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Most scenic/interesting approach to mount whitney?

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Most scenic/interesting approach to mount whitney?

Postby miked » Wed Sep 08, 2010 8:19 pm

For an experienced backpacker in great shape wanting to do an extended trip that ends at Mount Whitney, which approach would you recommend? Horshoe Meadows to Whitney? Onion Valley to Whitney? High Sierra Trail to Whitney? I guess the preference is for the most interesting scenery above all.



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Re: Most scenic/interesting approach to mount whitney?

Postby AlmostThere » Wed Sep 08, 2010 8:25 pm

How about the John Muir Trail? Some sections are spectacular. If you can't do the whole thing, maybe start Rae Lakes Loop, and just keep going instead of making the last right down Bubbs Creek. Have a layover day to explore 60 Lakes Basin while you're at Rae. Awesome.

I did Onion to Horseshoe this year - we didn't go to Whitney, but really enjoyed the vistas from all the passes. New Army was our favorite pass, Forester a close second.
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Re: Most scenic/interesting approach to mount whitney?

Postby lambertiana » Wed Sep 08, 2010 9:11 pm

Other than approaching from Portal, I have done it via three different routes - from Onion Valley, from Horseshoe Meadow, and from Horse Corral via Sugarloaf/Cloud Canyon/Colby Pass. Of those three, I would have a hard time deciding my favorite between the Onion Valley approach and the Horse Corral route, both offer spectacular scenery. If you want some solitude, the Horse Corral route sees far fewer people (at least until you get to Junction Meadow).

I have also been on the High Sierra Trail to Nine Lakes Basin, and saw the other end of the HST from Junction Meadow to Whitney on the Horse Corral route. Since I have seen over half of the HST, I can say that it, too, is a prime route.

I know, lots of help with this post, but you just can't go wrong with any of them.
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Re: Most scenic/interesting approach to mount whitney?

Postby sierramel » Thu Sep 09, 2010 10:31 am

I'll second the Onion Valley/ JMT approach suggestion. The views from Kearsarge Pass, and the pinnacles are awesome. The hike up the north side of Forester Pass gets more spectacular the higher up you get. And the scenery to the south from the top of Forester is outrageous. You can see Whitney from there, and all the lakes, peaks and granite below the pass.
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Re: Most scenic/interesting approach to mount whitney?

Postby lambertiana » Thu Sep 09, 2010 1:12 pm

Maybe this will help. If you want to browse a few photo albums of the trips I have done, here they are. The more recent trips have more pictures, so picture count in the album is not neccessarily indicative of less scenery. But you can get a basic idea of highlights along the route.

First, the route from Horse Corral over Colby Pass. Pictures number 251 and higher are common with the end of the High Sierra Trail.

http://s199.photobucket.com/albums/aa11 ... tney%2006/

From Horseshoe Meadow:

http://s199.photobucket.com/albums/aa11 ... ey%202007/

From Onion Valley:

http://s199.photobucket.com/albums/aa11 ... ey%202010/

And this album involves a trip that covers part of the High Sierra Trail from Crescent Meadow to Nine Lakes Basin:

http://s199.photobucket.com/albums/aa11 ... on%20Lake/
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Re: Most scenic/interesting approach to mount whitney?

Postby DoyleWDonehoo » Thu Sep 09, 2010 3:49 pm

It also depends on how gonzo you want to go. After all, you could do the Mountaineer Route. If you had a lot of time, certainly the High Sierra Trail (with a stopover at the hot springs bath) would be a good way to go, or as suggested the Rae Lakes route through Paradise Valley, or just do the JMT from the north with Whitney at the end. I got to Whitney via the Cottonwood Pass route, as I documented here: http://www.sierra-trails.com/whitney/stcoverv1n7.htm
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Re: Most scenic/interesting approach to mount whitney?

Postby Mike M. » Thu Sep 09, 2010 6:17 pm

My favorite approach is from Horseshoe Meadows. Go over New Army Pass to Soldier Lake, then cross country up Rock Creek, past Sky Blue Lake (a beautiful spot), over Crabtree Pass, down to Crabtree Lakes, then down to Crabtree Meadow, where you intersect the JMT and the trail to Trail Crest. If I were to choose to walk up to the summit, I would camp at a sandy bench above Guitar Lake -- which puts you virtually at the foot of the switchbacks leading up to Trail Crest.

