*
 
 
Whitney Portal Store Message Board
Mount Whitney Reports
                 
Page 1 of 3 1 2 3 >
Topic Options
#76139 - 05/12/10 09:02 AM Spring 2010 Conditions on the Main Whitney Trail
Kurt Wedberg Offline


Member

Registered: 06/21/05
Posts: 985
Loc: Bishop, CA
For those of you interested in trying to climb Mt. Whitney this spring you should be aware of current conditions, and more importantly how to interpret those conditions to help you decide how to make decisions with safety in mind.

Snow is now present on Mt. Whitney and it will not melt away until late spring or early summer. You can count on negotiating a snow covered trail from somewhere above Mirror Lake (as of mid May) until Trail Crest. From the cables until Trail Crest there are hazardous areas where a slip can turn into a fall that can lead to an injury or fatality. This section is part of what most of us refer to as the “99 Switchbacks”. We are still receiving spring storms. If the area receives more storms you can count on snow lower and higher on the route.

Given these conditions there are certain things to keep in mind if you decide to attempt climbing Mt. Whitney via the Main Trail. This list is not exhaustive but is a good place to start:

(1) Recognize that your ascent will take longer than it would if the trail was dry. Plan extra time into your itinerary to account for this.

(2a) Realize that current conditions require climbers to have learned and practiced several mountaineering skills which include self arrest with an ice axe (this is how you would attempt to stop yourself in the event of a slip on the hard snow and ice), how to walk with crampons on, and how to efficiently climb up and down snow covered slopes.

(2b) This means that ski poles are no substitute for an ice axe. Ski poles are great aids in walking. Ascending a route they are like a portable hand rail. On a descent they help reduce some of the jarring to hiker’s knees. They will do nothing to help stop a person in case of a fall. Yes, some ski poles are made with self arrest grips. This is no substitute for an ice axe.

(3a) The slope between Trail Camp and Trail Crest is north facing. This means it loses sun exposure early in the day. You can be on this slope during a warm sunny day and find the snow comfortable to walk on, but once the sun leaves this slope the snow will become firm, hard, and slick. It will stay that way until the sun hits it again, which might be the next day, or it might take several days if clouds obscure direct rays from the sun. Even with direct sun exposure the conditions could still be firm, hard, and slick.

(3b) Be prepared to climb on firm, hard, and slick snow. If you find yourself on this slope after 2:30 PM (when the sun begins leaving this area) you need to be prepared to negotiate increasingly firm, hard, and slick snow conditions.

(4a) Sliding down the snow on your butt (commonly called “glissading” among the mountaineering community) from Trail Crest is not a safe option. It doesn’t matter if you see tracks from people who have previously done it. Among those who contributed to glassade tracks in previous seasons include several people who lost their lives from the decision to glissade there.

(4b) People have tried glissading here for years. Understand that this slope is subtly angled in such a way that it can pull an unsuspecting mountaineer slowly to the left, which can make you slam into the rocks at a high rate of speed. There have been many injuries and fatalities due to people glissading here.

(4c) If you decide to glissade anywhere on any mountain remove your crampons. Glissading with crampons is never an option. You run a high chance of injuring an ankle, a leg, or worse. It is poor mountaineering technique to glissade while wearing crampons anywhere at any time.

(5a) Remember that the summit should not be your primary goal. Your first goal is to get back to the parking lot safely. If you can stay within a good margin of safety then the summit should be your second goal. This means that just because somebody else decided to ascend in questionable conditions it should not determine what you decide to do. You need to make your decisions based on your known skills and the ability of your group.

Climbing up a mountain is optional, descending is mandatory.
_________________________
Kurt Wedberg
info@sierramountaineering.com
http://www.sierramountaineering.com

Top
#76148 - 05/12/10 10:59 AM Re: Spring 2010 Conditions on the Main Whitney Trail [Re: Kurt Wedberg]
Sam Page Offline
Member

Registered: 10/31/09
Posts: 79
Loc: Orange County, CA
Wow, well said! Especially this sobering line: "Among those who contributed to glissade tracks (below Trail Crest) in previous seasons include several people who lost their lives from the decision to glissade there."
_________________________
The Mountaineering Review

Top
#76156 - 05/12/10 12:56 PM Re: Spring 2010 Conditions on the Main Whitney Trail [Re: Sam Page]
Norma R Offline
Member

Registered: 03/20/06
Posts: 286
Loc: Ventura County, CA
Thanks Kurt!

