From the west side, it is fairly easy to get to the base of the North Face - leave the JMT on the north side of Guitar Lake and follow the stream up to Arctic Lake, curving to the east until you reach the North Face. From the east, you need to first climb to Whitney-Russell Pass (also called "Whitney Col") WNW of Iceberg Lake. Note that this is not the low point between Mts. Whitney and Russell, but it is the easiest crossing from the east. The lower col north of Whitney-Russell Pass is class 3 on the east side from the cirque above Upper Boy Scout Lake, and that is with careful route-finding. The area there is rife with cliffs.
The North Face of Whitney, despite the impressive sounding name, isn't much to write home about aside from the fact that it is a fairly steep 1,500ft of scrambling at high altitude that can leave you winded. It is the easiest route up from the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek, an alternative for a dayhike if you didn't get a permit for the Whitney Trail (you can descend the Whitney Trail after you reach the summit if you have no permit. Just be sure to mention your ascent route to any ranger that asks you). The other common use of this route is during a traverse between Mts. Whitney and Russell. Combined with Russell's South Face
, this is the fastest and easiest route between the two 14ers.
From the base of the North Face, there are plenty of options - in fact you can climb almost any line on the broad face if you don't mind climbing class 4-5 terrain. Most of the face is a steep talus/boulder climb. Some may find it rather tedious. The upper left side and the lower right sides have solid rock, but they are steep and cliffy - don't aim for them unless you are comfortable on class 4 rock. The class 2-3 route follows a diagonal path running up and to the right. This avoids the rocky cliffs mentioned above. There are a number of rocky ribs on the North Face, all canted to one side, running diagonally down and to the right. Several running down the middle have excellent class 3 scrambling and a welcome respite from the tedious talus. To reach these from Whitney-Russell Pass, aim diagonally upwards, passing over several other ribs enroute.
If planning to climb in late spring or early summer, plan to bring crampons/axe. Check conditions on the Message Board
beforehand if going in July as conditions are changeable from year to year, depending on snowfall. By August, snowfree routes up the North Face are almost certain.
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