CLIMB TO: Mount Whitney TRAILHEAD: Whitney Portal ROUTE: Mountaineers Route MILES: 10.9 miles TIME: 14:50 hrs DATE I WENT: 4/24/21 DIFFICULTY: moderate-strenuous ELEVATION: 14,505 ft / 4,421 m ELEVATION GAIN: 6,063 ft PERMIT: yes PARKING PERMIT: no LOCATION: Inyo National Forest, Eastern Sierra CA
Know Before You Go:
- A permit is required year-round but quota season starts May 1. For overnight trips, you will need a permit for North Fork of Lone Pine Creek.
- The Mountaineers Route is commonly done (& best done) when snow is present to avoid rockfall so I’d recommend going in April if you’re ready… BUT BE PREPARED & READY.
- Do not attempt the chute without an ice ax and crampons if snow is present – & know how to use your gear before you go.
- Be prepared to hike the road to Whitney Portal in the Winter/ early Spring – the road will likely be closed at one of the two gates. For our first attempt in Mar 2021, we hiked from the very bottom of the first closed gate which added an additional 3.6 miles with 1,680 ft of elevation gain. For our second attempt in April 2021, we started from the second closed gate which only added 0.32 miles.
- Please note that Springtime often has better winter mountaineering conditions as the snow has had time to firm up after going through the freeze-thaw cycle, which allows for more efficient snow travel and less post-holing.
- Be aware of current conditions, avalanche risks, etc.
Trail Report: Climbing Mount Whitney via Mountaineers Route in Spring
We started from Whitney Portal at 2:18 am with our day packs (gear list below). At 2:39 am, 0.8 miles from the TH, we reached the junction to turn right onto the Whitney’s Mountaineers Route, aka North Forth of Lone Pine Creek. Continuing straight would follow the main Whitney Trail.
The route to get to Lower Boy Scout Lake in the Spring heads right up the Ebersbacher ledges, and then to the left of Lower Boy Scout Lake. During the winter, however, the whole area is covered in snow so you simply go straight up (small switchbacks) directly to Lower Boy Scout Lake. On a normal snow season, it’s likely under snow in March. For our first (failed) attempt mid-march last year, it was all snowy. For our second (successful) attempt at the end of April, there wasn’t enough snow and we went the standard route through the E ledges.
We reached Lower Boy Scout Lake 2.54 miles from the TH by 4:39 am and hiked up the snowy trail to the left. This part had a lot of boulders to go around and at 5:30 am, daylight hit. The sun rose at 6 am just as we were passing Clyde Meadow and approaching next to Upper Boy Scout Lake.
We reached the camp by Iceberg Lake (12,633 ft) at 7:24 am, 4.6 miles from Whitney Portal. We took a long break here to fuel up for the climb ahead. It was pretty windy and this is where the fun part begins.
We got moving again around 8:15 am and started following the conga line up the chute for Whitney’s Mountaineers Route. There were SO MANY people and things falling down like snow chunks and water bottles! After all the mountaineering I’ve done now, I’ve never seen a crowd like this on the mountains… but it was also the last weekend before permits were implemented so I assume that’s likely why.
The chute starts off more mellow but as we moved up, we ended up roping up. This was the climb that I learned I move a LOT faster when I’m attached to a rope. It’s a mental thing for me – I’m terrified of heights and the idea of sliding off a mountain so being attached to a rope helps keep the fear in check so I can just focus on the physical aspects of the climb. The chute from Iceberg Lake to the Notch is 1 mile with 1,490 ft of elevation gain and an average slope of 39°, the max slope of 68°.
We moved slowly and carefully and reached The Notch (14,128 ft) at 10:40 am, 5.25 miles from Whitney Portal. We had another snack break here, wrapped around the mountain to head up the final 300 ft of class 3 scramble at the end which was not as scary as I thought it would be. In fact, it was actually quite fun – just annoying how many people there were and having to wait.
We made it to the summit of Mount Whitney (my fourth time) via the Mountaineers Route (my first time) at 11:32 am. 5.33 miles and 6,063 ft of elevation gain from Whitney Portal.
The snow was firm when we went through the entire trail on the way up, but as the day went on, the sun melted the snow and made it softer.
We got back to Whitney Portal just before 6 pm, headed back to Alabama Hills to climb, and got on the Shark Fin the next morning before driving back home.
Other Posts You May Like:
- Climb the Mountaineers Route on Mount Whitney 14,505 ft
- Safety Concerns When Planning a Winter Hike in Southern California Mountains
- Climb Mount Shasta via Avalanche Gulch 14,179 ft
- Climb Mount Baldy in the Winter via Mountaineers Route
- Matterhorn Peak: My First Time Winter Mountaineering and Snow Camping