Southern Whitney Group Trip Report

26 Jun - 3 Jul 2002 - by Mike Bigelow

Team members: (Leader) Mike Bigelow age 40, Dan Adel 47, Julian Bigelow 17, Aaron Verril 19, Craig Bigelow 14

My boys and I traveled back from Taiwan the last week of June for a spectacular tour of the southern Whitney area. We entered on the Cottonwood Lakes trailhead and exited eight days later on the Whitney Portal. The weather was fine, we encountered no bears and as a group climbed eight summits. From south to north we hit Cirque Peak, Langley, The Miter, McAdie, Hitchcock, Young, Muir and Whitney. A lot has been written about all of these so I'll contain my report to a few highlights.

If you want quick and interesting access to both Langley and the upper Rock Creek basin, consider heading north along the west shore of the large Cottonwood lake just beyond Old Army Pass. There is a fine east facing, class two headwall that leads close to the base of Langley. It does have a minor cornice until late July or early August most years. The route is both direct and interesting. If you are heading to Upper or Lower Soldier Lake, this pass is due east of the where you drop down. It also saves the loss of altitude required on the New Army Pass trail if you are hiking Langley.

The Miter is a visually striking peak despite its lack of height. I previously failed on this summit and was determined to find a quality route, which I believe I did. These directions may help supplement the vague descriptions found in the climbing guides. From Sky Blue Lake climb the scree toward the base of the North tower. When near the base, climb class two and easy three rock north and then east around this tower's base. This will lead you to a shallow ledge that continues east. As soon as you can, look for chimneys and ledges that stay on the right (west) of the relatively smooth Northwest face. These ledges lead to a triangle shaped tunnel near the top. Pass through this then climb east, over and under huge blocks until you achieve the final summit platform. It's a great summit and fine class three route with limited exposure. I searched high and low but found no summit register.

Mt. McAdie was a delight. After his 1998 trip, Steve Eckert stated that the chute leading from Crabtree Pass appeared to offer a class two route to the summit of this fine peak. This is confirmed. My son and I climbed this chute to the notch in forty minutes. The rock in the middle is loose but is avoided by staying on the ledges on either side. There are no cliff bands and no exposure. Once at the notch between the North and South peaks, the route is a bit exposed but not at all hard. It seems class two is correct for this route. If you are making the trip from Sky Blue Lake to the Crabtree Lakes, I recommend this side trip. You won't be disappointed.

Mt. Muir provides an interesting diversion for those slogging up the Whitney trail. There is no way you can miss the base of the climb. I think there are more ducks marking it than in the rest of the Sierra combined! The class three section of the climb is short, exposed and fun. I made the round trip in thirty minutes.

This was my thirteenth trip to the Sierra. We all had a wonderful time and I had the joy of climbing summits with each of my two teenage sons. I climbed seven mountains on this trip which is a personal record. As a group we climbed nearly 20,000 feet vertically and logged close to fifty miles. One more thing, I found a great use for a bear canister. Fill it with water and leave it in a sunny spot away from the wind. You'd be surprised how fast you can get some warm bath water!

I have many photos. If there are any particular shots you want emailed, contact me at

Mike Bigelow Taichung, Taiwan

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