Mt. Whitney Mountaineer’s Route July 9-10, 2011

Kurt and Ben at Whitney Portal ready to begin their climb.

This is a 2-day climb of Mt. Whitney’s Mountaineer’s Route as told by Kurt Wedberg.

Ben is from the UK where he is a student ready to finish up law school.  Taking some time off he was on the tail end of an 8 month trip around the world.  One of the last stops on his journey was California where he had hoped he could get a shot at climbing Mt. Whitney.  I was in the office on a Friday afternoon when the call came in.  Ben was in Lone Pine and wanted to know if we had any guides available to lead a climb of Mt. Whitney starting tomorrow.  It is hit and miss whether or not we have somebody available on such short notice.  It is always worth asking the question though and in this case I just happened to be free.

I quickly finished up at the office and went home to pack gear and food.  I met Ben the next morning in Lone Pine where we divided up gear, packed, and drove up to Whitney Portal.  The last time I was here was at the beginning of June on a stormy attempt at Mt. Russell.  I was curious to see how much snow had melted since then and how full the creeks would be.  They have been swollen and overflowing in other regions of the Sierra.  The weather forecast was looking promising and everything was shaping up for a nice climb.

As we made our way up the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek we found the creeks here to be every bit as overflowing as other areas of the Sierra.  Snow had melted off up to Lower Boyscout Lake at 10,300’/3139m and only small patches remained up to Upper Boyscout Lake at 11,300’/3444m.  Not only had the melted snow caused the creeks to swell but it had also given way to wildflowers that were now out in force decorating the trail as we ascended to Upper Boyscout Lake where we planned to camp.

The long day ahead would mean an early dinner and a predawn start.  Ascending above Upper Boyscout Lake we hit continuous snow at 12,200’/3719m.  Crampons and ice axe were indicated from here as we ascended up the 40 degree snow to Iceberg Lake at 12,600’/3841m.  As the sun rose it cast an orange glow on the sheer east faces of Mt. Whitney, Keeler Needle, and Day Needle.  Above Iceberg Lake the snow felt like Styrofoam underfoot making for perfect cramponing right up the 35 degree slope.  Temperatures remained pleasant with little wind and a clear sky.  The snow ended about 300 vertical feet below the notch at 14,000’/4267m.  Turning south we looked up the final 500’/150m that leads to the highest point in the contiguous United States.  The terrain steepens to 40+ degrees requiring the use of hands and feet over the 3rd class terrain.  Using a small rope for security we moved quickly over the terrain and found ourselves signing the register of the summit of Mt. Whitney at 9AM.

The descent had us retracing our steps back to camp where we packed up and continued down to Whitney Portal arriving in time to enjoy burgers from the Whitney Portal Store where they make the best bacon cheeseburgers on the planet!!  Thanks Ben for a great climb!!

A few pictures are below.  The entire photo gallery can be found here:  Mt. Whitney July 9-10, 2011.


Snow plants are plentiful near the pine trees in the ower North Fork of Line Pine Creek.

Ben at the first swollen creek crossing on the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek.

Red columbine

Ben on the route above Lower Boyscout Lake.

Ben on the granite slabs below Upper Boyscout Lake. The water running over the rock comes from the outlet of Upper Boy Scout Lake and makes for a pretty scene as we ascend to the lake.

Upper Boy Scout Lake

Summit day has arrived!

Ben navigating by headlamp with the first signs of sunrise from the east.

Morning light on beautiful Mt. Whitney.

At a rest break before starting up the Mountaineer's Chute we put away headlamps, adjusted clothing layers, and applied sunscreen.

In the middle of the Mountaineer's Chute with Iceberg Lake below.

Polemonium "Sky Pilot" high in the Mountaineer's Chute. This beautiful wildflower only blooms above approximately 12,000'/3657m in the Sierra.

Topping out at the "notch" at 14,000'/4267m

The final 500'/152m of the route that leads to the summit.

Ben making some of the final moves below the summit of Mt. Whitney.

Summit photo at 9AM on July 10, 2011!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.