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#4904 - 06/04/10 10:44 AM Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7443
Loc: Fresno, CA
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.


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#53401 - 06/11/18 08:41 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
robbie Offline


Registered: 06/11/18
Posts: 1
Loc: Orange County
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.

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#53402 - 06/11/18 08:57 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: robbie]
203WEST Offline


Registered: 06/01/18
Posts: 13
Loc: Mammoth Lakes
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.

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#53405 - 06/11/18 10:55 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: robbie]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7443
Loc: Fresno, CA
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!!!

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#53413 - 06/11/18 08:06 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
PeteK. Offline


Registered: 03/07/17
Posts: 12
Loc: CA
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!!

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#53414 - 06/11/18 10:57 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7443
Loc: Fresno, CA
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.

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#53417 - 06/12/18 05:22 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
KevinR Offline


Registered: 11/03/09
Posts: 589
Loc: Manchester, NH
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.

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#53430 - 06/12/18 11:48 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
203WEST Offline


Registered: 06/01/18
Posts: 13
Loc: Mammoth Lakes
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!!!

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#53435 - 06/12/18 12:35 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
trillmix Offline


Registered: 06/12/18
Posts: 1
Loc: OC, CA, USA
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.

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#53461 - 06/13/18 12:43 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
SWriverstone Offline


Registered: 06/12/18
Posts: 9
Loc: Oregon
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

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#53481 - 06/13/18 06:49 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
Blair Offline


Registered: 06/13/18
Posts: 1
Loc: California
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!

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#53488 - 06/14/18 06:43 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Adventurous]
al_novice Offline


Registered: 02/28/18
Posts: 10
Loc: Alabama
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.

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#53489 - 06/14/18 08:39 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7443
Loc: Fresno, CA
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

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#53492 - 06/14/18 11:47 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
SWriverstone Offline


Registered: 06/12/18
Posts: 9
Loc: Oregon
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

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#53494 - 06/14/18 12:10 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: SWriverstone]
sumo Offline


Registered: 06/12/18
Posts: 13
Loc: CA
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.


Edited by sumo (06/14/18 12:11 PM)

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#53495 - 06/14/18 12:11 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
203WEST Offline


Registered: 06/01/18
Posts: 13
Loc: Mammoth Lakes
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?

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#53496 - 06/14/18 12:29 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: SWriverstone]
Mermaid14 Offline


Registered: 06/06/18
Posts: 2
Loc: Ohio
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.

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#53497 - 06/14/18 01:00 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
SWriverstone Offline


Registered: 06/12/18
Posts: 9
Loc: Oregon
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

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#53500 - 06/14/18 05:01 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: SWriverstone]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7443
Loc: Fresno, CA
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

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#53501 - 06/14/18 06:20 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: SWriverstone]
NaniTree Offline


Registered: 06/30/17
Posts: 5
Loc: California
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.

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