21). I'm still waiting on a decision to go for Whitney? Or abort completely and do a different hike.

It sounds like conditions for non-winter-mountaineering experts could become considerably safer over the next 5-7 days...(allowing for continued warm, sunny weather).

Scott

Scott, you can see them in the upper right corner of this SAR rescue picture from Sunday's mess -- click on the second picture. The cables are visible in the upper right of the picture.
http://www.whitneyzone.com/wz/ubbthreads.php/topics/53410/Mt_Whitney_multiple_injuries_o#Post53445

They are in fact there to help people navigate that section when the snow covers the trail like that. People walk on the outside until the snow melts down enough. Going up the switchbacks, until the cables section clears up, everyone should have some sort of traction devices. It is worst early in the morning when everything is icy. And things ice-up in the late afternoon when the sun drops behind the crest on the west.
- - - - - - - - - -

Mermaid14: Wayne Pyle created your favorite map. He has since passed on, but his map lives. (Big version here). He also added the switchback numbers to the picture linked by sumo (above). Here's a thread from 2011 where he posted a reply: Counting Switchbacks
Posted by: NaniTree

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/14/18 06:20 PM

I will be hiking up Whitney this Sunday (The 17th) and am trying to make the call on whether or not crampons and ice axes will be necessary for us to bring.

Last year I hiked up July 2nd and from what I'm hearing on the board, the conditions are comparable to last year in July(after the very snowy/wet winter) when it was still very snowy but clearing up.

Last year was my first time using crampons and an ice axe. After watching a bunch of YouTube videos and talking to the people who I rented the gear from, we felt pretty comfortable using it. Glissading is fun if you get the hang of it. The key is to begin the glissading decent down the snow while the snow is still soft. Also, know how to self arrest. I'll also mention that last year my sister and I glissaded to the right(facing downhill) of the chute as to avoid the traffic in the chute and the slickness of the chute. It worked out for us.

Planning on calling the Park Rangers tomorrow so I can make a good call on whether to bring the ice axes or not. I'm hoping to take the 99 switchbacks. I'm a pretty experienced hiker, I'm comfortable with scrambling, but I don't want to be stuck on a snowy/icy slope without the support and leverage of an ice axe.

If anyone comes back and can share the conditions before Saturday, it would be much appreciated! I'll make sure to loop back here and share my experience next week when I return.
Posted by: AC780

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/15/18 08:01 AM

I am planning on climbing Whitney as a day hike on June 27th. I hear that the switchbacks should be usable very soon and plan to take them. Does the trail after trail crest have snow/ice on it as well? Also, do you think the conditions will still require microspikes/crampons by the 27th?

Thanks
Posted by: BohemianJess

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/15/18 05:53 PM

Great news the switchbacks are good to go! Just got a response on my Instagram that about 10 people cleared them a few days ago!
Posted by: sumo

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/15/18 06:08 PM

Originally Posted By: BohemianJess
Great news the switchbacks are good to go! Just got a response on my Instagram that about 10 people cleared them a few days ago!


Thank you!!

I'll sleep better tonight.
Posted by: BohemianJess

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/15/18 07:22 PM

Someone also responded that there was a small stretch tues that may need a ice axe and micro spikes but the rest was completely clear... hoping the first person is right
Posted by: BohemianJess

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/15/18 08:11 PM

Just spoke to someone who finished hiking today and the switchbacks are cleared, only a few small patches of light snow!&#128077;
Posted by: Steve C

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/15/18 10:28 PM

B.Jess: Thanks for reporting this. By the way, what Instagram feed are you following?

This early, the switchback trail at the cables will still have significant snow. There may be so much yet that people might need to hang onto the cables and walk on the outside. If you're sure-footed and trust your own grip, you might be able to go without microspikes or anything, but that makes it a bit more risky.

It is amazing that it took SO long this year for anyone to come through and tell everyone that the switchbacks are open. In previous years with similar snowfall, it certainly happened earlier.
Posted by: Steve C

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/15/18 10:39 PM

Here's a picture of the top switchback of the 99 switchbacks, posted today 6-15-2018) on Instagram by mg_needs.

You can see how little snow there is on the trail.
It was reported (above) today that "about 10 people cleared The switchbacks a few days ago!"   See the trip report just below.



Second picture showing the crest between the JMT junction and the summit.

Posted by: Bojo

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/16/18 07:32 AM

Thanks Jess and Steve for the Switchback updates. I will be attempting to make the summit via the switchbacks in the early morning hours of Monday June 25 will two 11 year olds. If anyone has any beta on the switchbacks as it comes available, I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks.
Posted by: altra_ben

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/16/18 07:37 AM

I led a group of 10 up to the summit yesterday and successfully took the switchbacks in both directions. I can confirm that the switchbacks are not only open, but actually very clear!

