1 PM – Guys dropped off at Whitney Portal, start hiking
PM – Family stays in Lone Pine
2 AM – Guys start summit attempt
2-4 PM – Guys picked up @ Whitney Portal
Mono Pass Acclimation Hike, June 2
The details of the Mono Pass hike are posted here: Mono Pass Trip Report, June 2 2014
Whitney Portal to Outpost Camp, June 3 (2:30 pm – 5:15 pm)
We started hiking @ 2:30 pm, which was 90 minutes later than originally planned. This section took us 2hr 45min including a 15 minute break at Lone Pine Lake.
Our packs weighed about 35 lbs each, including 48 oz of water.
Before reaching Lone Pine Lake, we met someone who was descending without summiting. He had struggled up to Trail Camp and spent the afternoon dry heaving. After sleeping for the night, he felt better and had made it up to switchback 75 or 80. At that point he decided to turn around, but his friends continued on. On his way off the mountain, he said he got lost between Trail Camp and Mirror Lake, losing at least an hour. When we met him on the trail, he said that the headache was persisting, but the nausea had ended.
Outpost Camp, June 3-4 (5:15 pm – 2:30 am) We reached camp around 5:15 pm. By 7:00 pm we had eaten, repacked our bags for the summit attempt and had prepared for bed. I set an alarm for 1 am. If we slept well, the plan was to eat and leave by 1:30 am, in the hopes of being on Trail Crest to watch the sunrise.
We woke up and got ready as planned. To our surprise, a hiker had lost the trail and was yelling down to us from the hills to the left of the waterfall at Outpost Camp. When he saw our headlamps, he started yelling ‘Please help me, I’ve lost the trail,’ or something along those lines. We told him the the trail was ‘this way’ and to walk towards our headlamps. After about 30 mins, he made it to our camp. He had told us that he had been on the trail for 20 hrs and that he thought his ‘mates’ would be out there looking for him. It wasn’t clear if these were people he started the hike with or not. We made sure he had enough food/water to make it back to Whitney Portal and got him started on the trail down. It was 2:30 by the time we started hiking towards Trail Camp.
Outpost Camp to Trail Camp, June 4 (2:30 am – 4:00 am)
We made good time with the lighter packs (I’d estimate our packs were about 24 lbs including 48 oz of water). We started seeing snow above Mirror Lake, which made the trail a little difficult to follow at times. Since I had been on this section of trail several times, I kinda knew where we were supposed to be headed, but referred to my GPS occasionally.
We took a 15 minute break at the lake, refilled our water bottles and filled our CamelBak bladders, which had not been used up until this point.
Trail Camp to Trail Crest, June 4 (4:15 am – 6:30 am)
We made the mistake of leaving the switchbacks too soon. We found some footprints leading to the north and thought they were headed to the chute. Turns out that some people had just gone that way to practice self-arresting or glissading. We ended up losing about 15 minutes. When we found the route to the chute, it was very obvious where we needed to go. With the mild temperatures, the snow was soft we easily hiked the bottom 1/3 of the chute with crampons and hiking poles. After that point, an ice ax is recommended/needed.
Before hiking the chute, I had never been on anything that steep that climbed for that distance. The closest comparison I have is Skyline Trail, which seems like a cakewalk right now!
Trail Crest to Summit, June 4 (6:30 am – 8:45 am)
There were a few snowy/icy patches between Trail Crest and the summit. They didn’t bug me much on the ascent, but on the way down, when I was tired, they made me a little nervous. Between hiking the chute and glissading/self-arresting near Mono Pass two days prior, my legs were very tired and my pace slowed considerably. I told MW to hike at his own pace and not wait for me; I’d meet him at the summit. He was in sight until just after we passed the last patch of snow near the summit.
Here are some pictures of the snowy/icy parts of the trail:
On the Summit (8:45 am – 9:15 am)
We spent about 30 minutes on the summit taking pictures and talking to other hikers. Most of the people up there had slept in the hut or were PCT hikers. We arrived there later than expected and since we need to be back at the Portal by 4 PM, we got going.
Summit to Trail Crest, June 4 (9:15 am – 10:45 am)
We probably talked to 15-20 people between the summit and Trail Crest. We were the only ones that went up the chute, but others were talking about going down it with hiking poles to self-arrest. I did what I could to convince them otherwise, mentioning the person that had died on the chute because he could not stop using his hiking poles.
The snowy/icy patches made me nervous on the way down and I was considerably slower than MW.
