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TR: Whitney and Muir 7/19/13

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TR: Whitney and Muir 7/19/13

Postby Mradford » Thu Jul 25, 2013 5:03 pm

Before this trip I had never reached the summit of a mountain in the Sierras. I had been over passes, climbed walls, and visited some pretty high basins, but never summited. A friend of mine invited me to summit Mount Whitney with him a few months ago and I decided "why the hell not?" Although, I have always wanted to do Whitney at the end or beginning of a backpacking trip rather than day hike it. So i decided to spend the earlier part of the week in Mammoth with my wife and some of our friends, day hiking, canoeing, and just hanging out. We left Mammoth on Thursday night to spend the later part of the evening at the trail head. Our plan was to meet up with everyone around 3 am and begin out summit attempt. I woke up...or rolled over..not sure if I ever really fell asleep...around 2:45 and tried to stomach a bagel and some water. We met up with our group and set forth on what would be one of the most pain filled and long days ever.

The switchbacks at the beginning in the dark were nice and breezy and I felt great. We made it to trailcamp a little before 6 am and we took a 15 minute break. The fires in Idylwild had brought some smoke as far up as Lone Pine, so the alpenglow on the Whitney range was very red this morning. The views from trail camp are unreal.
After checking our maps and drinking some water, we were on our way, up the 99 switch backs.

Half way up the switch back i started feeling like crap. All I really wanted to do was take a nap. We made it to the top of trail crest and were blessed with the amazing views. I swear on a clear day you could see half the state of California from up there. We took a quick break and started the traverse to the summit.
This part of the hike is funny to me because you see some people in pretty bad shape. Heads hanging, taking baby steps, looking like zombies. Craziness. We made it to the summit and man was it overwhelming. I was slightly emotional. I signed the register, dedicated my summit to my wife and headed over to the edge to take some photos.



We spent about an hour and a half at the summit, waiting for our group and eating some food. Around 10:30 we started our descent. On the previous night we had discussed climbing Mt. Muir on the way out, depending on how we felt. The moment we left the summit we decided not to do it. 10 minutes later we found ourselves at the off trail turnoff for Mt. Muir and just getting psyched and practically ran up the scree before dropping our packs and hitting the 3rd class last 100 feet or so. We reached the top with out any hiccups or anything, its pretty easy 3rd class. We let out some big hoots, signed the register, and took some photos before heading back down.
Image The summit bloc is quite small.

The final move to reach the summit is kind of tricky, but both of us are avid rock climbers so it wasn't too bad. We made it back to the trail and the rest of the hike was pretty uneventful. Just tired feet and ankles. Although we did see a few grouse cruising around the trail which we had never seen up there before. I was actually a bit disappointed that we weren't spending the night at trail camp. It is so beautiful there. We made it back to the car around 3 pm, headed into town. It was an amazing day, and I am so glad we decided to do it. I definitely wont be doing it as a day hike ever again though haha. btw, why do people feel the need to place cairns along the trail to the summit? It's one of the most maintained and easy trails to follow that I have ever been on. I knocked over a few.

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Re: TR: Whitney and Muir 7/19/13

Postby artrock23 » Fri Jul 26, 2013 9:16 am

Nice TR, Mike! :thumbsup:

I'm wanting to climb Mt. Muir at some point (possibly next season). If I ever do Whitney again, it will only be by the MR or East face.
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Re: TR: Whitney and Muir 7/19/13

Postby neil d » Fri Jul 26, 2013 12:15 pm

Nice report! I regret not doing Muir when I was last up there. Rest of the party was not up to it.

Totally agree on the ridiculous proliferation of cairns, both on the Whitney trail and on countless other established trails. Sometimes it seems like there are swarms of Boy Scouts out there piling up little rocks every ten steps. I wish they would stop. :soapbox:
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Whitney and Muir

Postby Hobbes » Fri Jul 26, 2013 4:15 pm

Whitney is always fun. I hadn't done it in awhile (decade+), then decided to start coming at it from the back end a few years ago. There are so many THs and variations, along with easy/affordable shuttles, that it makes for a really fun open-loop. Even better than being only 4 hours from SoCal, is the fact that 40% of the exit permits are held as standard walk-ins, so you can (practically) always get a permit. None of this dicking around with lotteries, reservations, etc.

The one thing I find amazing is once you drop the urgency of either a day-hike and or 1-nighter @ Trail camp, you are able to take in & appreciate what is possibly the grandest canyon in the Sierra. And I'm including Yosemite valley in that assessment. The drop off to the west, and of course, the canyon from peak to Portal in the east, are made of the very freshest white granite, newly hewn from constant seismic activity. And they go straight up 4-5k into blue blue sky if you happen to catch a clear day.

IMO, the fastest way from the back-end is to go over Cottonwood pass. If you can make Rock creek or Crabtree mdw the first day, then spend the night @ Guitar before heading over, you can do this in 2 nights - only 1 night longer than Trail camp. You also get an extra day to acclimate, making peak day that much more fun & enjoyable.

Here's a photo of my 14yo son hanging out @ Guitar a few weeks ago. The puffy cloud is sitting over the top of Trail crest - the next day, there wasn't a cloud for 100s of miles. I swear we could see the Grapevine going over the Tehachapis from Whitney.

Oh, and in case you haven't heard/seen, here is the new 4-way sign @ the JMT/MMWT junction (around 150 yards east/below the actual Trail crest):
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Re: TR: Whitney and Muir 7/19/13

Postby Vaca Russ » Fri Jul 26, 2013 5:33 pm


Great pictures! We just bagged Langley and it was socked inside a cloud. The views were missing. :angry:

Hey, thanks for the report. We will definitely be sharing some e-mails and PMs! :)

Hobbes, thanks for sharing a great idea!

"...Or have you only comfort, and the lust for comfort, that stealthy thing that enters the house a guest, and then becomes a host and then a master?"

Kahil Gibran.
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