Skiing Mt Whitney Trail

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Soon after I moved to Pasadena and joined the Alpine Club email list I received an email from Amaury and Aaron, who were looking for partners to ski/hike Whitney. Excited about mountains and west coast spring skiing, I had to say yes! Thirty-something emails of introductions and planning behind us, we set of on Friday evening for Whitney Portal.

The impetus for the trip was delivering Cody's (whoever that is) car to Whitney to enable some through hiking. Amaury and I drove, really I drove, the Subaru up to Lone Pine where we met Aaron, had dinner, picked up our permits and went to sleep at the 8000ish feet of Whitney Portal.

Setting out.

Since Whitney is relatively tall, we decided it would be a good idea to "acclimatize", which really meant we split up the 11 mile ascent into two leisurely days. After packing our bags with about twenty extra pounds of who knows what, we set off on the Whitney trail on our way to trail camp at 9am. At something around 9000' the snow started and it was time to skin.

On the trail.

The snow was compact, but with the loads we were carrying skinning was relatively slow. Being the first time I was able to skin in a t-shirt, I wasn't complaining! We passed a few people on the way up, mostly with a similar two-day ascent plan as us, ate lunch by a lake, scoped out possible descent options and ended up at trail camp around 2:30pm.

A nice place for lunch.
Aaron having a great time skinning.

Camp was erected, and dinner was made with still plenty of time to look up and wish we were already skiing, but since we were "acclimatizing" we decided it would be better to rest until tomorrow.

Amaury at trail camp.

We all slept well at the 11500' of trail camp. Despite not having to break anything down, as we would retrieve it on our way back, the train left camp at 8:30am, because "the snow would be best on the descent in early-mid afternoon" (otherwise known as an alpine start). The ~1500' slope up to the ridge was still pretty hard, and none of us had ski knives, so at about halfway up we switched over to crampons and booted up to the ridge.

Amaury on the upper slope, just before donning crampons.

According to reports from fellow Whitney-goers, the traverse to the summit wouldn't be very fun to ski, so we left our skis and headed the rest of the way on foot. Since we had "acclimatized" the two mile traverse only took two and a half hours, partially due to Amaury having to put his crampons back on about three hundred and seventy eight times.

Much more fun to just hike the traverse.

The summit was beautiful, calm, and by the time we had lunch and left it was empty as well. The way back was a bit faster, and it was time to start skiing at 3:30pm. Having "waited" for prime conditions the beautiful thirty degree slope was only half icy, but since I got to go last I found a few turns in some great soft stuff!

On the summit!

Once I returned from shopping at the local yard sale, we were able to pick up camp, don our heavy packs once again, and ski as far down as we could toward the trailhead. The skiing at this point was nice and soft and not as awkward as I was expecting with the large packs.

Skiing down some of the lower slopes.

We skied mostly on skier's right of the trail, where there were a few fun open slopes, though the descent was a lot of traversing. It probably would have been better to skin up here rather than up the trail in the woods. We skied a bit too far right and had to back-track around Lone Pine lake a few hundred yards. The final bit of the descent was fun, picking our way down the good snow in the trees, but of course we went further down than where we started skinning, so I had to hike back up a bit to get my stashed shoes.

A look back up.

Here we also finally met up with Li and Stephane, who we had been planning on skiing with from the beginning, oops. We were back at the cars just in time to get dinner at the local American-Chinese restaurant before heading home. I can't wait to get back!

Just before it was time to walk again (with a 100% intentional lens cover vignette).

Dustin