Top
#76163 - 05/12/10 04:21 PM Re: Spring 2010 Conditions on the Main Whitney Trail [Re: Kurt Wedberg]
Richard P. Offline
Member

Registered: 06/26/03
Posts: 4846
Loc: Ridgecrest, CA
I've been looking for the photos I have of a Navy helicopter landing at Trail Camp - Christmas Week, 2000 - when a couple had decided to glissade the slope from Trail Crest. She made it fine. Her husband lost control and crashed into the rocks near the bottom of the slope. After a cold, immobile night, SAR evacuated him.

Although I sometimes talk like it's easy, it isn't something that I take casually while I'm out there. (Referring to some of the talk going on in other threads.)

Top
#76167 - 05/12/10 04:50 PM Re: Spring 2010 Conditions on the Main Whitney Trail [Re: Richard P.]
AndyGator Offline
Member

Registered: 05/02/10
Posts: 13
Loc: Los Angeles, Ca
Thanks Kurt. We will certainly climb (and glissade) with caution.

Top
#76171 - 05/12/10 07:47 PM Re: Spring 2010 Conditions on the Main Whitney Trail [Re: Kurt Wedberg]
Mike Condron Offline
Member

Registered: 08/21/09
Posts: 125
Loc: Manteca, CA
This brings to mind:


The Little Blue Engine

by Shel Silverstein (1932-1999)

The little blue engine looked up at the hill.
His light was weak, his whistle was shrill.
He was tired and small, and the hill was tall,
And his face blushed red as he softly said,
“I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”

So he started up with a chug and a strain,
And he puffed and pulled with might and main.
And slowly he climbed, a foot at a time,
And his engine coughed as he whispered soft,
“I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”

With a squeak and a creak and a toot and a sigh,
With an extra hope and an extra try,
He would not stop — now he neared the top —
And strong and proud he cried out loud,
“I think I can, I think I can, I think I can!”

He was almost there, when — CRASH! SMASH! BASH!
He slid down and mashed into engine hash
On the rocks below... which goes to show
If the track is tough and the hill is rough,
THINKING you can just ain’t enough!
_________________________
Mike

Top
#76172 - 05/12/10 07:55 PM Re: Spring 2010 Conditions on the Main Whitney Trail [Re: Mike Condron]
Bee Offline
Member

Registered: 02/17/09
Posts: 382
Loc: Northern Ca
.....and that was from a children's book? Imagine what 'ol Shel would have written for the idiotic adults:

"You know you shouldn't, you know you shouldn't, you know you shouldn't!"
_________________________
The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.

Top
#76180 - 05/12/10 11:15 PM Re: Spring 2010 Conditions on the Main Whitney Trail [Re: Bee]
Anonymous
Unregistered


Childrens book? Hah! The childrens version is The Little Engine That Could.

I believe the story in the 2006 fatality was that the couple was returning from the summit so late that the trail had iced up so badly they felt they could not use it, so tried glissading instead.

Top
#76181 - 05/13/10 07:04 AM Re: Spring 2010 Conditions on the Main Whitney Trail [Re: Kurt Wedberg]
Jen Offline
Member

Registered: 05/13/10
Posts: 3
Loc: Orange County, CA
Thanks for that summary - it is very helpful. I was training with a group (various levels of experience) that has an overnight permit for the weekend of June 26th. I'm fit - but have very little experience (especially in the snow - I had crampons on once 10 years ago during a glacier tour in NZ.) Any thoughts on what the conditions will be by late June and whether it is foolish to try. Thanks for any advice. jen

Top
#76183 - 05/13/10 07:28 AM Re: Spring 2010 Conditions on the Main Whitney Tra [Re: Jen]
MooseTracks Offline
Member

Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 2391
Loc: B-town Eastside, CA
Jen, it is never foolish to try. It is foolish to push too far into your discomfort zone and freezing, thereby endangering yourself and others in the group.