Like most on this board with permits around this time, I scanned for the last few weeks waiting for a glimpse of the conditions with no luck. My group was extremely mixed in experience (not ability) with some having never used any of the equipment; ice axe, crampons, microspikes, or trekking poles. With that in mind we made a group decision that we would take our time and go up the switch back blazing the trail if necessary for those in our group (and others on this forum) with less experience.

The switchbacks were 90% dry, 9% light ice that melts by mid morning into running streams, and 1% snow that becomes slushy by mid morning. I feel very confident that nearly anyone with any level of experience can make it with microspikes (true microspikes, not those ones with little pins like golf shoes) and poles. We had one in our group with no poles (or ice axe) and a couple that never got their microspikes out of the bag - for reference.

The first of the 2 primary "tough" sections is the cables... the snow is down to about a 15 foot section where the cables themselves tilt perpendicular to the trail. We had a little bit of anxiety with one of our noobs in this section, so we actually used the ice axe a carved out about a 12-15" wide path to walk it... you still want to be surefooted each step and I would use microspikes for safety, but it should be good - our anxious member made it and was later crossing other snow sections with confidence!

The second of the 2 primary "tough" sections is the very top of the switchbacks headed into Trail Crest. This section is about 75 feet long and is not difficult when the snow is still frozen from the night, you just need to watch your step and use a pole for balance... the tricky parts are: 1) there has been some post holes made that you don't want to fall down and 2) after mid morning when things get slushy its obviously more slick and easier to post hole. If you're patient it shouldn't be a problem - even our least experienced person in the group took no more than 4-5min to cross.

In my opinion, I would not be glissadding the chute at this point... I did watch people successfully do it, but there are little exposed rock points all the way down and I would hate to catch one on my a$$ and ruin a great trip! A few in our group (the more experienced) wanted to do it to speed things up, but we wanted to keep everyone together as well...

Timeline for us:
2:20am - Portal
5:20am - Trail Camp (20min for water fill ups)
6:20am - Cables (about 20min here clearing trail with ice axe)
8:10am - Trail Crest
9:20-10:30am - Peak (split into two groups for the descent at 10:30a)
11:15am & 11:45am - Trail Crest
12:05pm & 1:20pm - Trail Camp
1:40pm - Portal (first group)
4:15pm - Portal (second group)

I would love to post pics and may get to eventually, but others in my group have them and we're off to some work events in Mammoth and Tahoe areas... feel free to ask questions and I will try to answer as available. In a nut shell, if you have microspikes and poles, I have little doubt you will make it up the switchbacks with a little patience, a sunrise ascent and late morning, early afternoon descent.

Thanks!
Posted by: Bojo

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/16/18 08:02 AM

Thank you so much for the update. Now I can start to get excited about our trip!
Posted by: ScottHikerEsq

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/16/18 08:36 AM

Originally Posted By: altra_ben

Timline for us:
12:05pm & 1:20pm - Trail Camp
1:40pm - Portal (first group)
4:15pm - Portal (second group)

Thanks!


The first group went from Trail Camp to Portal in 1 hour 35 minutes? Were they trail runners?
Posted by: altra_ben

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/16/18 09:11 AM

Yes, our entire group is a mix of runners (some trail/ultra) that work for Altra and some were itching to open it up a bit on the descent ;P. Others not as accustomed to the mountains were content to hike it out...
Posted by: 203WEST

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/16/18 09:27 AM

Thanks Ben for the great update!
Posted by: BohemianJess

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/16/18 11:42 AM

You’re probably the one I spoke to on ig, or someone from your group! Regardless thank you for the detailed update!! Much appreciated!!!
Posted by: Adventurous

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/16/18 04:50 PM

Just picked up our permits from the ranger station. We were informed the switchbacks are certainly usable and currently safer than the Chute. We intend to summit through the switchbacks on Monday.
Posted by: Steve C

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/16/18 08:10 PM

Andrew W posted these pictures at the cables on 6/16/2018   ( from facebook ):






Posted by: WanderingJim

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/16/18 09:29 PM

Originally Posted By: Steve C
Andrew W posted these pictures at the cables on 8/16/2018  


Cool, can I borrow his time machine?:)
Posted by: Steve C

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/17/18 10:37 PM

Here's an excellent report posted on FB by Abhijit K:

Quote:
For the people who are interested in switchbacks and in general hiking Whitney soon. Our group of 6 summited it on June 15. We started our hike on June 14, from Whitney portal and stayed at trail camp. Next morning (June15) we started around 6am for summit, reached trail crest at 9:45 am and summit at noon. We had micro spikes, poles and Ice axes and used switchbacks for going up and coming down. Switchbacks are not completely snow free but with ice axes and micro spikes we managed it and after us we met many people who actually used them.

