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Simon Weiss
(SimonGtr) - MLife

Locale: Bay Area
Advice on Whitney (from the North) on 08/13/2011 06:06:21 MDT Print View

Here's our trip in 6 days: start on Sawmill Pass Trailhead (climbing up to 5000ft on the first day!). Work our way down the JMT to Whitney over 4 more days (about 50 miles). Last day, summit Whitney.

My question is - In trying to find out the conditions of Whitney, I'm a little unclear: I know there's snow up there, but I think mostly soft. Do we need cramp-ons? Or can we get away with shoes and poles?

Has anyone been recently?

thanks,
s

John Jensen
(JohnJ) - F

Locale: Orange County, CA
Re: Advice on Whitney (from the North) on 08/13/2011 07:01:01 MDT Print View

There were just patches of snow on Whitney itself Aug 3rd.

photo

Going up from the Portal I wore trail runners and used poles. You can right/left from that photo to see a little more.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Advice on Whitney (from the North) on 08/13/2011 11:22:53 MDT Print View

Simon, ask the question over at the Whitney Portal message board. I am sure you can get accurate information within the day of posting

Simon Weiss
(SimonGtr) - MLife

Locale: Bay Area
Looks clear on 08/13/2011 11:31:23 MDT Print View

That's great info, Ken. Thanks for sharing those pics!

Will post tomorrow for our trip starting on Monday.

Now my primary concern is Sawmill Trail to the JMT on day 1. 5000 feet of climbing will be a nice cold-turkey for this trip.
-simon

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Advice on Whitney (from the North) on 08/13/2011 14:08:01 MDT Print View

I was on Whitney on August 2. The snow patch near the summit was no big deal at all. It takes you one minute to stroll across it. There was other snow down on the top of the switchbacks, and it was no big deal either. I didn't even use a trekking pole, although I had one in my pack.

The problem is much lower. There were some bad rainstorms in the few days immediately prior to when I was there, and that caused water and sand floods. The trail was damaged in a dozen places, not to the point of causing blockage, but to the point of making the hiker worry about what was next. The stream crossings were deep. The wide stream crossing directly below Lone Pine Lake was damaged, and the big logs normally used had been scattered to make them unusable. So, that was cold knee-deep water. Maybe the Forest Service has gotten some of this repaired by now. Due to budget cuts, I wouldn't count on it.

If you summit Whitney on the last day, you might want to think about... then where do you go? It is a long way down to Whitney Portal. A lot of people are so wasted from the altitude that they can barely stumble down the trail.

--B.G.--

John Jensen
(JohnJ) - F

Locale: Orange County, CA
Re: Re: Advice on Whitney (from the North) on 08/13/2011 17:11:58 MDT Print View

Good description Bob. We went up the 2nd, down the 4th. The water levels were much lower 2 days later, but of course many of the washouts remained. I didn't really think they were major, not having seen the trail before in good condition, but the folk I was with commented much as you did.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Re: Re: Advice on Whitney (from the North) on 08/13/2011 17:22:23 MDT Print View

might still have snow or ice at the cables going up the 99's as well. Just go slow and hold onto the cable...you will be fine!

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Advice on Whitney (from the North) on 08/13/2011 17:22:42 MDT Print View

John, that was my 36th consecutive year to hike the Whitney Trail, so I know it well. The stream crossings used to be so minor that we could tiptoe across each one at maximum speed and with dry boots.

It has been over one week since I was there, and some friends of mine are up there right now, so I am hoping to hear their report and if the Forest Service managed to straighten out some of the damage.

A few days before I was there, it was so bad that hikers had to be evacuated by helicopter, and others were treated for hypothermia from trying to cross chest-deep streams. That's getting serious.

The electrical storms had been so dangerous that the Forest Service sent one ranger up to Trail Crest to close that pass for all hikers coming up from the east side. They did that one day at 8 a.m., due to the weather forecast. That's getting serious.

--B.G.--

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Re: Advice on Whitney (from the North) on 08/13/2011 17:26:05 MDT Print View

"might still have snow or ice at the cables going up the 99's as well. Just go slow and hold onto the cable...you will be fine!"

Yes, on August 2 there was a little snow and ice at the cable/railing. One piece of that cable/railing got taken out by a winter slide, so there is some loose cable dangling around. No big deal. If you want to mark your maps, the bottom of the cable/railing is at Switchback #44. There is plenty of running water down around Switchback #25.

--B.G.--

John Jensen
(JohnJ) - F

Locale: Orange County, CA
Re: Re: Re: Re: Advice on Whitney (from the North) on 08/13/2011 19:57:38 MDT Print View

A few days before I was there, it was so bad that hikers had to be evacuated by helicopter, and others were treated for hypothermia from trying to cross chest-deep streams. That's getting serious.


Yeah. I met some people who had been up earlier in the week. We heard about 7 people huddling in someone's tent. Seven hours of rain and hail. According to the people I talked to, it all came on in an hour.

It makes me very serious about a day-hike gear list. What do you think of the Terra Nova Bothy Bag, for when you don't have a tent along?

John Jensen
(JohnJ) - F

Locale: Orange County, CA
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Advice on Whitney (from the North) on 08/13/2011 20:00:50 MDT Print View

The cables were clear for me, just wet. Jumping rocks I kept my feet dry from Trail Camp to the summit, but people without trail runners and with waterproof boots snickered at me.

On the way to Trail Camp I took my shoes off maybe 4 times. Sandy bottoms and slow water made that easy.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Advice on Whitney (from the North) on 08/13/2011 20:21:02 MDT Print View

"What do you think of the Terra Nova Bothy Bag, for when you don't have a tent along?"

I've never taken a tent, sleeping bag, or bivvy sack on Whitney, so I don't exactly see the point. In the 36 times that I've been up there, I have been snowed or sleeted upon maybe three times. Then add a brief rain shower another three times. I'm not sure that I would want to hunker down and wait for that sort of weather.

If you carried something like that, it would be another pound in your daypack. Frankly, my daypack is ready to burst at the seams as it is.

If you carried something like that, you would deploy it either on the way up, on the summit, or on the way down. I can't imagine deploying it on the way up, because it is very rare for there to be serious weather early in the day before sunrise. I can't imagine deploying it on or near the summit, because that is a very bad place to wait out a storm. I can't imagine deploying it on the way down, because I am so tired that I just want to get down to the campground and relax, and I would likely want to plow down despite rising water. There are a half-dozen bivvy sites on the bottom few miles, mostly around big boulders.

I have gone up when the weather was iffy, so I made the run up the last two miles while holding my breath almost. I touched the summit hut, signed in on the register, and then went down immediately.

So, no, I don't carry emergency shelter. What I do carry is a handful of Esbit tablets and a titanium cup. If I had to hole up someplace at night with my rain suit on, some hot water or Gatorade might make it easier.

--B.G.--

John Jensen
(JohnJ) - F

Locale: Orange County, CA
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Advice on Whitney (from the North) on 08/14/2011 09:07:59 MDT Print View

That all seems very reasonable.

I have a friend though who broke her ankle and spent a night above Trail Crest. She sheltered just a little off-trail and wasn't seen when her friend came back with help. Etc. (She's better and still loves hiking.)

It's all trade-offs and I'm not even sure how a 1lb Bothy would fit in my gear list, but it seems nice to have something bright yellow or orange, that works wherever.

Edited by JohnJ on 08/14/2011 09:08:40 MDT.