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M W
(rcmike) - MLife

Locale: California
Mount Whitney in June on 05/18/2011 12:27:43 MDT Print View

I have a Mount Whitney hike planned for the week of June 21st and have been trying to decide on what gear would be appropriate to take. I plan on spending two days at Whitney Portal and them making my way up to trail camp and eventually the summit (conditions permitting). Given the current weather forecast for more snow this week, i can't tell if how things are going to look a month from now. There will be 4 people in my group.

The items I have in question are:

Shelter choices:
Nemo Meta 1P, REI Arete ASL2 (4 season tent), Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2

Sleeping bag choices:
Marmot 0°, 15° or Golite 20° quilt.

Upper body:
Caplilene base layer
Columbia long sleeve hiking shirt
Mountain Hardwear Compressor PL1 jacket
Golite rain jacket

Lower body:
Capilene base layer
Columbia convertible pants

Any recommendations on gear choice, alternatives or additions?

Thanks

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Mount Whitney in June on 05/18/2011 12:34:49 MDT Print View

I hope that you are prepared for lots of steep snow on the top 60 of the switchbacks.

--B.G.--

Matthew Black
(mtblack)
Whitney in June on 05/18/2011 13:17:49 MDT Print View

I went up Whitney on June 15th 2010. It was a bad snow year and I believe this year is far worse. The switchbacks were essentially unusable. People went up to Trail Crest using a chute to the right.

I was warm in a bivy sack, 35 degree bag and lightweight Capilene top and bottom with temperatures in the mid 20s.

I wore the Capilene top, an R1 pullover and a windshirt once I hit Trail Camp and never took them off. These were suplemented by a synthetic fill jacket used on Whitney itself and in camp after dark. I felt comfortable like this the whole trip.

You will most likely be doing a lot of postholing on the descent or simply glissading. I wore Goretex trail runners with full gaiters and was glad for both. I did not take either spikes or an ice axe and severely regret the latter. There were too many icy traverses on the final trail to the peak and on the return journey for me to ever travel in snow again without the means to self-arrest. In retrospect I feel that the lack of crampons or spikes was manageable but not taking an axe was suicidal.

It really is beautiful up there and indesribably fulfilling reaching the peak although just the attemtp is its own reward.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Mount Whitney in June on 05/18/2011 13:40:18 MDT Print View

I've hiked the trail for 35 consecutive years, always in a day, but I have never gone as early as June. For maybe three of those years, I have taken an ice axe with me in the car as far as the ranger station and the trailhead. In the event that reports were really bad, I would have carried the ice axe up. However, the reports were always that hikers were making it through without any ice axe.

I carried one ski pole along one year, and since I had no ice axe with me, the ski pole was really pressed into service right before Trail Crest. Actually, any type of crampons would have been useful.

Yes, on several years the top of the switchback trail has been completely buried under snow, so hikers opted to follow the chute over closer to the face of Mount Muir. On one year, the trail was buried, and we could not work all the way over to the chute, so we simply climbed straight up the snow. Unfortunately, that caused us to hit the crest about 400 yards south of Trail Crest. That is not a catastrophic error, but it wasn't our greatest moment.

All I would suggest is that you need to take _something_ more than just boots. Maybe an ice axe. Maybe ski poles. Maybe crampons. It depends on what you are comfortable with and what the last-minute reports suggest.

The staff at the Interagency Visitor Center (permit station) should be able to tell you what to expect. However, if they size you up quickly and think you look like a beginner, they may try to scare you into bailing out. If they size you up quickly and you seem like you know what you are doing on ice, then they will not try to scare you so badly.

On a couple of years, in an attempt to lighten up my load, I went up with warm layers short of a full down jacket, and I regretted that. As long as you can keep moving, you can keep your body heat high enough to battle the wind. However, once you get up around 14,000 feet, sometimes you cannot keep moving.

Remember: More injury accidents happen on the descent.

--B.G.--

Matthew Black
(mtblack)
Whitney in June on 05/18/2011 14:03:56 MDT Print View

I am not a mountaineer and lack the confidence to go without better tools in the same conditions in the future. I found trekking poles completely useless for self-arrest and would have had tremendous difficulty stopping myself if I had attempted to glissade down the chute or merely slipped on one of the many snow fields descending to the Portal.

I saw one group attempt the Cables last year and they ultimately had to traverse to the right and up the chute to make it to Trail Crest. The majority of people I saw carried axes, many had crampons. This included a group of lightweight thru-hikers at the peak who also opted to carry ice axes.

The Whitney portal store message board has current conditions listed and they are similar to last years. I am sure it will be a great trip.
http://www.whitneyportalstore.com/forum/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=84302

Edited by mtblack on 05/18/2011 14:11:31 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Whitney in June on 05/18/2011 14:55:07 MDT Print View

"I found trekking poles completely useless for self-arrest"

Yes, it gets a little complicated to have two things to manipulate instead of a single ice axe. You end up grabbing the uphill pole in two places and then ignoring the downhill pole. It is simpler if you have only one trekking pole or else one ski pole (ski poles have a bigger basket).

--B.G.--

Matthew Black
(mtblack)
Single pole on 05/18/2011 15:14:06 MDT Print View

I did stow one trekking pole and attempt to use a single shortened pole to slow my descent while glissading. I found it ineffectual and opted for postholing down as it was controllable although tiring.

I only have the standard baskets and simply lack the skill to make use of the trekking pole this way. It might work very well for someone else with greater skills and experience.

M W
(rcmike) - MLife

Locale: California
Gear on 05/18/2011 22:54:48 MDT Print View

Thanks for the feedback so far. I am already planning on bringing an ice axe and microspikes. Based on other accounts I have read, trying to use trekking poles to glisade is not a good idea. I'll also be adding some high gaiters to my list.

Is there any recommendations on the tent to take? I also have a new GG SpinnTwinn but I'm new to tarps and probably want to wait to try it out on a later trip.

Mike