If you are looking for solitude, Whitney is not for you -- expect dozens of people on the broad summit, unless of course you are planning a trip in the fall or winter. The trail on the east side, from Whitney Portal to the summit, is a highway and I would avoid it at all costs. If you want to (almost) complete a loop trip, better to go back to your camp above Guitar Lake and hike to Wallace Creek, then up the Wallace Creek drainage to Tulainyo Lake, then over Russell-Carrilon Pass and out via the north fork of Lone Pine Creek.

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Re: Most scenic/interesting approach to mount whitney?

Postby paul » Thu Sep 09, 2010 6:27 pm

The whole JMT is a great way to do it. I have also done South Lake to Whitney, by way of Knapsack pass, Barret Lakes, Potluck Pass, Cirque pass, and then the JMT the rest of the way. Fabulous trip, with some great X-C walking at the foot of the Palisades and then my favorite stretch of the JMT. Other opportunities for side trips/peak bagging along the way as well.
But it's hard to go wrong. draw circle around Whitney of maybe 20 miles in diameter, and the whole western half of that circle is spectacular country, so any week-long trip that ends at Whitney is going to be great.
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Re: Most scenic/interesting approach to mount whitney?

Postby quentinc » Thu Sep 09, 2010 8:45 pm

Depends how much time you have/want to spend. I like Mike M.'s route, because it is consistently beautiful with no boring patches. The JMT mixes the spectacular with the (relatively) dull.
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Re: Most scenic/interesting approach to mount whitney?

Postby miked » Fri Sep 10, 2010 4:59 pm

Mike M, how is the x-country on the trip out of horsehoe meadows? I don't have any x-country off trail navigation experience so I'm wondering if it'd be appropriate to take my first stab at it up there
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Re: Most scenic/interesting approach to mount whitney?

Postby Mike M. » Fri Sep 10, 2010 9:11 pm

Miked:

The cross-country route up Rock Creek and over Crabtree Pass is easy in terms of route finding. There is a good use trail up the Rock Creek drainage to just below Sky Blue Lake, then it's true cross country travel up to the pass. The going is moderate class 2 to the pass. There are tricky cliffs and benches on the NE end of Sky Blue Lake which you can tackle, or you can are easily bypass them by following the drainage to the left of the cliffs and then winding around to the lake directly above the cliffs (Lake 12,125 on my old 15 minute map). Crabtree Pass is on the ridge N of this high lake. The north side of the pass is steep, but looks worse than it is. In fact, there is a trail of sorts that zig zags down from the pass almost to the shore of the highest of the Crabtree Lakes; this "trail" is loose scree and sand, steep but easily navigated with a full pack (I did it four years ago with 12 days food on my back). Route finding through the Crabtree Lakes basin to Crabtree Meadow is easy. The area is spectacular. I like to camp on the bench above the lowest lake, not far from the inlet. Gorgeous sunset views from there.

If you do choose to go up Wallace Creek to complete your almost loop, you will find equally spectacular scenery. Travel is easy up to Tulainyo Lake. Russell-Carillon Pass is steep but not difficult from the north (moderate class 2 boulders), and easy from the south. My recollection is of a long sandy decent to the stream between Upper Boy Scout lake and Clyde Meadow. Route finding should be obvious; care should be taken to avoid the cliffs directly south of the pass and instead follow the long sandy shoulder directly SE of the col. Secor rates this pass 2-3; I don't see that. However, further down Lone Pine Creek, on your way to Whitney Portal, you will need to negotiate a ledge system known as the Ebersbacher Ledges (route finding can be a bit tricky) to avoid nasty underbrush along the creek or you can elect to bushwhack your way through the cottonwood. This is a fun cross country route and avoids almost all of the usual Whitney crowds.

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Re: Most scenic/interesting approach to mount whitney?

Postby miked » Fri Nov 19, 2010 12:17 pm

Thanks for your input. I've decided I'd like to do at least one long distance trek next summer, so I'm thinking I will either do the JMT one way, or do the HST (I'd probably hike back to mineral king or back to the starting point at crescent meadows so transportation isn't so diffiicult)
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