The Whitney Chronicles: 1988 - 2015


 

Mount Whitney, with an elevation of 14,495', is the highest point in the Lower 48 States ... and is a walk up on a fine day in a Californian summer. Thousands of people attempt this peak each year with many actually reaching the summit, using the standard Trail from Whitney Portal.

Ideal conditions for climbing Whitney exist only from June through to September and allows crowds of eager wannabes to safely negotiate the Trail to the summit, and back, without getting killed or maimed. What I've found amazing is how poorly dressed many of these climbers are for such a high altitude environment. If they do reach the summit in good weather conditions they're likely to believe they've achieved a real feat of mountaineering. Not so ... all they've done is hiked up a well designed trail.

Serious climbing on Whitney is available on other routes and outside the good weather window between June and September.

  • June 1988: My first successful ascent of Whitney following two wild attempts in April and May. June 1988: My first successful ascent of Whitney following two wild attempts in April and May.
  • June 1988, looking down along the Keeler Needles from the 14,495' summit of Whitney. June 1988, looking down along the Keeler Needles from the 14,495' summit of Whitney.
  • June 13, 1988, a happy little camper on Whitney summit. June 13, 1988, a happy little camper on Whitney summit.
  • June 1988, a happy little critter on the summit of Whitney - Mr Marmot looking for a handout! June 1988, a happy little critter on the summit of Whitney - Mr Marmot looking for a handout!
  • May 1990: Mal Hill with me on the Whitney Portal Trail May 1990: Mal Hill with me on the Whitney Portal Trail
  • May 1990: Relaxing at Trail Camp before the final push to Whitney summit. May 1990: Relaxing at Trail Camp before the final push to Whitney summit.
  • May 14, 1990: Mal on the summit of Whitney May 14, 1990: Mal on the summit of Whitney
  • May 14, 1990: Me on the summit of Whitney - for the second time. May 14, 1990: Me on the summit of Whitney - for the second time.
  • Late October 1991: Me negotiating the Ebersbacher Ledges on the Mountaineer's Route. Late October 1991: Me negotiating the Ebersbacher Ledges on the Mountaineer's Route.
  • October 1991:  Self and Tony Dawson camped at Upper Boy Scout Lake. October 1991: Self and Tony Dawson camped at Upper Boy Scout Lake.
  • October 1991: Me on the climb from Lower Boy Scout Lake to Clyde Meadow October 1991: Me on the climb from Lower Boy Scout Lake to Clyde Meadow
  • October 1991: Upper Boy Scout Lake - calm and inviting, but very cold! October 1991: Upper Boy Scout Lake - calm and inviting, but very cold!
  • October 1991:  Tony on the climb from Lower Boy Scout Lake to Clyde Meadow. October 1991: Tony on the climb from Lower Boy Scout Lake to Clyde Meadow.
  • October 1991: Whitney seen from the plateau between Mt. Russell and Mt. Carillon  October 1991: Whitney seen from the plateau between Mt. Russell and Mt. Carillon
  • October 1991: The east ridge of Mt. Russell as seen from the Carillon plateau. October 1991: The east ridge of Mt. Russell as seen from the Carillon plateau.
  •  October 1991: Looking up the east face of Whitney from Iceberg Lake. October 1991: Looking up the east face of Whitney from Iceberg Lake.
  • October 1991: Ascending [solo] the Mountaineer's route couloir. October 1991: Ascending [solo] the Mountaineer's route couloir.
  • October 1991: Looking down the Mountaineer's route couloir to Iceberg lake. October 1991: Looking down the Mountaineer's route couloir to Iceberg lake.
  • October 1991: Ascending [solo] the east ridge of Mt. Russell. October 1991: Ascending [solo] the east ridge of Mt. Russell.
  • October 1991: The north face of Whitney as seen from Mt. Russell. October 1991: The north face of Whitney as seen from Mt. Russell.
  • October 1991: View from the summit of Mt. Russell [14,086'] to Tulainyo Lake and Mt. Carillon October 1991: View from the summit of Mt. Russell [14,086'] to Tulainyo Lake and Mt. Carillon
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  • August 1993: My son Jordan [age 11] astride North Fork Creek on the Whitney Portal Trail. August 1993: My son Jordan [age 11] astride North Fork Creek on the Whitney Portal Trail.
  • August 1993: Jordan crossing the creek near Outpost Camp. August 1993: Jordan crossing the creek near Outpost Camp.
  • August 1993: Jordan on the Whitney Trail above Outpost Camp. August 1993: Jordan on the Whitney Trail above Outpost Camp.
  • August 1993: Jordan on the Whitney Trail close to Trail Camp. August 1993: Jordan on the Whitney Trail close to Trail Camp.
  • August 1993: Me, climbing with Jordan on the switchbacks below Trail Crest. August 1993: Me, climbing with Jordan on the switchbacks below Trail Crest.
  • August 1993: Jordan beyond Trail Crest heading for the summit of Whitney. August 1993: Jordan beyond Trail Crest heading for the summit of Whitney.
  • August 11, 1993: Jordan triumphant on the summit of Mt. Whitney August 11, 1993: Jordan triumphant on the summit of Mt. Whitney
  • April-May 1996: Lucy negotiating the Ebersbacher Ledges on the Mountaineer's Route. April-May 1996: Lucy negotiating the Ebersbacher Ledges on the Mountaineer's Route.
  • April-May 1996: Me on the way up the Mountaineer's Route April-May 1996: Me on the way up the Mountaineer's Route
  • April-May 1996: Lucy at our camp at Upper Boy Scout Lake. April-May 1996: Lucy at our camp at Upper Boy Scout Lake.
  • April-May 1996: On the Carillon plateau, looking up the east ridge of Mt. Russell. April-May 1996: On the Carillon plateau, looking up the east ridge of Mt. Russell.
  • April-May 1996: Lucy practicing rappelling on the Mountaineer's Route April-May 1996: Lucy practicing rappelling on the Mountaineer's Route
  • April-May 1996: Lucy ascending the Mountaineer's Route Couloir, filled with snow April-May 1996: Lucy ascending the Mountaineer's Route Couloir, filled with snow
  • April-May 1996: Me at the top of the Mountaineer's Route Couloir. April-May 1996: Me at the top of the Mountaineer's Route Couloir.
  • April-May 1996: Lucy at the top of the Mountaineer's Route Couloir. April-May 1996: Lucy at the top of the Mountaineer's Route Couloir.
  • April-May 1996: Lucy resting on the summit of Mt. Whitney. April-May 1996: Lucy resting on the summit of Mt. Whitney.
  • April-May 1996: Lucy on our descent from Trail Camp.  Plenty of snow this time of year. April-May 1996: Lucy on our descent from Trail Camp. Plenty of snow this time of year.
  • April-May 1996: Lucy drying out near Mirror Lake. April-May 1996: Lucy drying out near Mirror Lake.
  • April-May 1996: Lucy near Outpost Camp, on our way down to Whitney Portal. April-May 1996: Lucy near Outpost Camp, on our way down to Whitney Portal.
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My first attempts to climb Whitney began in April - May of 1988, at a time when I'd accumulated some alpine mountaineering experience in New Zealand. So when I began on Whitney, I came equipped with suitable boots, ice ax, crampons and the knowledge how to use them. As it happened, in the years ahead, I often returned to Whitney at the same time of year ... with deep Winter snow and the Trail totally obscured. So on those first few climbs, route finding was difficult leading up to Trail Camp. And above, the switchbacks to Trail Crest were not accessible, or downright dangerous. In fact, on my first climb I witnessed a woman sliding 200' off the switchbacks, fortunately missing the rocks and falling into a deep snow drift.