My dad, last June, wore crampons for the second time (the first was a snow travel day of training around Bishop Pass) on the Main Trail. He made it past the cables, but a few switchers above that finally had it with the snow, turned to me and said, "I'm out of my comfort zone."

And with that, we turned for home.

Go, enjoy the true majesty that is the Lone Pine Creek drainage. But constantly check in with yourself, assess why you might feel uncomfortable or scared. If you're with a group, make sure the lines of communication are always open. Define your expectations early.

And most of all, have fun.
_________________________
Flickr Pics

Think outside the Zone.

Top
#76184 - 05/13/10 07:28 AM Re: Spring 2010 Conditions on the Main Whitney Trail [Re: Jen]
Kurt Wedberg Offline


Member

Registered: 06/21/05
Posts: 985
Loc: Bishop, CA
Originally Posted By: Jen
Thanks for that summary - it is very helpful. I was training with a group (various levels of experience) that has an overnight permit for the weekend of June 26th. I'm fit - but have very little experience (especially in the snow - I had crampons on once 10 years ago during a glacier tour in NZ.) Any thoughts on what the conditions will be by late June and whether it is foolish to try. Thanks for any advice. jen

It's difficult to say. If we continue to get storm systems the melt off will be slow and there still could be a lot of snow up there. If temperatures warm up the snow melts fast... sometimes as fast as 500 feet in elevation a week. Keep watching the board for reports and updates.
_________________________
Kurt Wedberg
info@sierramountaineering.com
http://www.sierramountaineering.com

Top
#76186 - 05/13/10 08:19 AM Re: Spring 2010 Conditions on the Main Whitney Trail [Re: Kurt Wedberg]
+ @ti2d Offline
Member

Registered: 09/10/04
Posts: 714
Loc: Oh Cursed pron Oakhurst
Guess business will be good for your snow travel courses!
_________________________
"Those on top of the mountain did not fall there..."

Top
#76187 - 05/13/10 08:33 AM Re: Spring 2010 Conditions on the Main Whitney Trail [Re: Mike Condron]
Red Offline
Member

Registered: 05/13/10
Posts: 4
Loc: shamayi h'shamayim
thanks for sharing the poem!
_________________________
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.

Top
#76190 - 05/13/10 09:29 AM Re: Spring 2010 Conditions on the Main Whitney Tra [Re: MooseTracks]
KentuckyTodd Offline
Member

Registered: 07/23/09
Posts: 196
Loc: Lexington, KY
MooseTracks, that was a perfect example.
_________________________
Why Yes, I am crazy. I'm just not stupid.

Top
#76215 - 05/13/10 08:27 PM Re: Spring 2010 Conditions on the Main Whitney Tra [Re: MooseTracks]
Jen Offline
Member

Registered: 05/13/10
Posts: 3
Loc: Orange County, CA
sounds like very wise advice...and if we hvve to wait a year to summit...it will be that much sweeter! thanks

Top
#76273 - 05/15/10 06:13 PM Re: Spring 2010 Conditions on the Main Whitney Trail [Re: Kurt Wedberg]
astroclimber Offline
Member

Registered: 05/15/10
Posts: 8
Loc: Berkeley, CA
Thanks for the update. I'm new to this board, but will be attempting Whitney for the first time over Memorial Day weekend. I'm in the process of buying mountaineering boots and would like advice on the warmth needed. I'm basically trying to decide between the La Sportiva Glacier Evo and the La Sportiva Nepal Evo's. I did Shasta last summer in rental double plastics and found it very painful. Any advice would be thoroughly appreciated.