Trail Crest to Trail Camp, via the Chute, June 4 (10:45 am – 11:35 am)
The chute was very soft overall, but there were some hard icy patches. I had to self arrest twice to slow down. There is no way I could have done this with hiking poles. My ‘butt-speedometer’ says my speed increased by 50% or more in a matter of seconds. The snow in these sections was hard enough to rip a hole in my waterproof pants. At the bottom we were post-holing… so just because the snow is soft and slushy where you’re standing, it doesn’t mean that’s the case for the entire chute. We were both very conscious of our speed headed down, trying to go as slow as possible and stopping often. The glissade took about 10 mins including breaks, then another 15 minutes to walk over to the trail. When we made it back to the trail, we took 20 mins to eat lunch. At Trail Camp, we realized we both had plenty of water, so we did not refill. We also ran into a hiker here that appeared to be very unprepared. He asked us if he should take the ‘switchblades’ or if the chute was an option. We told him that IF he was headed up, the switchbacks would be the way.I’ve combined the ascent and glissade of the chute into one (very shaky) video:
For those unfamiliar with glissading, it’s sliding down a steep slope on your butt. The scraping noise you hear is the end of my ice ax, which I am using as a rudder to steer and slow down. At the 3:35 and 3:45 marks I flip over onto my stomach to dig the head of the ax into the snow to stop. I was going faster than I wanted to.
Trail Camp to Outpost, June 4 (11:35 am – 12:05 pm)
The hike back to camp was uneventful and we ran into a few hikers asking about trail conditions and overnight temps. Once we arrived at Outpost Camp, it took us about 45 minutes to pack everything up and get back on the trail. I had just emptied my CamelBak as we walked into camp, so there was no need to filter (I had 48 oz in bottles still).
Outpost to Whitney Portal, June 4 (12:50 pm – 3:20 pm)
The hike back to Whitney Portal was uneventful and we ran into a few hikers asking about trail conditions and overnight temps.
Gear, Weather & Temperature:
The weather was very nice and temperatures were milder than expected. I had lots of winter gear that I did not use: 800 fill down jacket, mittens, long underwear bottoms, etc. By leaving this gear at home and using a lighter sleeping bag, my pack would’ve been 3-4 lbs lighter.
When I checked the temperature @ Outpost Camp around 2:00 AM it was 40°. I didn’t check the temperature again until we were leaving the summit @ 9:15 am. It was 50°.
Started the hike with 48 oz of water.
Refilled 16 oz near Lone Pine Lake.
At Outpost Camp I consumed 64 oz overnight
Between Outpost Camp and Trail Camp I drank 48 oz.
Left Trail Camp with 112 oz of water. This lasted me all the way to the summit and back to Whitney Portal.I have a hard time estimating how much water to carry. If I had planned more accurately, my pack could’ve been 4 lbs lighter for Trail Camp > Summit > Trail Camp.
I’m getting closer to figuring out how much food I will actually eat on a trip like this. I ate about 75% of what I carried, which is the best I’ve done so far. I will take inventory of what was eaten later.
Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS):
This was the first Whitney hike where I didn’t feel like my speed was limited by AMS. I feel that poor conditioning was the biggest limiting factor. My legs were very tired, but I did not get the pounding headache I usually suffer from once I reach Trail Crest.
We had a pulse oximeter on the hike with us. I am usually really close to 100%. At Outpost I was 93%. At the summit I was 80%.
An odd thing that I noticed on our descent below Outpost Camp was that we both developed a really dry cough. My mother-in-law (a nurse) heard us coughing in the car on the drive home and said something along the lines of ‘That doesn’t sound good. If you guys had hiked high enough, I’d say it sounds like pulmonary edema.’ MW stopped coughing by the time we made it home. My cough persisted for another 24 hrs.
How to improve the next trip:
Still learning how to travel lighter, but feel that I made some strides on this trip.
By leaving a few ‘comfort’ items at home, I think I can get my overnight pack down to 30 lbs, including water. I believe my summit pack wouldn’t have weighed more than 23 lbs at any point.
Bring a lighter sleeping bag (40 degree?) and sleep in all of my clothing (if necessary) to stay warm. Use my SOL Emergency Bivvy if needed.
Bring less food.
Mt. Whitney, via ‘The Chute’ || Distance: 20.8 mi || Duration: ~15 hrs (not including time @ camp) || Elevation Change: ±6100+′ || Difficulty: Very Strenuous