During the 1990's, I returned to Whitney with my 11 year old son, my wife Lucy, and various friends from the UPS Airline. More significantly, I explored the Mountaineer's Route solo and then with my wife. These trips also included ascents of Mount Russell and Carillon from Upper Boy Scout Lake.

 

 

 

 

In the early 2000's, my association with Mount Whitney was all about completing the John Muir Trail [JMT] each year on its summit. I began referring to this climb as the 215 mile Whitney route from Yosemite.

Until my first full JMT hike, I'd not climbed Whitney from the western side ... that is, from Guitar Lake up the magnificent trail that switchbacks to the Trail Crest intersection with the Portal Trail at 13,500'. This leaves a remaining distance to the summit of 1.9 miles and an ascent of 1000'.

Each year reaching the summit of Whitney from Yosemite, I've experienced an epiphany and a clear understanding that I'm still very much alive. I was told once, probably by Sherpas, that those who live among, or at the foot of mountains see them as bridges between the human world and the dominion of the gods. Perhaps, hidden beneath each step from Yosemite there’s been a feeling of transcendence, a knowledge that the final direction of my life will be ultimately changed somewhere between heaven and earth.

 

©Peter W Tremayne, Reno NV, 2015

  • September 2002:  With friends at the end of my first JMT hike - on the summit of Whitney. September 2002: With friends at the end of my first JMT hike - on the summit of Whitney.
  • September 2004:  At the end of my second JMT hike [with Lucy] - on the summit of Whitney. September 2004: At the end of my second JMT hike [with Lucy] - on the summit of Whitney.
  • August 2006: Lucy and self at the end of our annual JMT hike - on the summit of Whitney. August 2006: Lucy and self at the end of our annual JMT hike - on the summit of Whitney.
  • August 2007:  At the end of my JMT hike with Mike Fox - on the summit of Whitney. August 2007: At the end of my JMT hike with Mike Fox - on the summit of Whitney.
  • May 2009: At Trail Camp on a Spring climb of Whitney with Jim Keogh. May 2009: At Trail Camp on a Spring climb of Whitney with Jim Keogh.
  • May 2009: Jim Keogh near our tent site at Trail Camp. May 2009: Jim Keogh near our tent site at Trail Camp.
  • May 2009: Me on the trail along the back-side of the Needles. The summit of Whitney behind. May 2009: Me on the trail along the back-side of the Needles. The summit of Whitney behind.
  • May 2009: Guitar Lake, frozen over in early May. May 2009: Guitar Lake, frozen over in early May.
  • May 2009: Jim Keogh using crampons on our descent from Trail Crest. May 2009: Jim Keogh using crampons on our descent from Trail Crest.
  • August 2009:  With friends at the end of my sixth JMT hike - on the summit of Whitney. August 2009: With friends at the end of my sixth JMT hike - on the summit of Whitney.
  • October 2010:  At the end of the JMT, above Guitar Lake, climbing Whitney. October 2010: At the end of the JMT, above Guitar Lake, climbing Whitney.
  • October 2010:  At the end of the JMT, approaching Trail Crest, climbing Whitney. October 2010: At the end of the JMT, approaching Trail Crest, climbing Whitney.
  • September 2011: At Guitar Lake before bailing out over Trail Crest with severe knee problems. September 2011: At Guitar Lake before bailing out over Trail Crest with severe knee problems.
  • September 2011: Descending past Trail Camp with severe knee problems. September 2011: Descending past Trail Camp with severe knee problems.
  • August 2012: At the end of the JMT with Jeanne Furukawa - on the summit of Whitney. August 2012: At the end of the JMT with Jeanne Furukawa - on the summit of Whitney.
  • October 2013: At the end of the JMT [solo] - on the summit of Whitney. October 2013: At the end of the JMT [solo] - on the summit of Whitney.
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