Alpinist's Climbing Photos
Devil's Lake | Contact Me | Aconcagua | Mt Hood | Mt. Whitney | Mt. Elbert
Mt. Whitney (14,497')

Ascent of Mt. Whitney via the Mountaineer's Route, May 9, 2004.
George Naxera & Mike Bennet
 
Mt. Whitney is the highest point in the United States outside of Alaska. The easiest and most popular route to the summit is the Whitney Portal Trail, which is an 11 mile Class I hike. We ascended via the Mountaineer's Route, which is rated Class III. The Mountaineer's Route was first climbed by John Muir in 1873. It's an awesome climb, but it is not for the faint of heart as there is plenty of exposure. This time of year, the route requires crampons and ice ax and the proper training in how to use them. We successfully climbed it without ropes but opted to use saftety ropes on the way down, thanks to some fellow climbers that we met on the summit who let us tie in with them. 

mtwhitney.jpg

The approach from the Whitney Portal trailhead to Iceberg Lake is about 6 miles.  The route follows the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek.  It begins as a well maintained trail. However, before long we found ourselves bushwhacking our way through pretty thick brush. We eventually arrived at the Eberbacher Ledges which elevated us above the brush. The route continues to follow the creek past Lower and Upper Boy Scout Lakes until it reaches Iceberg Lake. We encountered mostly snow above LBS Lake, so we put on our snowshoes at that point. It took us 8 hours to make our way to Iceberg Lake.

ledges.jpg

lbslake.jpg

approach.jpg

We spent the second day acclimatizing, taking short hikes, hanging out at camp and studying our next day's route up the north couloir of Mt Whitney.

camp.jpg

mtrussell.jpg
Mt Russell

northeastcouloir.jpg

On the third day, we began our ascent at 9am.  With crampons, ice ax and helmet, we began climbing the couloir on the northeast side of Mt Whitney (the Mountaineer's Route). The snow was perfect for climbing;  not frozen and not too soft.

     
     

pa14871090799s.jpg

pa14871090787s.jpg

pa14871090792s.jpg

pa14871090796s.jpg

pa14871090791s.jpg

pa14871090793s.jpg

     
     

At the top of the couloir is "the notch" where we were faced with two chioces. We could traverse to the west side of the summit, where there is an easy slope to walk up to the top. Or we could turn south (left) and ascend the Class III route up the rocks. Both options offer potentially fatal exposure. However, more people are killed traversing to the west, as there is no protection crossing the steep north-facing snowfield.  We opted to climb the Class III route up the rocks on the north face of Whitney. We climbed the 800 or so feet safely without ropes.  However, we met two other climbers on the summit that had ropes and so we teamed up with them on the descent. They were kind enough to belay us as we down-climbed.

pa14871090786s.jpg

pa14871090781s.jpg

pa14871090784s.jpg

pa14871090780s.jpg

pa14871090782s.jpg

pa14871090779s.jpg

We reached the summit at 1pm and were rewarded with excellent views in all directions.  The weather was perfect. We met a group of college students on the summit that hiked the Main Trail. We hung out out for a couple of hours, snapped some pictures, signed the summit registry, then descended via the same route.

pa14871090734s.jpg

pa14871090746s.jpg

pa14871090738s.jpg

pa14871090736s.jpg

Begin 360 degree panoramic shots from the summit...

pa14871090750s.jpg
View east towards Lone Pine

pa14871090747s.jpg
View south

pa14871090728s.jpg
View west

pa14871090749s.jpg
View southeast of Pinnacle Ridge

pa14871090730s.jpg
View of the Whitney Portal Trail on the west side of Wheeler Needle

pa14871090727s.jpg
View north towards Guitar Lake and Mt. Russell

pa14871090748s.jpg
View south

pa14871090729s.jpg
View southwest. Note hiker on the Whitney Portal Trail.

pa14871090740s.jpg
View northeast

What an awesome route and a great experience to have climbed this spectacular mountain...! 

Click here for the full trip report.

Be sure to visit the SummitPost.org website to view information about your favorite mountain or climb.

www.summitpost.org