Top
#76326 - 05/17/10 05:59 PM Re: Spring 2010 Conditions on the Main Whitney Trail [Re: astroclimber]
Kurt Wedberg Offline


Member

Registered: 06/21/05
Posts: 985
Loc: Bishop, CA
Originally Posted By: astroclimber
Thanks for the update. I'm new to this board, but will be attempting Whitney for the first time over Memorial Day weekend. I'm in the process of buying mountaineering boots and would like advice on the warmth needed. I'm basically trying to decide between the La Sportiva Glacier Evo and the La Sportiva Nepal Evo's. I did Shasta last summer in rental double plastics and found it very painful. Any advice would be thoroughly appreciated.

The Nepal's are a warmer boot but either one of those should work for a Memorial Day Whitney climb. I'd examine your tick list after you climb Whitney and see if a warmer boot would be more appropriate for any of them.
_________________________
Kurt Wedberg
info@sierramountaineering.com
http://www.sierramountaineering.com

Top
#76369 - 05/18/10 02:42 PM Re: Spring 2010 Conditions on the Main Whitney Tra [Re: Kurt Wedberg]
Cristobal Offline
Member

Registered: 03/19/10
Posts: 56
Loc: San Diego
One more warning about spring climbing on the Main Trail - if you are planning to follow boot racks to the top, also have a plan B. I went up from Outpost Camp to nearly Trail Crest on Monday (5/16/2010), and the light snow that was falling in the morning turned into moderate snow with some pretty strong winds around 1:00 in the afternoon. Visibility was very limited, and not being familiar with the route, I decided to turn back. The tracks I had followed up were multiple sets of deep prints in hard snow. On the way back they were almost completely obscured by the new snow. I was lucky enough to see a few here and there where a strong gust of wind exposed them for a moment. Map and compass were of little help since I couldn't see any reference points through the blowing snow. If you don't know the route, you need multiple back up plans - tracks are quickly and easily covered by new snow.

Top
#76396 - 05/18/10 09:39 PM Re: Spring 2010 Conditions on the Main Whitney Trail [Re: Kurt Wedberg]
Tracie B Offline
Member

Registered: 10/11/07
Posts: 783
Loc: Behind the Orange Curtain, Cal...
This weekend almost marks my one year anniversary of my first Mt. Whitney summit attempt. Bob R's and Richard P's weekly TRs last year gave me such excellent information, without them, I may not have tried in the spring on my first try smile I think maybe there was more snow this year(?), but last year there was some drama on the trail because some people did not have crampons. My photo journal is here.
here for anyone who cares to read it.

I saw some Nevada Bighorn sheep at Trail Camp - unfortunately the camera I was carrying was n.g. so didn't get a real good shot.. I sort of "met" Richard P. for the first time on the west side... and many other things happened that weekend that, like all things Mt. Whitney, will always stay with me as being somewhat "magical".

In hindsight, depending on my mood when you ask, I may say it was foolish to do it alone in those conditions without ice ax and only one hiking stick and microspikes...and then I may say at least I had more gear than some folks did that weekend...or most likely now I would say have all the tools you may need if it ends up that you think of needing them, and have some good practice using them. The bottom line, as I always like to say, is know your limitations. I've lived life long enough to know mine, and to be able to say so when I please.
In any event, it's spring! Time to celebrate and plan new adventures. I know that I am. and for you, Mike Condron, my mantra was "I will get Up this mountain", and then."I will get Off this mountain". over and over... no ipod that day cool .

Top
#76574 - 05/24/10 10:26 AM Re: Spring 2010 Conditions on the Main Whitney Trail [Re: Kurt Wedberg]
Stumbles Offline
Member

Registered: 05/11/10
Posts: 18
Loc: San Diego, CA
Just came down the mountain. After what I saw yesterday, I suspect it's going to be quite snowy up there for a while. People were inventing trails on the mountain. Got to explore some new areas that I normally wouldn't have found without the snow. Full trip report will be posted on the main page. Here is a picture from Trail Camp on 5/23/10: http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/385c67LQWu_Z7HG5wpxClA?feat=directlink

Top
Page 1 of 3 1 2 3 >

Moderator:  Bob R, Doug Sr