Mt. Whitney - Mountaineers Route
June 25-29, 2010
We began our climb at 8:30 a.m. on the main Mt. Whitney Trail. After a mile, we turned off and hiked up a climbers’ trail where, after a few minutes, a sign was posted stating that “The Mountaineer’s Route is not easy.” Indeed, the first mile included several swift stream crossings, hiking across steep, sloping granite slabs, and third Class scrambling up a large crack in a granite wall to the Ebersbacher Ledges. This series of ledges were sometimes only a few feet wide where a slip could result in a 200-foot fall. After the ledges, we reached Lower Boy Scout Lake where the view opened up to the beautiful sight of glacier-carved cirques and Mt. Whitney’s summit block. After a total elevation gain of 3,000', three miles horizontal distance, and five hours of hiking, we reached Upper Boy Scout Lake, the site of our base camp.
At our 11,300' camp, we were feeling the effects of the high altitude, so we used Day 2 on the mountain to rest, acclimate to the altitude, enjoy the scenery, and protect our food from raiding marmots. We also trekked up to Iceberg Lake at 12,600' to check out our route for the next day’s summit attempt.
Day 3, Summit Day, began at 4:30 a.m. under a cloudless sky as we retraced out route to Iceberg Lake and then began to ascend the steep snow-filled couliour on the north side of Whitney’s east flank. We often plunged to our hips in the soft snow, making the climb that much more difficult. At the top of the couliour, we reached the notch where the vista of snow-capped Sierra Nevada peaks appeared endless to the west and north. We then turned south to ascend a steep gully requiring fourth Class scrambling. We reached the summit at 11:30, sharing the huge, gently sloping, slab-strewn top with about a dozen climbers who had ascended the standard route. After an hour’s rest, we began the nerve-wracking descent down the gully. A rope would have made us more comfortable, but we made it without any mishaps. Often, we needed to remove packs and hand them to others before down-climbing difficult sections.
Back at base camp, we rested for another hour before packing up and hiking out to the trailhead at Whitney Portal. When we finally removed our backpacks and boots, it was close to 7:30 p.m. Just as before the climb, we ate dinner in Lone Pine and spent the night at Lone Pine Campground. The final day was filled with a 15-hour drive back to Eugene. Climbers included former Obsidian Rich Peevers who met us in Reno and Obsidians Peter Green (assistant leader), Bistra Hristova, Randy Sinnott, and Brian Hamilton (leader.)