Mount Whitney Mountaineer’s Route

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Judge K
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Mount Whitney Mountaineer’s Route

Post by Judge K » Mon Apr 19, 2021 7:26 pm

We have a permit for Mount Whitney in July. Considering Mountaineer’s Route on the ascent, and descending the standard route. Any (relative) comparison to a Colorado 14er route? My wife and I have climbed all 58; just wanting some added info.

Thanks!

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Burkart
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Re: Mount Whitney Mountaineer’s Route

Post by Burkart » Mon Apr 19, 2021 8:01 pm

It's been a few years, but that was exactly how I did Whitney: Mountaineer's for the ascent, standard for the descent. I don't know if you've done the Loft on Longs, but I felt that was comparable, technically speaking, to the Mountaineer's Route. The Ebersbacher Ledges were similar to the steep area just before the Loft and Whitney's Chute is reminiscent of Keplinger's Couloir. The Red Gully on Crestone is also a good analog for the Chute, which is steep enough for rockfall to be a problem if there are careless people above you. The standard route down is straightforward, but it feels very long after doing the Mountaineer's - 10ish miles? I wasn't in the best shape that summer, so take that complaint with a grain of salt. Either way, I can definitely recommend the Mountaineer's Route. One of my favorite 14er ascents!
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PaulVee
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Re: Mount Whitney Mountaineer’s Route

Post by PaulVee » Mon Apr 19, 2021 8:11 pm

There is another thread from a while back about the Mountaineer's Route on Whitney here: https://14ers.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=55252
peter303
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Re: Mount Whitney Mountaineer’s Route

Post by peter303 » Mon Apr 19, 2021 10:07 pm

Whitney standard trail reminds me of Pike's Barr Trail: both straightforward class 1 and endless.
switchbacks on standard Whitney.

14er Mt. Langley is nearby, shares part of access road. It is almost all class 1 with short class 2 at summit.
It was self-permitting when I did it.
Last edited by peter303 on Tue Apr 20, 2021 2:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Mount Whitney Mountaineer’s Route

Post by tremont » Tue Apr 20, 2021 5:08 am

The comparison to Longs I’ve heard is accurate (though I’ve never myself done Longs). A friend told me that Whitney Final 400 was slightly trickier than the Longs Homestretch, though you should be fine if you’ve done all 58. I would rate it at Class 3.5 in CO standards.

I loved the MR, the biggest challenges to me were routefinding and rockfall. I did it in July last year and the scree was brutal at points. Staying left in the Chute seems to minimize the amount of loose rock we had to deal with. If I had to do it again I would consider down climbing the MR - I was not a fan of the Whitney Trail on the descent. It was brutally hot (minimal shade) and felt like an endless slog. Plus, it took a long time to get to another water source (I believe that between Iceberg Lake and Trail Camp there aren’t reliable sources to fill water). Probably the safe option to tough it out on the Whitney Trail though, downclimbing the scree would have been challenging after a long day.
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Re: Mount Whitney Mountaineer’s Route

Post by nyker » Tue Apr 20, 2021 7:05 am

Judge,

The Mountaineers Route ("MR") on Whitney is a wonderful route.

Compared to most CO 14er standard routes, there is some route finding to do on the MR route leading up to Iceberg Lake.
You basically follow the drainage up and then make your way towards Iceberg and there are options how you choose to go some easier some harder, conditions at the time will probably warrant the best way.
There may be better route markings now, but be aware of the potential for some minor routefinding from the cut off once you turn off the Main Trail until the lake.

The E-ledges could be tricky in the dark presumably when you'll be starting out and finding the route from there needs some paying attention to.

The route is pretty straightforward up to Iceberg lake under the massive east face of Whitney (which could be a good camping spot if you are doing it as an overnighter).
Enroute to Iceberg Lake, you'll traverse across some cool flat low angle slab terrain and some waterfalls. There should not be much snow down low.

Above/leaving Iceberg, you then reach the first gulley, which is either a dry scree/loose rock slog in summer or nice snow climb in Spring. This area is in the shadows most of the day so does tend
to hold snow and ice up there so be aware of that. Watch above and below you as you ascend for people/rockfall.
Depending on when in July, you could find snow if earlier in July or bone dry conditions (later). At the top of this gulley, you will reach the Notch with awesome views looking west.
Watch weather/condition reports and bring an axe and traction just in case. Heavy snow years or late season storms could leave snow into July there.

At the "Notch" you will veer to climbers left drop down a bit then hard left up the Final 400. (There is another option called "easy walk off" but I don't recommend that option).
This is somewhat unique since you'll be climbing on larger blocks than I remember on any standard 14er routes, maybe that last bit is like the steeper sections on The Needle, the last stretch up Pyramid,
maybe the final leg on Snowmass but a little steeper. Some like to climb to the left side of this gulley, some towards the right (Assuming dry). If snowpacked, then many go up the middle generally. This "Final 400" is the crux of the route
and is a no fall zone conditions will dictate how hard this is. The rock and blocks are generally solid up here and as a bonus, ascending from this side, the summit hut is closer to the top out point than from the Main Trail.
I'd say the Homestretch on Longs was easier than the this section.

The MR is shorter than the Whitney Main Trail (~22mi r/t) but with a little less net elevation gain.

