Mount Whitney
(Mountaineers Route)

27 Jun 1999 - by Ron Hudson

Conditions at Mt. Whitney are good. There is little snow on both the standard trail and the mountaineers route. I wanted a good conditioning hike and can do things spur of the moment now in my retirement, so I drove up to Lone Pine Sunday morning (6/27/99), got a permit, and started hiking from Whitney Portal at noon. There was very little snow going up to Iceberg Lake; although the lake still was still mostly icy on its surface. I ate and napped there a while and then continued. There was essentially no snow on the mountaineers route except a snowbank the lower 20 percent of the main gully that goes to the notch. The snow is avoidable by doing some class 2-3 rock on either side of the gully, which is usually the best way anyway because you avoid scree. There is snow on the northwest side of the notch, but you avoid that by making the 3rd class move right before the snow starts. Very little snow in the gully from the notch to the summit. It is wet in places (good water available) from a small snow bank near the top. I stayed on dry rock and was wearing jogging shoes. There were a few melted icicles, so the wet area might ice up a bit in the early morning. I was on the summit at 7 pm.

I stayed in the summit hut and had been sound asleep at 11 pm when I heard voices, and it was a couple that just finished the East Face (5.4) climbing route. In the 9' x 9' room they bivouaced while I slept in my sleeping bag. I loaned the lady my bivy sack since I didn't need it - I doubt it got to freezing outside that night. A not very comfy night on the hard wood floor; also each of us got up about 4 times to pee (effect of 14,400+ altitude). Back down the trail in the morning, we walked about half a mile before we got to a snow bank to quench our thirst. The main snow near the trail was the gully area below Trail Crest Pass. About 50 people were hiking up in the morning; few with ice axes. Most had ski poles, but snow and ice were almost completely avoidable. I had an ax but used it only where I chose to cut some of the trail switchbacks by going down the snow bank.

Not many were camped at Trail Camp. 50 hikers is only about 1/4 of the daily total permit quota (day hikers plus overnight). I did pass a ranger down near Outpost Camp and he had me show my permit. There will be some days of trail closure with no permits issued, later in the summer. Muir Trail downhill hikers will be allowed to pass through, I was told.

Weather was ideal. No clouds, no wind, and warm. Got back to my car at 2 pm after chatting with a number of those I passed, then drove home. So, it was a good way to do the peak, still slack season (permits available and free) and with good route conditions in this below average snow year.

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