Mt. Whitney Mountaineer’s Route July 15-17, 2011

Beautiful Mt. Whitney at sunrise flanked by Keeler Needle and Day Needle to the left.

This is an attempt on Mt. Whitney’s Mountaineer’s Route as told by SMI guide Deb Leyh.

On July 15th I had the pleasure of meeting the Walter-Macbeth Clan.  Team members included John, Amber, Andrew and myself (Guide Deb Leyh).  The team is from Southern California, and an attempt of Whitney via the Mountaineer’s Route was the conclusion of a hiking vacation which took the family to Yosemite National Park and Devil’s Postpile.  While the team were experienced day hikers, there would be many “firsts” on this trip.  This would be the first backpack camping, first time above 11,000 feet, first exposure to crampons and ice axe, and first time on a climbers trail and 3rd Class rock!

Day 1 we hiked to Upper Boy Scout Lake (11,300 feet).  We had great weather and nary a mosquito.  I have never seen the stream crossings so high. All crossings to Lower Boy Scout Lake were passable, but some did require getting the feet wet.  The team did a great job navigating the crossings and making their way up the exposed Ebersbacher Ledges.  Above Lower Boy Scout Lake  to Upper Boy Scout Lake is clear of snow.  The water running on the slabs and waterfalls is incredible, and all this water has made a stunning wild flower bloom.  We arrived at Upper Boy Scout Lake late afternoon and set-up camp and prepared for our summit attempt.  After dinner – and a brief low down on WAG Bags (another “first”) – we retired to our tents with a night lit by an almost full-moon.

Summit day we woke at 4am and after breakfast began making our way to Iceberg Lake at first light.  As I mentioned, this was a trip of many “firsts”, and accordingly, it took its toll.  Since we weren’t moving at a daylight summit pace, the team decided to reprioritize.  I commend the team members for coming to this realization because it is all too easy to get “summit fever” and lose perspective.  Instead of summiting, we decided to explore the terrain to Iceberg Lake, and then move camp to Lower Boy Scout Lake (10,300 feet) for a change of venue.  The team did a great job breaking down camp efficiently and descending to Lower Boys Scout Lake.  Alas the misquotes were back in full force!

On Day 3 we had a pleasant hike out.  The weather remained great for the entire trip, and despite not summiting, everyone had a great attitude.  It’s important to enjoy the process, and to appreciate and respect this great route.  The team was faced with many “firsts”, and I am very proud of their effort.  They gave it 110 percent.  While making our way to the Whitney Portal Store for lunch, minds were definitely churning on possible strategies for a future Whitney attempt, and I have no doubt that with more training and a continued positive attitude, they will get their Whitney summit!

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