Going upWe drove 4hrs across Death Valley from Las Vegas for a 1-day summit attempt on Mt Whitney. Got our day pass at Lone Pine ranger station and learned more about the ominous smokey air from the controlled fires (caused by lightning) southwest of Whitney. Proceeded to downtown Lone Pine for dinner, then to the trailhead, perfect for car camping and star gazing between the tree tops...it even had a general store with souvenirs and a cafe to boot!
Started out at 6:30am, by walking thru the nice wooden portal at the trailhead complete with a scale for hikers to use. We weighed our backpacks (coming in around 25lbs each). About 1 mile in, we took the Mountaineers route.
After a few creek crossings we looked hard to identify the correct lone pine tree until we found ourselves on a rocky ledge 1000' higher. Interestingly the setting moon from the night before made for a perfect W-SW aiming point to Lower Boy Scout Lake. Another 1hr of hiking we stepped up another 1000' to arrive at Upper Boy Scout Lake. Both pristine camping sites with excellent water sources.
Continued gaining altitude and saw a few marmots along the way. Some snow patches cover the worn path, requiring some navigation and route-finding skills, on the way to Iceberg Lake but pretty straight forward. Then a steep climb left of the snow in gulley in and among wild flowers. A party of 4 decended as we were going up. Very loose rock/scree and one of the less desirable sections to climb thru.
At the top of the notch, 14,000ft, great sub summit ridge views. One of the most difficult scrambles awaited us to the summit hut, be careful of ice (can be year round) making scrambling more slippery. This class 3 rock climb was an eye opener! A pretty good high altitude challenge with big boulders requiring 3 point grips, hand jams, and shimmying. But finally on top for a late lunch.
Decended via the traditional route...a little less steep! Kinda cool to be so high up so late in the day. If we weren't tired before we were now after coming down the 99 switchbacks which were in and out of some icy snow. Cruised by the many campsites as we took advantage of the last of the daylight minutes. Then after hiking in 1 hour of darkness we could easily see the Milky Way and the burnt orange moon. Another hour in dark before reaching the parking lot. Looking back, we both enjoyed the extra long day but with tired feet.
BetaDate Climbed: Jul 19, 2011
10hrs up via Mountaineers Route, 5hrs down via Whitney Trail.
6000' elevation gain starting at an 8,380ft trailhead.
Pristine lakes spaced out evenly (distance and altitude) for breaks.
Snow patches in late July but crampons not really needed. Shoes with good traction recommended.
Loose rock on upper gulley before the 14,000' notch worse part.