Mount Whitney

September 25th, 2008

The sunrise hitting Whitney

SunriseProbably because so many more people try to climb Whitney than the countless other mountains of comparable difficulty, all of my research went on and on about how difficult Whitney is and how careful you need to be. The regular trail is 22 miles round trip and 6000′ of vertical gain. The mountaineers route is only like 16 miles RT but much steeper. Whitney is nothing to scoff at. It is not a paved 1 mile interpretive trail. So I was a little apprehensive about the climb. Not The road to Whitney Portaljust because I read about people starting at 4AM (!) but also because I had determined to do the Mountaineers Route and I really didn’t know how gnarly it would be. I heard it was just 3rd class scrambling, but pretty exposed in places. At any rate, I was apprehensive. I parked the van down at a campsite in the valley, loaded up on Spaghetti, and set my alarm for 5AM (hoping to be on the trail by 6).

Lower Boyscout Lake

Of course I slept through my alarm, and didn’t get to the trail until 7AM. I still The North Fork trail is sweetcaught some of the glorious sunrise though, a rare sight for my eyes. I hurriedly packed all my food into the bear-proof storage boxes (a pain when you’re living in a van) and set out up the trail. The turn onto the North Fork trail came quickly and Ebersbacher ledgesit went straight up. I gained about 1800ft in the first hour. The North Fork drainage is much less traveled than the main trail so I had the place pretty much to myself. It was beautiful, with little lakes surrounded by towers of shining white granite all around.  I was up by Iceberg Lake, just 1500′ short of the summit, in about three hours. The next 1500′ were the hardest however, the steep scree, talus and ice of the North Fork Whitney approachMountaineers Route up to the Notch. There was still some ice but mostly it was easy going 3rd class on solid granite and loose sandy scree. I was a little nervous because I’d never been up it before, but when I saw two middle aged men with beer bellies and (external frame) overnight packs I knew it was alright. I had been worried that Half Dome and Boundary Peak had exhausted my legs, but they still powered Flowers in the Sierrasme up the mountain. I passed the older guys, and also what looked like a guided group of about six people. Once through the notch I thought I was done, but realized I had to cross another steep slope to come around the ridge to the main trail still. The rocks were slippery with frost, but they were big talus stones that didn’t move and soon I was easily over the ridge. About on hour after Iceberg Lake I was on top, not even winded. 4:10 from car to summit.

The Mountaineers Route

Old "mountaineers"Groovin on the Mountaineers RouteBackside of the Mountaineers Route notch

Granite towers on Whitney approachThe Notch on the Mountaineers RouteThe hut on Whitney

The placard proves itAs on Adams there was a hut on top. This always kills me. But whatever. Also, there were about 30 USGS-style metal markers on top, in addition to a big placard, which was funny. It was a beautiful day and I had fun hopping around the bit summit stones and snapping pictures. Slowly hikers who had taken the main trail joined us at the summit. I had built up Whitney a lot, and Backside of Whitneyfound climbing it much easier than expected, so it cracked me up listening to everyone bitch and moan about how they were “never doing that again”, “I can’t believe you talked me into this”, etc. A short phone call to the parents, a little rocking out with iPod while surveying the land, and I decided it was time to head down. I wanted to be in LA that night. For a change in scenery I decided to take the regular trail down. The trail starts on the West side of the mountain so A lake in the Sierra Nevadasit was nice to get views into the Sierras that the Mountaineers Route didn’t offer. I also got to see the famous switchbacks. Really it was a nice trail, but without any interesting climbing to do it was a little boring. Worse, I was somewhat tired from my weeks exertions and towards the end I really noticed the extra three miles of this trail. I was really glad I didn’t go up this way, making the hike boring and arduous instead of fast and fun. I was back to the car 8:30 after I left it, making for a great hike in perfect weather on a big, beautiful mountain. High point number 3!

Here is a panorama I took.

On top of the Continental US

Looking down at Whitney PortalBackside of the Needles on WhitneyOne of many Whitney USGS markers

Switchbacks up the main trailSome kind of Sierra BerrySunset over the Sierra Nevadas

Whitney through the Alabama Hills arch

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