Whitney Mtrs Route gear question

Topics related to peak bagging, rock climbing and bouldering in the foothills and high country of the Sierra Nevada. Be sure to also check out the Information Booth forum category to learn from / see if you can contribute to a profile for High Sierra 13'ers, 14'ers and cross country passes.
Post Reply
User avatar
PNWclimber
Topix Newbie
Posts: 4
Joined: Fri Jun 19, 2020 12:53 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

Whitney Mtrs Route gear question

Post by PNWclimber » Fri Jun 19, 2020 2:50 pm

Since I'm asking about a scramble route it seems like this is the right forum but if I'm posting in the wrong spot I apologize!

Two of us are heading out next week 6/24 on the southern sierra high route from bishop pass to cottonwood lakes and are planning to ascend whitney via the mountaineers route along the way. Thanks to everyone who's been posting on this site I'm getting good info on conditions and general gear recommendations but I'm scratching my head trying to figure what we;re likely to encounter on the upper sections of the mtrs route this year.

We're experienced backpackers and climbers from WA state - generally confident but not careless on steep snow and 4th class with full packs. This will be our first time in the sierras and we're super excited to explore your amazing looking wilderness and get off the beaten path! So if we were just heading up whitney portal to climb we'd definitely carry ice axe and aluminum mountaineering crampons - both because of the uncertainty and because the extra weight wouldn't be that big a deal on a short trip. But on the longer route we're taking we will be carrying these things for a week and if I can reasonably leave them behind i'd really like to do that, and put the little whiskey flask back in the pack!

I know this is a lower snow year and for the passes along the rest of the trip from bishop to cottonwood it seems like we can ascend/descend whatever snow still exists or find boulder/scramble routes that stay off steep and hard snow. Is that a reasonable assumption in your opinions? If yes, then it just comes down (pun intended) to whitney as the deciding factor. Ice axe is 3/4 lb and 10/12 point crampons 1.25 lb. So what would you do? Would you bring both? Maybe the axe and boot spikes (although those arent much lighter than the crampons)? Bring just the axe and plan on ascending a bit later in the day when things would be softer? Leave it all behind and enjoy the freedom that light weight provides!?

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! And before anyone says it, yes, I know that its the mountains and conditions are subject to change. Regardless of what gear we have if we get there and we decide that conditions dont allow for a reasonable margin of safety then we bail and live to climb another day. I'd like to have, say, an 80% chance that we'll be prepared for the conditions we encounter and no more than a 20% chance that we'll have to bail because we needed additional gear.

Thanks in advance, Glenn!








User avatar
bobby49
Topix Expert
Posts: 846
Joined: Sat Nov 11, 2017 4:17 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

Re: Whitney Mtrs Route gear question

Post by bobby49 » Fri Jun 19, 2020 5:22 pm

The Whitney Portal Store website forum is generally a good source of information such as you seek. Unfortunately, the website seemed to be down when I checked it. I think maybe the Whitney Portal area just opened today.

Besides the ice axe and crampons, it is never a stupid idea to bring a convenient length of rope. You never know what you are going to run into.

User avatar
johnz
Topix Acquainted
Posts: 23
Joined: Fri Nov 03, 2017 4:14 am
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker

Re: Whitney Mtrs Route gear question

Post by johnz » Fri Jun 19, 2020 8:28 pm

I did the mountaineer's route in mid-July of 2017, a big snow year. I brought an ice axe but no crampons. I used the ice axe for one brief section toward the top of the chute, right before the final 400. In retrospect, I probably could've done without the ice axe as well. I was able to avoid snow for most of the hike.

User avatar
thegib
Topix Regular
Posts: 114
Joined: Thu Oct 25, 2012 11:37 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer
Location: Berkeley

Re: Whitney Mtrs Route gear question

Post by thegib » Fri Jun 19, 2020 9:54 pm

Only did it once, but an axe was handy and sufficient. That was April 6 in a 'normal' snow year.

User avatar
c9h13no3
Topix Expert
Posts: 585
Joined: Tue Sep 18, 2018 1:19 pm
Experience: Level 1 Hiker
Location: San Mateo, CA

Re: Whitney Mtrs Route gear question

Post by c9h13no3 » Fri Jun 19, 2020 10:32 pm

You can always get by with just an ice axe, Conrad Kain chopped 700 steps enroute to the first ascent of Mt Robson. :-)

Course, I thought PNW climbers were born with crampons on, so what do I know?
"Adventure is just bad planning." - Roald Amundsen
Also, I have a blog no one reads. Please do not click here.

