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May 9,10 2023 Trip
#59919 03/21/23 11:22 AM
Joined: Mar 2023
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Hello everyone!

I'm new to this site after beginning planning my first Whitney attempt this year. Unfortunately, of all the dates listed, I received May 9 and 10. I've had this mountain on my list for a year and a half and there's no way I can turn down the offer. There's only one problem. Snow, Snow, and more Snow. I've climbed a winter 14er in Colorado, thankfully in May the temperature shouldn't be 5 degrees. I plan on bringing crampons, snow shoes, and ice axes. I'm open to any and all advice regarding this trip. While there is going to be snow what is the temperature normally like in May? Is there a certain route I should take?
I plan on camping at Whitney portal the night prior and at outpost camp on the trail before the summit. Open to linking up with anyone else climbing on these dates, as my partner may be cancelling.

Thanks for your help,

Joelcrates

Re: May 9,10 2023 Trip
joelcrates #59920 03/21/23 11:53 AM
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Here is a temperature plot from Cottonwood Lakes (elev 10,150) from May, 2022: CDEC Cottonwood Lakes

You also might want to check for a later date popping up on April 22 (7 AM PDT), as there could very well be a number of people not claiming their lottery reservations due to the heavy snow this year.

You probably won't need snow shoes, as there should be a well-beaten path through most of the route. But this year is probably the highest snow year ever recorded, so you will be hiking over snow, probably camping on snow even at Outpost camp. Once you climb the slope out of Mirror Lake (heading south, then turning westward), everyone will be off the main trail, as it will be completely buried. Forget the switchbacks above Trail Camp; just use "the chute" (the slope west of the switchbacks). You will need the ice axe to climb that area safely.

I am hoping the section past Trail Crest will be melted enough for you to travel safely.

Good luck -- this will likely be tougher than your winter fourteener in CO. Do not hesitate to turn back if it gets too treacherous.

Re: May 9,10 2023 Trip
joelcrates #59922 03/21/23 08:32 PM
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I would leave the snowshoes unless you get a specific prediction for new snow, possible but unlikely in May. Also i notes you wrote "ice axes" plural. One per person I believe is the norm: no ice climbing involved. Also no front points on the spikes, and get advice on hiking vs climbing crampons.

It is a long haul from Outpost to the summit over snow, so you may want to consider adding a day and a camp at Trail Camp. A late descent can be sporty, as snow that has softened early in the day will not be so friendly after the sun reaches a low angle or leaves it altogether, especially on the snowfield below Trail Crest.

Your route will be essentially the main trail. There are some common shortcuts over snow in winter, and if you have the experience they will be evident from examination of a map: notably sections where the trail leaves Lone Pine Creek between Outpost and Trail Camp, and straight up the snowfield to the northwest of the switchbacks above trail Camp. Research these well before committing to them, and especially beware two situations: 1. descending Lone Pine Creek to Outpost. As I recall there have been incidents of climbers missing it on the way down, and at least one death at the waterfall and 2, Getting off trail descending above Trailside Meadow. There have been several accidents descending on that section, especially late and in darkness, another reason to reconsider summiting from Outpost rather than Trail Camp.

Also things to know before you go: there have been wet avy conditions and events here in early spring, so get really good beta as the date approaches.

Last edited by PeterH; 03/21/23 09:31 PM.
Re: May 9,10 2023 Trip
Steve C #59926 03/25/23 08:40 AM
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From what i'm reading the 99 switchbacks are not feasible when there is a heavy snow. Is this true? Are the switchbacks closed or is it just more suitable to go up through the chute when there is snow?

Re: May 9,10 2023 Trip
joelcrates #59928 03/25/23 09:59 AM
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When the “chute” has enough snow, it is the better way to go. The switchbacks are never “open” or “closed”. Here is a trip report addressing this point.


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