There are couple of major spots though, where you need to take precaution. First is at cables ( in fact we saw a couple walking down after they saw snow at cables, as they were not comfortable), where we have to use caution and ice axes to cross the section. The other part is where switchback connects trail crest. That part is still under heavy snow and difficult to navigate. To avoid that, we hiked up the mountain behind it and traverse to trail crest (20 minute detour and no snow). This part was bit strenuous and may not be useful for everyone. It is important that you take your own time and pace. We were slow but super-cautious in our ascent and took almost 4 hours to reach Trail crest.

After that, last 1.9 miles were like 5 miles, very tiring but worth it at the end. Started heading down around 12:30. Going down on the switchbacks also was little tricky at the same spots I mentioned before, so we followed our exact same strategy that we used for ascent. This is our journey and use this information as per your hiking and navigation skills.


His picture:
Posted by: JMH

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/18/18 06:23 AM

We have overnight permits for june 26th. No one in our group has ever used an ice axe, crampons, or micro. The plane tickets can be rebooked. So we are on the fence as to whether we should reschedule. For me these snow fields are too sketchy. So my question is how much melt might occur in this next week. This is my 5th trip to Whitney so I know the exposure with snow being at the cables and last switchback is more than I want to deal with.
Posted by: sumo

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/18/18 10:18 AM

From my post on the Trip reports section.

Originally Posted By: sumo
Completed an over night trip to Mt. Whitney Summit starting on Saturday June 16 and summiting and descending on June 17.

Whitney Portal to Trail camp is great and clear. There is one part with about a foot of snow on a flat area and it's well packed to cross just before trail camp.

Many people are using the 99 switchbacks. I can estimate in the time that we were on it we saw at least 20 people. Some with just hiking shoes and poles.

Many people are also using the chute to glissade down and hike up. But the snow is getting thin on the chute.

The 99 switchbacks still have 7 snow patches that are fully covering the trail. 2 of them were a bit tricky.

Note: The snow patches are melting heavily but hard to estimate when they will completely clear.

Unfortunately, in my opinion two of the trickiest parts may take the longest to clear. Good news is they are being crossed by hikers now and the snow is well very well packed by usage in these parts. The snow is hard early morning so offers for better grip if you are using ice axe and micro crampons or yak tracks. It was was getting soft and slushy by 11am where there is better grip on the packed trail but ice axe may simply sink into the snow completely. For details read below.

Not so tricky parts of the snow patches...
There are 4 parts on the trail and 3 at the edge of the switch backs. Both at the edge of the switchbacks can be avoided by simply scrambling up/down to the next level. Easy! Or you can use the snow path that is packed. Little difficult. So look for scrambling paths where there is snow covering any switch back turns. Note: The path to the cables is one of these.

The two straight paths on the trail are well packed by foot so they can be crossed easily as well. However, having an ice axe helped me feel safe. One of the paths had about a 20ft slide slope.

Now the 2 tricky parts...
One is by the cables which about only 10 feet long but it's at a very steep part of that stretch and it's iced at the top due to lots of snow melt that is falling from above and freezing on the shaded snow on the trail. The packed path is setup in a way that you have to walk above the cable fence height to cross.

The other is near trail crest. This is about 40ft long. This is where the glissaders start their slide from the top. So there is a good 1000+ feet drop from this point.

We had to use ice axe and crampons/yak tracks to cross these points. We saw some people do it with just hiking poles and shoes.

Good luck to the hikers that are going in the next couple of weeks. Be safe, careful and enjoy!

Please post any questions you have and I'll answer.


Posted by: sumo

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/18/18 10:22 AM



Confirm this is how it was as of yesterday. This is only 10 feet long. Be safe, feel safe and use micro crampons or yak tracks and ice axes to cross these parts.

It helped that we had a person in our group who had experience using ice axes for support.
Posted by: sumo

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/18/18 10:30 AM

Originally Posted By: JMH
We have overnight permits for june 26th. No one in our group has ever used an ice axe, crampons, or micro. The plane tickets can be rebooked. So we are on the fence as to whether we should reschedule. For me these snow fields are too sketchy. So my question is how much melt might occur in this next week. This is my 5th trip to Whitney so I know the exposure with snow being at the cables and last switchback is more than I want to deal with.


This is a bit tricky. The snow is melting fast and it's possible it will all clear by the 27th. Watch the weather reports. (I assume you will stay at the trail camp on 26th and attempt to summit on 27th).