User avatar
Wandering Daisy
Topix Docent
Posts: 4963
Joined: Sun Jan 24, 2010 8:19 pm
Experience: N/A
Location: Fair Oaks CA (Sacramento area)
Contact:

Re: Whitney Mtrs Route gear question

Post by Wandering Daisy » Sat Jun 20, 2020 11:28 am

I am confused. If you are doing a high route from Bishop to Cottonwood, how do you plan to get to the base of the Mountaineers Route, which is on the east side, accessed from Iceberg Lake? Are you going to intersect the upper part of the route from Arctic Lake? Go all the way to Whitney Portal and back in? It just seems to me that doing the Mountaineer's Route on this trip is a bit convoluted; better saved for a separate trip. Or perhaps I am reading your post incorrectly.

User avatar
PNWclimber
Topix Newbie
Posts: 4
Joined: Fri Jun 19, 2020 12:53 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

Re: Whitney Mtrs Route gear question

Post by PNWclimber » Sat Jun 20, 2020 10:12 pm

c9h13no3 wrote:
Fri Jun 19, 2020 10:32 pm
You can always get by with just an ice axe, Conrad Kain chopped 700 steps enroute to the first ascent of Mt Robson. :-)

Course, I thought PNW climbers were born with crampons on, so what do I know?
Being able to quickly chop steps in hard snow/ice with an adze is a valuable skill. Unfortunately it's one which many people now-a-days have never really mastered, myself included! But in a pinch I can put in a few to get through a touch spot and thanks for the reminder!

And we do feel naked w/o our crampons but sometimes it is fun to run wild!

User avatar
PNWclimber
Topix Newbie
Posts: 4
Joined: Fri Jun 19, 2020 12:53 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

Re: Whitney Mtrs Route gear question

Post by PNWclimber » Sat Jun 20, 2020 10:22 pm

Wandering Daisy wrote:
Sat Jun 20, 2020 11:28 am
I am confused. If you are doing a high route from Bishop to Cottonwood, how do you plan to get to the base of the Mountaineers Route, which is on the east side, accessed from Iceberg Lake? Are you going to intersect the upper part of the route from Arctic Lake? Go all the way to Whitney Portal and back in? It just seems to me that doing the Mountaineer's Route on this trip is a bit convoluted; better saved for a separate trip. Or perhaps I am reading your post incorrectly.
We'll be coming through the Mt Russell - Carillon col and then to Upper Boy Scout (or cross west ridge of Mt Russell if that looks like it will go when seen from Wallace Lk). So yup, it is a bit convoluted but we have time and we're up there to explore so it seems like a good option to attempt. Unfortunately I'm not sure if/when we might get back to the sierra's so we'd better try this time. There are still so many mtns for us to climb in our cascades and olympic mtns that it's hard to justify the long travel.

User avatar
PNWclimber
Topix Newbie
Posts: 4
Joined: Fri Jun 19, 2020 12:53 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

Re: Whitney Mtrs Route gear question

Post by PNWclimber » Sat Jun 20, 2020 10:25 pm

Thanks everyone, I really appreciate getting the benefit of your knowledge of this area! We're excited to come experience your mountains.

User avatar
Wandering Daisy
Topix Docent
Posts: 4963
Joined: Sun Jan 24, 2010 8:19 pm
Experience: N/A
Location: Fair Oaks CA (Sacramento area)
Contact:

Re: Whitney Mtrs Route gear question

Post by Wandering Daisy » Sun Jun 21, 2020 9:49 am

You then may have snow on the Wallace Lake side. Crampons would give you more options and the ability to travel on snow early AM or late PM, but only you can decide if the extra weight is worth it. Given the early date of your trip, the snow may soften up pretty fast once sun hits it. I would be more worried about steep snow gullies under melt conditions (unstable).

I have done Mountaineers Route without crampons, descending after doing the East Buttress, and the concern then was getting down before it iced up late evening. In late June it can be pretty hot during the days, an the snow melts and then quite quickly re-freezes one in the shadows. Since there is more melt-freeze cycles in the Sierra than in the Cascades, the snow can be quite hard, even early season (hence the term "Sierra Cement"). I think you would be OK without crampons if you are careful with timing.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot] and 1 guest