My wife, Jody, and I hiked up the main Whitney Trail from the Portal on Friday, June 24th. After eating lunch at Outpost Camp, on a beautiful afternoon, we climbed on up to Trail Camp at 12,000 and set up our tent. We had been told by the Rangers that we would start encountering snow just above 10,000 ft, which we did. At times, the trails were obscured due to snow banks, but it was easy to find our way around them. In general, we were in snow all the way from about 11,000 ft to camp. We didn't use crampons or axes through this stretch, though our hiking poles were very handy.
We made camp around 5:30pm in our little Bibler under windy clear skies. When we arrived, the toilets were still open though one of the Rangers soon locked them up because of previous vandalism. Wag bags, however, were available in a dispenser. We found the Rangers, by the way, to be very friendly and helpful. They are a great bunch!
We had been told that, because of the heavy snow layer, we would have to climb the Chute to Trail Crest and that crampons and axes would be required. One look at the steep Chute after supper told us that the beta was accurate, so we planned for some hard work the next morning. We turned in around 9pm with a plan to get out around 3am for our summit bid.
Despite the cold morning winds, we managed to crawl out of our bags for last minute preparations and breakfast. Having taken care of both, we crawled back in our tent to warm up our fingers and toes.
Our camp neighbors, who had been on the mountain previously, told us it was crucial to be off the Chute by 9am because of deterioriating snow conditions in the morning sun. Keeping this in mind, we got back out of the tent around 5:30am, strapped on our crampons and headed out at 6:15 for the Chute.
We followed one of the traversing footpaths from left to right across the snow field to the bottom of the Chute. It appeared to be quite steep to us (45-50 degrees?), so we took our time, made sure of our crampon placement, and relied on our axes to keep us nailed to the slope.
We made our way up one of the glissade paths on the left side of the exposed rock finger in the middle of the Chute and slogged steadily to Trail Crest. The exertion of the climb warmed us up nicely and the condition of the snow was excellent for our crampons.
Jody followed me over the crest exactly at 9am. We took off our crampons and enjoyed a rest break with snacks (1/2 a bagel, dry cereal, hard fruit candy) and water, enjoying the company of several other folks at the crest junction. Everyone volunteered beta and help with picture taking.
Around 9:45am we began our hike to the summit, all over rock and sand until the final climb up the slope to the peak. There we encountered snow again and, while it meant an extended traverse left to regain the trail, we didn't have to use our crampons or axes.
We reached the summit at 12:30pm in absolutely gorgeous weather, affording a breathtaking view of the surrounding peaks. Certainly worth all the months of planning and hard effort. Lots of friendly climbers at the top and hearty congratulations all around. This climb was everything we hoped.
After taking in the views, enjoying the warmth of the sun, and having a bit more food and water to keep us altitude clear, we relunctantly began our descent. At Trail Crest, we met a climber who was very nervous about descending the Chute, admitting that he had never glissaded, and worried by the steepness of the slope. We did our best to advise him, but shook our heads a bit at the thought of someone climbing something as steep as the Chute without being prepared to get back down. Experience is the great teacher, I suppose. Just hope he made it down okay.
We jumped into the glissade and had great fun sliding down, really cutting into the time needed to get back to Trail Camp. Once back at camp, we tore down the tent, stuffed all the stuff, downed some more water and headed down the mountain. We finally exited the Portal just after dark and headed into Lone Pine for a celebration dinner at High Sierra Cafe.
A great climb!
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