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Is this a realistic trip itinerary? MK --> Whitney Portal

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Is this a realistic trip itinerary? MK --> Whitney Portal

Postby holz » Tue Jul 14, 2009 2:02 pm

Hi all,

First time poster here.

Hoping for some words of advice on my proposed plan to go across the Sierras in 9 days. It is a bit odd, so bear with me just a bit. Note that I am a very experienced backpacker and comfortable with at least some xcountry travel and at least class 2+ passes.

The plan is:
MK --> Columbine Lake via Sawtooth Pass. Perhaps a summit on the way?
CL --> Big 5
Big 5 (layover day to enjoy the sublime big or little 5 lakes)
Little 5
Base of Kaweah
Summit Kaweah --> Moraine Lake
Moraine Lake --> Junction Meadow
Junction Mead --> Guitar Lake
Guitar Lake --> Whitney Portal with summit on the way

Now, my group will only be in reasonable/decent condition, we aren't slugs, but we aren't iron men either, but far and away the worst day is the last one and we could even consider skipping the summit if it seems like too much. Is Guitar Lake out too much?

Also, it looks like it might be possible to go from the Kern River Canyon to Crabtree via Whitney Creek. I have even seen a vague reference to it, but can't tell for sure. Has anyone done this? It would sure cut out some miles, but don't want to do it if not reasonable.

Any advice is appreciated!



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Re: Is this a realistic trip itinerary? MK --> Whitney Portal

Postby maverick » Tue Jul 14, 2009 3:13 pm

The 11.8 miles to Guitar Lake will be a long day starting from 8000 ft up to
10400 ft to the PCT/HST Junction in 4.6 miles.
Then 10800 ft to 11200 ft (Guitar Lake) on the JMT in 3.9 miles.
You can all ways camp at Crabtree Meadow if need be.
The Whitney Creek route is for experienced backpackers with class 2-3 experience
and decent route finding abilities in excellent condition.
You say you have experience, but what about your group?
Since you say they are in reasonable condition I would not recommend this route.
It is a 2600 ft climb in about 3-3.2 miles with some difficult sections at the beginning.
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Re: Is this a realistic trip itinerary? MK --> Whitney Portal

Postby holz » Tue Jul 14, 2009 4:25 pm

Given how little it was easy to find about the shortcut, I sort of figured it might be class 3. We are all quite experienced. I have done up to 11 days in the Canadian Rockies which is substantially more adventurous than the Sierras imo. I mean, let's face it, the Sierras are nearly always perfect all summer!

1000ft/mile is what I classify as "steep". However, if it is truly "difficult/borderline technical" that may be enough to deter us. While the party is all experienced, I worry about confidence in at least one case. Since I really am the leader, I want to make a safe judgment so we all get to do this again!

Is the worst of it over quite quickly? Is there anything to assist us in finding our way up? If the worst is over fairly quickly, would it be reasonable to have one or two people drop packs and scout a route?

See, it seems to me that if we were to go that route, we could nearly devote an entire day to just that 3 miles without disrupting the rest of the schedule. I like the idea of cutting out all of that walking, but absolutely want to be safe. Cutting out some miles isn't worth broken bones or worse!

Thanks for your thoughts, I sure appreciate it.
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Re: Is this a realistic trip itinerary? MK --> Whitney Portal

Postby maverick » Tue Jul 14, 2009 4:53 pm

I have not done the route myself, but a friend of mine has done the route.
I called him and he says to ascend on the northern side, and then as things get
less steep on the southern side cross over, and continue all the way up.
He says to stay out of the drainage otherwise you may get stuck.
I looked at the map and you can see that the first part is the steepest, and then
there is an area where the contour lines are wider on the southern side which
is where I assume you would cross over.
He says it is a class 2 if you stay out of the drainage.
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Re: Is this a realistic trip itinerary? MK --> Whitney Portal

Postby quentinc » Tue Jul 14, 2009 7:12 pm

On a trip originating from Onion Valley, my last day was from Guitar Lake (or perhaps the lake just above it) to Whitney summit and out to the Portal. Of course, I was younger then. :)

On the first day, if you're interested in a peak, Sawtooth is a fairly easy class 2 jaunt from the pass (stay low as you loop around the peak -- if you go high too soon it's more like class 3), and well worth it.
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Re: Is this a realistic trip itinerary? MK --> Whitney Portal

Postby copeg » Tue Jul 14, 2009 7:36 pm

Welcome to HST! Your last day from Guitar to Whitney Portal is a lot to tackle, and I'd recommend an early - predawn start. I did this day when I hiked the muir trail and it was a good long day. By that time your group will have acclimated so that doesn't seem a huge factor, as well as the allure of a good burger to end the trip should get your group through the day.

As for the route up Whitney Creek, I haven't done it, but it seems like a very difficult route not worth the effort to cut miles. If your intention is to explore, and you have the time to do so, than by all means, but that being said the 'long way' isn't bad, and if you have the time a side trip from Wallace Creek to Bighorn Plateau is highly recommended.
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Re: Is this a realistic trip itinerary? MK --> Whitney Portal

Postby El Gigante » Wed Jul 22, 2009 9:50 pm

That last day the mileage will be easy enough for any reasonably conditioned people. Last year i made it out from Tyndal Creek, summitted Whitney and had time to spare down at Whitney Portal. If you get an early start i would add a Muir summit bid to the day: to get so close and not bag another 14er would be a shame :)
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