Start from the Whitney Portal Trailhead. Follow the Mt. Whitney trail approximately 1 mile to where North Fork of Lone Pine Creek crosses the trail. Leave the trail and hike up Lone Pine Creek, first to climber's right of the creek, then to the left of the creek, about 1/2 mile. Shortly after crossing back to the right side of the creek, climb up the right wall of the canyon 2nd-3rd class to Ebersbacher Ledges.
Head left (upcanyon) on the ledges and continue up stream to Lower Boy Scout Lake. Continue up the canyon, just to the left of the waterfalls and brush at the head of Lower Boy Scout Lake. Above the falls, work up and right on slabs, aiming for a distinct cluster of conifers on the canyon floor below upper Boy Scout Lake. This is Clyde Meadow.
Head due south on a network of trace trails up talus slopes. At the top of the talus field continue up the drainage, following faint trails passing the base of the small cliffs that lead to Iceberg Lake. Continue up the cirque to the base of the main east face of Whitney, (elevation 12,500 ft.) where the Great Book, Hairline, and Direct East Face are located..
Start 200 feet right of the black water streaks of the Direct East Face. Two 50m pitches lead up face and cracks to Frisbee Ledge, a good bivy for 3 people.
The next three pitches ascend the steepest part of Mt. Whitney's East Face.
Another good bivouac is a sandy ledge above the top of pitch 9, where the route crosses the East Face Route. Three more pitches lead to the end of the fifth class climbing.
Hairline was established and can be climbed using 50m ropes. Although the route can be climbed clean, a few LAs and copperheads are recommended in case fixed gear is missing. See topo for gear list.
Hiking and Climbing California's Fourteeners by Steven F. Porcella, Cameron M. Burns has pitches six through nine incorrectly located in the photograph of the route. Hairline ascends dihedrals further to the left. (see photos above for correct location.)
To climbers' left of Frisbee Ledge is a huge detached block. Although this block has remained stationary for over 18 years, should it ever cut loose it would obliterate most of pitch 1.
The East Face Route crosses Hairline just above the top of the ninth pitch. Although most climbers on this heavily-travelled route are careful about rockfall, Climbers on Hairline should be aware of this potential hazard.
Hairline was rebolted in August 2004 by the ASCA. 3/8" bolts replaced the old 1/4" bolts on the free climbing of pitch 1, and most belay anchors were upgraded as well.
One attached photo shows the ASCA party in action, looking up at the 10th and 11th pitches of Hairline from where it crosses the East Face Route. The big roof near the top center of the photo is midway up pitch 11.
Established in 1987, this route was at the time the hardest route on Mt. Whitney. With the increase in standards since that time, Hairline is now well within reach of many backcountry climbers.
The length, quality and difficulty are comparable to the Prow on Washington Column in Yosemite, with a few exceptions which old5ten points out below --
"There are a few distinct differences that make 'Hairline' harder, some that make it easier. Overall 'Hairline' is a more serious undertaking.
1.) The approach to 'Hairline' is longer and much more sustained.
2.) The approach, climb, and descent are at significantly higher altitude.
3.) Most of the pitches on 'Hairline' are longer.
4.) This is not YOSAR country (although we did have climbers camped at nearby Iceberg Lake yell and ask if we were 'stuck' and needed help as we're rapping back to Frisbee Ledge after fixing lines).
5.) 'Hairline' has some hooking and the 'Lasso' - technically slightly more challenging than the 'Prow.'
There's relatively little aid (3 pitches) and much moderate (5.9-10a) free climbing."