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Mount Whitney-Mountaineer's Route
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mini location map2014-07-05
20 by photographer avataroceanwithin
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Mount Whitney-Mountaineer's RouteSierra Nevada, CA
Sierra Nevada, CA
Hiking avatar Jul 05 2014
Hiking16.00 Miles 6,200 AEG
Hiking16.00 Miles
6,200 ft AEG15 LBS Pack
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
"...Whitney's summit looms in the west above a serrated horizon of dull silver peaks. It's high. It's stark. It's aloof. If mountains could talk, this one wouldn't. Yet it beckons with a force that will push regular folks to do irregular things." (Jordan Rane, journalist)

Ah. Mt. Whitney, we meet again. Despite thinking I wouldn't be back for awhile, the lure of the Mountaineer's Route could not be quelled. Having only taken the traditional trail up before, I wasn't sure what to expect but was excited about being back in the beautiful Eastern Sierras.

After a night of sleeping out under the stars at Whitney Portal, we hit the trail at 3:45 am. Through the darkness we hiked, stopping at one point when we saw a pair of feline eyes glowing at us from afar. They slowly blinked and looked away as we continued into the night. We scrambled up the Ebersbacher Ledges just as the first hints of dawn were starting to light up the sky. Took a break at Lower Boyscout Lake where the golden pink alpenglow warmed across the mountains while two deer grazed nearby. Continuing on we passed by Upper Boyscout Lake, another peaceful alpine oasis. Onward and upward the miles quickly passed until finally we reached Iceberg Lake.

It was here that we could see the final ascent to the summit, up to what is known as "the notch". It looked impossibly steep and rocky and definitely a bit intimidating. We rested at the lake for awhile, filtering water and refueling our bodies while chatting with some friendly backpackers and climbers who were camped at the lake. And then it was time to get going, so up we went.

Despite how the notch appeared at first glance, there is a pretty good cairned route up to the far left of the snow chute. This was mostly an easy scramble up rocks and sometimes crumbly scree, not exactly for the faint of heart but still nothing too crazy or scary. It was slow going in that thin air and eventually we made it to the top of the notch, where just around the corner we were faced with a selection of routes and gullies to take up to the summit. We opted to do the far traverse up to the snow ridge, which had been recommended to us by a group of climbers who had just come down from the same route. I thought this section was sketchier than the notch, as we were traversing over rocks that would sometimes groan and move under your weight. If you were to start sliding out of control here it would not be good at all, and our acute awareness of this helped motivate us to get it over with as quickly as possible.

Before long we were at the top--it felt like a victory to reach the summit and be surrounded by that incredible view. We hung out there for quite awhile, admiring the scenery and debating which route we wanted to take back down. We decided to take the traditional Mt. Whitney trail back down, giving us all the best views of both trails in one day. While zooming down the switchbacks we encountered a really confusing rescue situation which is a story in itself, hopefully everything turned out okay for the gentleman involved.

I absolutely LOVED the Mountaineer's Route and would definitely do it again, it's completely worth it to skip all those switchbacks and just go direct. Surprisingly there were no ill effects from the altitude which was a nice change for once. I forced down a ton of water all day and regularly took Salt Stick capsules (the caffeinated ones!) which kept my appetite up all day. All in all it was an incredible adventure up the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states. I am still smitten with the Sierras and can't wait to return. After summiting three times now, Mt. Whitney is starting to feel like an old friend. :y:

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