Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 36.57860°N / 118.293°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Jan 5, 2003
Trip Report – Mt.Whitney Daniel Krasner - Jan.5-8, 2003 Participants: Daniel Krasner, Lindsay Turner Location: Mt. Whitney Area, CA Route: Mt. Whitney Trail Difficulty: class 2, ice axe, crampons, snowshoes, helmet Conditions: really, really cold, but otherwise beautiful Casualties: 3 water bottles, 1 snowshoe Day 1: (Jan. 5, 2003) We left Berkeley at 8am, heading through South Lake Tahoe, and down 395. The day was gorgeous and none of the roads required chains, so traveling was fairly quick. Since, we were hoping to get to the Whitney Portal Road before sunset we had to minimize the number of stops, but could not resist stopping at a few places like the overlook of Mono Lake. At around 4:30pm we rolled into Lone Pine, went to the ranger station for self-issue permits, and started heading up Whitney Portal Road. By the time we made to the second “Road Closed” sign, which is where the road starts to wind up the mountain, it was almost dark. The road ahead looked like rather treacherous, covered in snow and ice. We decided to put on chains, and head up, but the chains kept falling off, so after I spent 10 minutes looking for one of the chains in the dark, we decided to see how far the Jeep would take us without them. I put my Jeep Cherokee in low 4-wheel drive and we started climbing the road. Moving was slow, but steady. About 2 miles up the road we saw couple of guys coming down; we talked to them for a minute – they looked really tired and were fairly none-responsive; we continued up WPR. About a mile later we saw another pair heading down the mountain; the conversation went something like this: Me: How is it going? no response, just blank stares Me: Are you guys ok? more blank stares Lidsay: Hey guys, wake up? Guy 1: (slowly and really dazed) I feel like I just got the shit beaten out of me... Me: Well that’s nice. How is it up there? Anyway, the conversation went on like that for a few minutes, and we were able to ascertain that they made it as far as Outpost Camp. We continued up the road and about 1.5 miles from WP the Jeep couldn’t go any further, so we changed and headed to the trailhead. We camped at WP. Day 2: We woke up at 6am, had breakfast, and started heading up the trail. The day was beautiful, and the trail was easy to follow. However, it fairly cold and our water bottles were quickly freezing. We made it to the junction with the Mountaineer’s route and started to head up the north fork of Lone Pine creek. The snow was very powdery and deep, so we put on snowshoes, but even this didn’t help much. After about half an hour of struggling and moving about 150 feet up the creek we came to the conclusion that no real progress could be made this way, and decided to go back and head up the Whitney Trail. The going was all right, and the trail was easy to follow up to Outpost Camp; snowshoes helped a lot. At outpost camp we had lunch, and continued up to Mirror Lake. It was obvious that there hadn’t been anybody this far at least from the last real snowfall and from here on the route finding was on our own; the trail was completely covered and the markings scarce. It took over an hour to gain the ridge about Mirror Lake, for we kept falling through the snow to our waists. Being covered head to toe in gore-tex was essential to making this possible. Having gained the ridge, we walked for about a quarter mile, and decided to make camp. The night was cold (I am not sure how cold), but we slept ok in my Hannah 4-season tent. Day 3: We woke up at 5 am, had breakfast, and at 6:30, just as it became light enough to walk, headed up the ridge. The day was beautiful, and as the sun lit up Wotans Throne and the Pacific Crest it was a sight to see. We went above Consultation Lake and headed towards the ridge. The morning snow was hard enough for us to make good progress. We put on our crampons to ascend the 30-35 degree slope up to the ridge, the first 250 feet of which was iced over, then becoming softer snow. About half way up the slope the altitude started really getting to me, and the gusts of wind (I would say about 40mph) with snow and ice didn’t help. It took us about 2 hours to gain the ridge, which seemed like forever. We took a short break, and started heading down the trail, which was completely visible at this point. When we came to the junction with the John Muir Trail, 1.9 miles away from the Whitney summit, it was just after 11am. The trail ahead looked clear, with only a few patches of snow, and I was fairly sure that we were going to be on the summit within two hours, but I should have known better. As we progressed on the trail we came across more and more patches of snow completely covering the trail creating really steep slopes to traverse, and nothing to break a really long fall. Some of the snow was completely iced over and some was very soft. This significantly slowed us down, and created some very sketchy traverses. We were about 200 feet below the summit and it was 1:30pm - turn-around time. I considered going for the summit, but with time running out, and with another hour of sun significantly increasing the danger of the slopes covering the trail to avalanche, which some of them looked like they were about to do anyway, I decided that the extra few hundred feet weren’t worth the risk and we turned back. Not summiting was unfortunate, but I believe this was the right decision. We got back to camp about 30 minutes after sundown, and were completely exhausted. That night a small storm dumped about 3 inches of snow. Day 4: We woke up at 6am, and with the heavy clouds coming in overhead, we decided to get out of there as soon as possible. About half way down one of Lindsay’s snowshoes broke, and I gave her my pair, only to realize how much they really helped. Within 3 hours were down at the car, and turning back we saw the mountain completely covered in thick clouds – it looked like we got out of there just in time. With a short and uneventful ride down Whitney Portal road we head south on 395, to 178, and up to the Monterey Peninsula.


Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-1 of 1
Anthony Grennes

Anthony Grennes - Apr 8, 2006 1:26 am - Hasn't voted

Winter makes it different

I have noticed a legion of posts for the favored climbing season. I always enjoy the posts of the winter climbers the best though. No comparison climbing a mountain in the summer with one climbed in the winter. Good work guys.

Happy trails


Viewing: 1-1 of 1