| Whitney - We’re not in Colorado anymore Toto!
We’re not in Colorado anymore Toto! There are a lot of books, trip reports, and route descriptions for Mount Whitney’s standard route. So this report is to give a few impressions from a Colorado climber’s perspective.
About the only Colorado trailheads Whitney Portal can be compared to are Longs Peak or maybe the Bells. But there is a store where you can buy a burger, fries and a beer afterwards. They also have a selection of t-shirts, books and other souvenirs. A lot of non climbers are milling around during the day playing tourist and some are fishing. One of the parking lots is reserved for day use only. There are a couple other smaller lots close to the trailhead and store and an overflow lot one switchback down the hill. Unlike Longs, nobody seems to be patrolling to hassle you for sleeping in your car. We had a spot close to the trailhead but this was a mixed blessing. People are coming and going literally round the clock. Also some clowns at the auto companies decided cars should light up and blow their horns whenever people operate the doors locks. Unlike Colorado trailheads where late night arrivals tend to be cognizant of sleeping hikers, at Whitney most seem to be in Du-Uh mode. To the credit of those who thought the rest of the parking lot wanted to hear their stereo, they did turn it off when I shone my headlamp at them.
You will be warned about bears when you pick up your permit. Take those warnings seriously. Use the bear proof containers instead of storing food or other scented items in your car. These are big - you can put a full size cooler in them. We had a bear encounter in the parking lot before starting. He was sneaking up on my wife’s side of the car when we were getting ready. I was able to shoo it away by shouting, clapping my hands and taking a couple steps towards him. Do NOT leave your pack or any food unguarded. He was patrolling for a quick steal. If he learns he can rip open cars to get food or gets more aggressive with people, he will be killed. He was still lurking around the next parking lot 15 minutes later. If a bear gets your pack he won’t give it back!
The trail was amazing. I’ve seen nicer work on the Inca trail, but nowhere else have I seen such work to provide a Class 1 hike over otherwise technical terrain (disclaimer: I’ve not hiked in the Alps yet.) It’s as though The Narrows on Longs was a constructed trail instead of a natural feature. The were several spots above Trial Camp at 12,000’ (and a few below) where the trail had significant exposure. There is a cable railing on one exposed stretch that holds snow into summer. The snow was melted back enough we didn’t have to step on it, but care was still necessary. Some wet spots we still frozen on the way up so taking care was important. The cables were high enough you could fall out under them.
When I say the trail was constructed, I don’t just mean they moved some rock, I mean they cut into the mountain side in places. In other places there is some serious rock wall building to provide a trail bed on a steep slope. Without this constructed trail the standard route would be very different.
After Crossing through Whitney Trail Crest
Same spot in trail with summit in back ground
We did take a look at Mount Muir. It is CA rated as Class 3. We were just tired enough we choose not to do what looked more like a CO Class 4. We stopped short of actually putting our hands on the crux pitch so I’ll defer the rating to someone who has done it.
Mt Muir Crux Move from below. There are cracks on the left of the central block in this picture. It is approached on a ledge from the right.
Whitney is the highest mountain in the lower 48. It is a very long hike. We started at 1:08 am, summit at 11:00 and got back to the trailhead at 6:18 pm with the side trip to Muir. That was not good time. A lot of people can get up in 8 hours and down in 5. But we were far from the slowest on the mountain. People were still returning from the previous day when we were heading up the trail!