Usually I am not a fan of descending a different route from that I climbed up on any given peak, but on Whitney in July you should be fine since the Main Trail will be full of people and is generally marked. The hardest part will likely
be finding the exit path from the summit hut and the 11+ mi walk out. Watch for bears as you pass campgrounds at dawn/dusk.
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rgsaxman
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Re: Mount Whitney Mountaineer’s Route

Post by rgsaxman » Tue Apr 20, 2021 8:36 am

Nyker details the experience nicely. I'll just add on that I had to descend the MR because I left the tent at Iceberg Lake and it definitely saves a ton of time/distance over the trail. If repeating, I would do the loop just to cover some new-to-me ground and attempt Muir as well.
Last edited by rgsaxman on Tue Apr 20, 2021 10:30 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Mount Whitney Mountaineer’s Route

Post by ScottLovesRMNP » Tue Apr 20, 2021 9:21 am

I did this climb in November 2019 of a dry fall and encountered no snow. The steep rock gully and climb to the notch will test stamina, but is very doable and non-technical in dry conditions.

I would say the "crux" (Final 400) is quite a bit harder than anything on the Loft Route of Longs or the Homestretch. It could be that I'm fairly short, but I found the large blocky terrain on the Final 400 of the MR to be quite a challenge, enough so that I had to take my pack off in a couple spots, climb up, and have my partner pass my pack back up to me. The route-finding took some work as well -- the route is pretty obvious everywhere on the Keyhole/Loft routes on Longs if you ask me, but not so here.

Be sure to wear a helmet, of course. A small rock came whizzing by my head at the speed of a bullet out of nowhere on the Final 400, and I'm almost positive there was nobody else above us.

The views of Whitney on the approach from this route are sensational, and I absolutely loved the MR and would do it again in a heartbeat!
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Re: Mount Whitney Mountaineer’s Route

Post by desertdog » Tue Apr 20, 2021 9:26 am

First lucky you to score permits. I really had fun climbing the mountaineers route!

Nyker gave a great outline. I would just add a couple random things. We camped at Boy Scout Lake, which i would do again. Its a really beautiful area. In that case I "think" you would need to come down the MR rather than the standard. I would do that regardless because the descent was fun and relatively quick. When we did it, the ledges Nyker mentioned had snow and a little ice making them tricky but in July my guess is they will be dry. The lower slope and gully above the notch had perfect snow for us. I would say the second gully might be like the hourglass on LB maybe a little steeper toward the end. It was definitely a do not fall zone because of the hard snow. We climbed from camp and walked out in the same day. A long day but doable.

Enjoy!
The summit is a source of power. The long view gives one knowledge and time to prepare. The summit, by virtue of the dizzying exposure, leaves one vulnerable. A bit of confidence and a dash of humility is all we get for our work. Yet to share these moments with friends is to be human. C. Anker
Judge K
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Re: Mount Whitney Mountaineer’s Route

Post by Judge K » Tue Apr 20, 2021 9:38 am

Thanks to everyone who has responded thus far, but please keep the comments coming!
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Burkart
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Re: Mount Whitney Mountaineer’s Route

Post by Burkart » Tue Apr 20, 2021 9:57 am

ScottLovesRMNP wrote:
Tue Apr 20, 2021 9:21 am
I would say the "crux" (Final 400) is quite a bit harder than anything on the Loft Route of Longs or the Homestretch. It could be that I'm fairly short, but I found the large blocky terrain on the Final 400 of the MR to be quite a challenge, enough so that I had to take my pack off in a couple spots, climb up, and have my partner pass my pack back up to me. The route-finding took some work as well -- the route is pretty obvious everywhere on the Keyhole/Loft routes on Longs if you ask me, but not so here.

Be sure to wear a helmet, of course. A small rock came whizzing by my head at the speed of a bullet out of nowhere on the Final 400, and I'm almost positive there was nobody else above us.
I should add to my comment that I did not finish Whitney via the "Final 400," since the same careless group that kicked multiple rocks down on me in the chute (got a nice bruise on the back from one) would still have been above me on the crux. The rockfall up there is no joke! Instead, I ended up attempting the "easy walkaround," but didn't finish it because the snow made the consequences of a fall too serious (this was September). Ultimately, I just left the walkaround and went straight up, which I found slightly more difficult/exposed than the final ridge on Capitol. I'm a shorty too, so maybe I saved myself some stretches in skipping the traditional crux. :)

My finish was not standard and I wouldn't recommend it, but I think the Longs Loft comparison is accurate as far as the Whitney Notch. If you take the easy walkaround, which is safe enough without snow and may be advisable if you have careless hikers above you, then the overall difficulty doesn't significantly exceed either the Longs Loft or Crestone Standard routes. Honestly, I had a lot more trouble locating the right spot to drop down into Keplinger's Couloir on the Loft than I had anywhere on Whitney.
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nyker
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Re: Mount Whitney Mountaineer’s Route

Post by nyker » Tue Apr 20, 2021 1:23 pm

I'll add another note about the Sierra in general - maybe this is just me and there was some other reason related to feeling it, but I've found the peaks in the Sierra "climb higher" than in Colorado. I've theorized that due to the drier air out there perhaps make it feel higher, but again maybe it's just me. On average for mountains I've climbed there I've also probably acclimatized less than on those peaks in CO, so that could be a factor as well...
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