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Ascent of Mount Whitney on 2014-10-18

Climber: Scott Larson

Date:Saturday, October 18, 2014
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Whitney
    Location:USA-California
    Elevation:14498 ft / 4418 m

Ascent Trip Report

Mt Whitney Mountaineers Route Oct 18, 2014

On Saturday, Oct 18, 2014 my brother and I summitted Mt Whitney via the Mountaineer’s Route.
After doing the main trail in June, I was eager to try the harder route.
I think the highest my brother has ever been is around 12k feet, so I was worried about the what effect the altitude would have on him.

A week before our hike, we trained on San Gorgonio (11503 feet) via the Fish Creek trail, bagging 4 peaks above 10000 feet with lots of off-trail navigation. He did great and my worries eased.
I’ve also been paying attention to the weather around Whitney all October - it’s been mild and the forecast for our hike held up. Cool temperatures, low wind, and sunny. Perfect hiking weather!

We drove up from San Diego on Friday and got to the Portal around midnight, woke up at 330 AM.

After breaking camp, a quick bite to eat, and packing our bags, we set off at 440 AM and hopped over Carillon Creek 14 minutes later.

Light on the eastern horizon:


We reached the North Fork trail within 20 minutes and began heading up.
After the first creek crossing, my worst fear of the day came true. We lost the trail and ended up doing some class 3 climbing through thorny bushes along the side of the southern wall of the drainage. Spent about 30 minutes off-trail, bushwhacking, before we realized we were way off. We went back down to the creek and found the trail right at the second creek crossing to get back on the north side. What a relief. It took hardly any time to get back on track.

At 630 we made it to the E-ledges as the dawn light arrived. I did so much studying that I recognized every feature from pictures I’d saved. We got to the top of the ledges and spent 15 minutes eating and watching the terrain light up.

Me and my brother, snack break at the top of the E-ledges, up the drainage:


E-ledges looking down the drainage:


We zipped by Lower Boy Scout Lake at 718 AM and spent another 20 minutes snacking in Clyde Meadow. I made a mental note to come back and climb the icefalls below Thor Peak sometime this winter/spring. There were 3 other pairs of hikers on the trail with us - more than I expected.





At 850 we arrived at the final trees near Upper Boy Scout Lake. We still had plenty of water, so we decided to press on and refill at Iceberg Lake.
Going around the ridge south of UBSL, we stayed on a higher use trail and saw easier trails below us. Just as I had read. We passed the first seeps and went up the most gradual slope with only a couple of class 3 moves, reaching Iceberg Lake at 1025. We spent 30 minutes eating and filtering water before making our way to the base of the chute (1055).

Whitney comes into view:


Near Iceberg Lake:


My brother walking to the tarn:


Whitney and the chute on our right:


The chute between us:


The chute didn’t look as intimidating as I thought it would be. We put on helmets to protect us from the party above and made our way up. The altitude was starting to get to me and I slowed down. My brother continued to bound up the rocks like a mountain goat. The loose scree was a pain - I was almost wishing for nice, firm snow. We made it to the notch at 1228 and took a few photos. The view westward was incredible. Actually, the view in every direction was incredible.

Looking down the chute:


In the notch:




Northward, we looked up the final 400. I had read that the first move up the bottom 5 feet was the crux, and a camper at LBSL told us the same thing. We found the move easy and easily climbed up the left side of the chute until it cliffed out. Uh oh! I pulled my notes from my pocket, which had “aim towards climber’s left on the ascent and once past the mid-point, angle over to the right after some vertical rock/headwalls are reached higher up.”
Whew! We saw a flat ledge that took us to the right side of the chute, and scrambled up the rest of the way, reaching the summit at 1302.



An 8H22M ascent time. At least it was faster than my first go up the main trail. We hit the Easy button, signed the register, and hung out eating and talking with the many people on the summit for almost an hour. I wasn’t as thrilled my second time up, but my brother was ecstatic.



At 1355 we made our way off the summit. I was worried about downclimbing the final 400. My brother led the way and it turned out to be easier than I expected. I should’ve been more worried about heading down the chute. We reached the notch at 1425 and then the hardest part of the hike began: descending the loose 1500 foot chute. I don’t think our route-finding down was very good and we spent a good portion of it sliding down the middle with loose dirt and softball-sized rocks. Occasionally we would make our way over to the slabs near the edges.

We passed Iceberg Lake at 1540 and kept going, this time taking the use trail furthest down. This took us a little more out of the way, but we passed by UBSL at 1700 and turned into zombies. The day’s efforts hit both of us and we slowed down due to tiredness and the pounding that our feet, knees, and heads were enduring. We stopped here and there and tried to eat, but our desire to get down the mountain outweighed our desire for food, so we ate little on the descent. We cruised by LBSL at 1750 and reached the E-ledges at 1827. We soon required headlights and crossed the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek twice more (not getting lost this time) and hit the junction with the main trail at 1912. Coincidentally, we ran into the same ladies there that we saw at 5 in the morning when they continued on up the main trail. We shared a quick hello and groaned about how long the last mile feels before reaching the trailhead at 1940, for a 5H45M descent time and a total time on the trail of 15 hours.

My notes said it is ~10 miles total, but that’s for a low-resolution GPS track going “as the crow flies.” My fitbit wristband clocked me going 14 miles total, which I suspect is more accurate, especially after getting off track on the way up and taking a longer route between Iceberg and UBSL on the way down.

Twice now I’ve started and finished in the dark. I still have no idea what the portal looks like in the daytime.

We ate at Pizza Factory (delicious pesto sundried tomato pizza) and stayed across the street at the Dow Villa. Slept like kings.

Edit:
My notes (route cue):


Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Bushwhack, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
Ascent Statistics
    Route:Mountaineers Route
Descent Statistics



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