Peak: Mt. Whitney (14, 501')
Route: Mountaineers Route- Class 3/4
Gear: ice axe, crampons, helmet
|The Mountaineers Route|
A quick route description:
Approach- Starting at the Whitney Portal Trailhead, follow long sweeping switch backs to a sign near a small waterfall that marks the way to the Whitney Trail.
|Turn north here|
Turn right up the hill and follow trail through dense trees. Once the trail comes out of the trees, there will be a large sandy clearing. look to the left for the trail to continue behind a fallen tree. This will then take you across to the south side of the creek. Stay on the south side of the creek(more pertinent in the winter) until the trail drops back down into the willows surrounding the creek. (In the winter it is also possible to stay on the south side of the creek all the way to Lower Boyscout). Once you cross the creek back to the north, turn west and follow through a tight clearing in the willows right up against the cliffs that make up the Ebersbacher Ledges. You will know when you are at the base of the ledges when you see obvious class 3 terrain in the form of boulders and steps. There is also an obvious tree about 50ft up the class 3. A lot of people may be nervous of what the ledges have to hold, but as long as you stay on route the exposure and difficulty are very low(there are no narrow ledge systems on route). The ledges soon turn into another winding trail system and before long you are at Lower Boyscout Lake.
|The shrubs on the way to the slab and UBL|
|UBL and Mt. Russel in the background|
Upper Boyscout Lake also offers some camping options but not quite as many as Lower Boyscout and it seems the wind gets funneled though there from Mt. Russell. A better option in my opinion is to continue up the use trail to the south and follow it to a small rock outcrop on the left. The south side of this outcrop offers good flat wind protected ground to camp on. From here continue up the trail to near the base of Whitney's east face.
|First peek of Whitney since the trailhead|
The cairns here are good and finding the way up to Iceberg Lake should not be an issue. Once at Iceberg Lake many options for camping exist though few are protected. This offers the best views of Whitney and in my opinion the best experience as well.
|The Iceberg Plateau and Mt. Russell|
|Midway up the main couloir|
When I first got the itch to become a mountaineer, I stumbled upon a picture of Mt. Whitney and its Mountaineer's Route. Back then it looked impossible. The couloir shot straight out of the terrain and the route just disappeared behind the mountains east face. It was so aesthetically pleasing, even to someone with no experience whatsoever. This combined with Whitney's claim to fame, makes the Mountaineer's route one of the most popular routes in the world. I knew that I had to do it.
It was not until 3 years later that I would get my first chance to try the route. A friend and I had just climbed the Baldy Bowl a week prior and we wanted something a bit more challenging so we set our sights on Whitney. It was the middle of December in the snowiest winter the Sierras have ever seen. Knowing of a recent 15 foot dump of snow the week prior we decided to test our luck. We drove up on a Thursday evening and parked at the usual road closure on the portal road. From there we hiked up the road with snowshoes, passing multiple cars trapped by the sudden storm. We finally decided to set up camp right on the road a few hundred yards ahead of the Whitney portal. That night it was cold. Really cold. The temperature in the tent got down to 3 degrees F. Both of us had frozen boots. It took us quite a while to get going in the cold. I could not seem to get my hands or my toes to warm up. By the time we started for the trailhead we were already defeated, and after a few hundred yards and deepening snow, we turned around and went down. We later found out that it was two weeks before someone broke through, but they still did not summit.
My next chance to climb the route came in March of 2012. My friend Scott and had been training for Rainier. Scott had done the East Buttress of Whitney before and had no real interest in the Mountaineer's Route, but Rainier beckoned and we both needed the training. This time the snow was a non issue, 2012 was a terrible snow year in the Sierras. However when we got to our camp at Upper Boyscout Lake we realized that we had forgotten a source of fire for the stove. We went to bed hungry with cold water. The next morning we both felt a bit drained having not replenished our bodies. We both decided that a summit attempt was out of the question, but a quick 30 min. jaunt a bit higher to catch a view of the mountain was in order. After a viewing session we packed up and headed out, determined to return more prepared.
|Scott just after the trail split|
|Mtn Harwear EV2 and Mt. Russell|
|Scott taking a quick break mid way up the couloir|
|Finally on the summit of Whitney(Russell looks tiny)|
|The Iceberg Abyss|
|Scott resting on talus field above LBL|
|Water streaks above LBL|
|Crooks, Keeler, and Whitney|
|Me in the couloir|
|Scott enjoying the summit|
|Looking north to Russell and Williamson|
|Scotts Summit pic|
|Is this really the Sierras?|