I can tell you having someone with ice axe experience helped me tremendously. Without this person I would have turned around at the cables. I summited and returned through the switchbacks on June 17.
Posted by: sumo

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/18/18 02:27 PM

Pic(taken on June 17, 2018) of the snow covered trail near Trail Crest.

https://prnt.sc/jwh1qf
Posted by: Twee

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/19/18 05:14 AM

Hey everyone, I just got back from Whitney today 6/18/18 (same day as Andrew W, pretty sure his date was a typo but I totally understand he’s probably exhausted because Whitney was no joke)

First of all, I notice there are lots of people here with different experiences such as altra-ben who is Superman, people who hike long distance/high elevation a lot, and there are people like me (37 y.o) who hike 3-6 mile trails and work out everyday thinking that I’m fit enough for Whitney.

I’ll skip the hike to Trail Camp since that’s pretty straight forward but the elevation on that hike was like level 6/10, and since we were camping on Sunday the 17th, we did take our time, took us 7.5hrs

As for the switchbacks, we started at 4:30am and got to trail crest 9am. Parts of the trail were very icy that early in the morning so be very careful. We found that there were 3 “death obstacles” and about 4 “oh shit” parts. Some “oh shit” parts were scrambling rocks but on a steep hill with lots of sliding rocks and some snow. Scary yes, difficult no. Going up was way easier than going down

Death obstacle 1: by the cables, that picture that Andrew W posted is accurate. It’s a steep drop off and icy because ice melts coming down on it and the sun doesn’t hit it as much but it’s a short stretch. The 4 of us were very scared for our lives since we have no experience with ice axe or microspikes. It literally scared the shit out of one girl in our group and she took a shit right after that snowed in cable

Death obstacle 2: after the cable there’s a long stretch of thick snow that covered the trail but there were deep obvious foot print and the snow was hard enough so we didn’t use spikes but it’s kinda long but half as scary as the first one

Death obstacle 3: right before trail crest, this one is a little sketchy, not enough snow to feel safe because on the mountain side it was down to rocks in some parts so I couldn’t stab the axe in. Couple foot path spot were wet dirt, and not enough foot print to follow so I would say scariness level close to the first but this part will probably clear next week since there’s not much snow left

Trail crest: like veryone said, longest 1.9 miles ever! We took 2-3 breaths per step because elevation. Level 9/10 for sure. Took us 2.5hrs to summit

The switchbacks on the way back was not as scary because we’ve done them before but they were more difficult because it’s hard to stablelize your axe in slushy snow and steps were a little more icy but we took our time and made it back

The hike back to portal same day was as brutal. Elevation wise no problem but I was hurting everywhere and it seems like I’ve been walking for days. Took us 4hrs down from trail camp

I know our pace may seem really slow but I just wanted to put some perspectives for novice hikers on here so they know what to expect. We did see a lot of people blazing that trail fast like elevation was no big deal (although they did have only a day pack and we had 35lbs each). We did see some people going thru those death obstacles with ice axe and no spikes so it depends on how confident you are with ur footing and whether you want to take that risk

Anyway, have a good day everyone. I think those snow patches will completely clear in a couple of weeks but not before that unless another big group will trek through and clear it.

Please be careful and be safe out there. Remember to wear sunscreen or better yet one of those neck uv protection thing and cover your face. My face is completely sunburn, windburn, chillburn and it’s kinda dusty out there so it helps protect your throat and nostrils since you’re breathing pretty hard
Posted by: Mauricio

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/19/18 09:32 AM

Excellent report, Twee. I thank you profusely for it, as I'm leading a group of 6 this Friday (to Trail Camp and Saturday to the summit and back).
Posted by: shri

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/19/18 03:51 PM

Very true Twee!
Our group (3 of us), summited the same day (Mon, 06/18) and we had the same moments that your report mentions.

We started at 3.30 am, and the icy patches on the switchbacks were very slippery. At times, we were using the ice axe to break the ice on the trail to get a better grip. We did carry crampons, it was too taxing to put them on and remove them for the occasional patches, and walking with them on for all the other rocky parts of the trail would have taken a toll on our knees. As of the snow patches, since it was a cold early morning, neither could we kick in steps.

I have climbed the shoot last year, but this time, one of us was a first timer, so preferred the switchbacks.

Apparently, I think the mistake on our part was that we came prepared to climb the shoot, but not the switchbacks. Microspikes would have been easier to use.

Here are some of the images - https://imgur.com/a/4XWA5OV

Overall it was a great hike, but for folks attempting for the first time, please look the pictures being shared and be careful on the trail.
Posted by: Evelyn

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/19/18 09:03 PM

I was also hoping for someone to post the latest on the switchbacks. We are hiking this Friday and hoping the snow patches are gone.
Posted by: Evelyn

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail - 06/19/18 09:09 PM

Thank you for your detailed update. We are going on Friday and I am like you, hiked shorter trails and work out but nothing like Whitney. My biggest fear is the icy and slippery parts. So you would say crampons or microspikes? I just got my permit this morning for Friday and running around trying to get all my gear. Microspikes were expensive at REI and they only had one kind at my REI. Can't order online because we are leaving Thursday morning.