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Ascent of Mount Whitney on 2014-06-26

Climber: Rob Woodall

Others in Party:Alan Bernier
Shannon Dillmore
Date:Thursday, June 26, 2014
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Mount Whitney
    Location:USA-California
    Elevation:14495 ft / 4418 m

Ascent Trip Report

We climb Whitney the day after White Mountain Peak - which made for an ideal acclimatisation hike.

Shannon had got a 26 June slot in the Whitney permit lottery and arranged a night box pickup from Lone Pine. We pick up the permits early the following morning en route to the Whitney Portal trailhead.

Having checked the vehicle for anything of interest to bears, we put a couple of items (water bottles? Well they were listed!) in the bear proof containers in the parking lot (NB these are communal - no individual lockers). Already at 6 am we have to park downhill in the overflow area.

We start hiking at 6.15, switchbacking upon the very well made trail which starts at N36.58697 W118.24022 (2358m). At N36.58691 W118.24510 (2677m) we note the Mountaineers Route turning off to the R, steep and apparently unmaintained. The main trail climbs along the main valley, passing lakes and campsites. We rest approx hourly and refill water bottles at stream crossings as necessary: there are several and we have a steripen to minimise the amount of water carried. The highest water supply we find is a few zigzags below the main ridge notch mentioned below. Higher up we pass a fair few folk, some having given up on the summit as it's very windy in the morning. They should have waited a few hours...

In time the trail zigzags steeply up to the ridge, crossing it at a notch N36.55940 W118.29163. By now the wind has dropped and it's a lovely afternoon. Views to the west are superb. The trail descends a little as it avoids a number of assorted pinnacles and summits including Mt Muir. The trail passes a couple of gullies with impressive drop-offs to the east.
Alan and I climb Keeler Needle (N36.57558 W118.29145, 4365m), which looks impressive from certain angles; the tiny summit itself is quite exposed and involves a single airy move.

The summit of Whitney itself is a fine viewpoint. There are a few folk up there including a group who came up Mountaineers Route. We quiz them as our original plan was to take this route. The snow is by now completely avoidable. However it took them 6 hours from Boy Scout Lake, sounding quite slow compared with our unhurried 7h50 from Whitney Portal. The summit consists of giant slabby blocks. The highest has an old battered USGS benchmark at its apex, marking the summit (N36.57863 W118.29202, 4422m). There's also a newer benchmark, also an old and a newer trig plaque, all on different blocks. There's also a building (shelter) with the register outside the door.

We head down after half an hour. Alan and I decide to have a look at Mt Muir. From below it looks pretty serious but we've heard people scramble it, and working patiently upwards I find a way to the summit (N36.56477 W118.29137, 4290m). I've just written "solo ascent" in the register when Alan appears! The register was placed in 2009 and is now completely full, so attracts a fair few ascents, rightly so as it's a great looking peak from any direction.

Shannon has taken the SteriPen and we find him at the highest water source, a few zigzags below the notch. Considering he left sea level only two days ago and his only acclimatisation was a slow walk up White Mountain Peak yesterday, he's done amazingly well, although understandably is opting out of any extras.

The late afternoon sunshine makes for a very scenic descent; we see few people considering how busy the route was earlier. There's a USGS benchmark close to the trail at N36.56917 W118.26095 (3324m, ref C72), doubtless indicating that they line-surveyed up the Trail to establish the most accurate summit elevation possible for this iconic highpoint (there have been several revisions since). We enjoy close views of a pair of Stellers Jays at one point. We're down at dusk, round trip time 14h04.

We make the short drive down to Lone Pine and enjoy a well earned meal and beer before going our separate ways. Shannon is heading for Telescope Peak. Alan and I sleep just below Westguard Pass and in the morning head east into Nevada for Mount Moriah.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:6227 ft / 1898 m
    Extra Gain:66 ft / 20 m
    Distance:22 mi / 35.4 km
    Route:Whitney Trail
    Trailhead:Whitney Portal  8400 ft / 2560 m
    Grade/Class:YDS 1
    Quality:10 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail
    Weather:Pleasant, Breezy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Time Up:7 Hours 50 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time Down:5 Hours 30 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip


 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Rob Woodall
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Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. Peakbagger.com accepts NO resposibility or liability from use of this data.

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