Elevation: 14,473 ft
GPS: 36.578, -118.292 Google Map · Climbing Area Map
Page Views: 141,737 total · 891/month
Shared By: Nick Wilder on Jan 23, 2006
Admins: Chris Owen, Lurker, M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes
Access Issue: Certain Peaks: Access limited from May to October every year Details


Want to climb the highest peak in the lower 48? You're not alone. While the permit process is a major hassle, the crowds are thin (until you summit), and the granite is as fine as it gets.

Most climbs are about 1000 feet tall on the east face that gets shady by afternoon. Storms can brew over on the west side and give you quite a surprise.

There are two non-technical ways to the summit: the Whitney trail, a long slog up an easy walking trail, and the Mountaineers Route, a steep gully filled with loose rock, which is the usual descent route for climbers.

There's a decent campground at the end of the road, near the trailhead. You must have a permit to camp anywhere beyond that, and they're not easy to get. Call 760-873-2483 or go to the forest service's website. Unless you're doing the Whitney Trail, you want a permit for the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek.

Getting There

Drive up the Whitney portal at about 8,300 feet. Lots of parking and bear boxes, where you need to leave anything with an odor that you're not bringing, including toiletries.

Most people spend the night at either Upper Boy Scout Lake (11,300 feet) or Iceberg Lake (12,600 feet). Iceberg is the way to go if you have the time. Incredible views of the mountain (and most routes), clear water right in front of you, and the climbing starts just a little ways up the scree slope from your campsite.

Getting there is tough and it's quite easy to get off route. I recommend buying the supertopo and follow the excellent instructions there.

The hike can get really hot. Start early (dawn) and you'll get to a campsite by lunch, have time to rest up and scope the route.

North Fork Trail Beta
Trail begins off the main Whitney Trail, and is signed, follow the north side of the creek until you finally cross to the south past some very large boulders looming on the south side. The trail will pass rightwards beneath a large slab as it heads to a creek crossing to once again get to the north side and very soon afterwards the Ebersbacher Ledges, which follow a ramp eastwards, over an exposed step then back west to a treed terrace, from there the trail stays north of the creek up to Lower Boy Scout Lake. Cross the outlet and follow switchbacks up a large scree field through some very large boulders, and brush up to the sweeping slabs coming down from Upper Boy Scout Lake, which you don't need to reach because above the slabs there's a rough slope which leads you into the valley below the needles Day and Keeler (one of the most spectacular spots in the Lower 48). Traverse the north slope upwards until a loose and wet weakness/wide gully deposits you at the boulder field of Iceberg Lake.

Lower part of Trail

(Mid slabby section of trail not shown)

Upper part of trail.

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You can easily (well, maybe not easily) do the East Face, East Butt, or Mountaineer's Route in a day. IF (big if) you know the approach to Iceberg Lake. You'll be doing it in the dark. Early season the creek is high and you'll be crossing it. The trail may be running with water. You will get wet. You may get soaked.

Like the man said, buy the Supertaco. The directions are excellent. Scope the approach in daylight if you've never done it. Jan 30, 2006
Christopher Jones
Denver, Colorado
Christopher Jones   Denver, Colorado
Don't take the mountaineer's route too lightly. I climbed the route on the first day of summer last year thinking I could do it pretty fast but found snow most of the way above treeline. Post holing sucked a lot of energy out of me on the descent but still managed to finish the route in 11.5 hours. It is a good idea to find out what current conditions are before climbing. Crampons and axe are necessary early in the season. Mar 19, 2006
Chris Owen
Big Bear Lake
Chris Owen   Big Bear Lake  
If you're going to do it in a day (perhaps because you couldn't get a permit) then yes, intimate knowledge of the North Fork approach and the selected route is mandatory - altitude conditioning is also mandatory. Don't forget to pack out your puke. Nov 19, 2007
Scott Rice
Colorado Springs, CO
Scott Rice   Colorado Springs, CO
East Face to the top of the washboards. Direct East Face to the top of the PeeWee. East Buttress to the summit. 7 hr 20 min car to car. Direct makes for a TERRIFYING solo!! Aug 25, 2012
Christine Spang
Oakland, CA
Christine Spang   Oakland, CA
Just got back from spending 5 days camped at Iceberg Lake. There is currently NO snow crossing the trail between Whitney Portal and Upper Boy Scout Lake. There is still a significant amount of snow to cross between Upper Boy Scout Lake and Iceberg Lake, but unless you're doing it really early morning, it'll be fairly soft due to warm weather. Iceberg Lake is starting to melt out and you can fetch water from it, though be careful as the border of the lake is still a bit unclear. The Mountaineer's route is still mostly covered in snow but again will often be soft due to warm temps and the fact that it gets morning sun. The sure of foot may be able to get away with microspikes and a trekking pole rather than full crampons+ice axe for approaching the climbs and descending the Mountaineer's route.

Creeks are high and the snow continues to recede quickly—have fun and be safe out there! Jul 9, 2017