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Routes in Mt. Whitney

Cardiovascular Seizure T 5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b
East Buttress T 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b
East Face T 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b
Hairline T 5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b C2+
Happy Cowboy (Whitney edge traverse) T 4th 1 2 I 2 M 1b
Left Wing Extremist T 5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c
Mount Whitney Trail, The
Mountaineer's Route, The 3rd 1- 1 I 1 M 1a Mod. Snow
North Face T 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
SouthWest Edge T 5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a
SouthWest Ridge T 4th 1 2 I 2 M 1b
Type: Trad, Alpine, 1000 ft, 11 pitches, Grade III
FA: Bob Brinton, Glen Dawson, Richard Jones, Howard Koster, Muir Dawson, September 1937
Page Views: 63,335 total, 440/month
Shared By: Nick Wilder on Jan 23, 2006
Admins: Chris Owen, M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes

You & This Route


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Access limited from May to October every year Details

Description

The premier moderate route in the Whitney Area.

Day 1 Hike to Iceberg Lake. Day 2 Do climb. Day 3 Hike back to Whitney Portal.

Eleven fairly consistent pitches on excellent rock. The route starts up a scree slope where you head to left-facing corner on the right side of the "second tower", which is directly on the east buttress.

It's pretty easy to stay on route - don't stray far from the true buttress. If it's obviously harder than 5.7, look around and get back on route.

p1. Easy climbing up the corner. 5.5-5.6
p2. Nice face climbing. 5.6-5.7.
p3-5. wander around the buttress taking whatever line looks best. Head for the left side of "the peewee" - a huge roof/block that looks rather ominous. 4th-5.6
p6. up the left side of the peewee. usually dark and cold. Feels good to get on top of it. 5.6
p7-11. cracks and blocks that generally trend left. The more left you go, the sooner you'll hit a talus field and start walking to the top. Climbing stays easy right on the buttress, with a few boulder problems to overcome.

Top out, dazzle the crowd that hiked up the Whitney Trail and listen to their cell phone calls (golly gee honey - you won't believe where I'm calling from...).

Protection

I brought about 5 cams, up to a #2 Camalot. 2 full sets of nuts, and lots of long slings. Lots of natural anchors and ledges.

Descent

Descend the Mountaineers Route.

Photos

Climbed this over the weekend and someone camping in Iceberg lake found a backpack with a pair of shoes on the mountaineers route. My pack was full, but I managed to bring down the shoes. If these shoes are yours send me an email with the size/style and I will send them to you. --> Dvelez811@gmail.com Oct 6, 2017
MariaZ
  5.7
MariaZ  
  5.7
I climbed this one on saturday. I consider myself a pretty average climber so I thought I'd give up my trip report. From talking to other people at the Iceburg lake base camp it sounds like I had a pretty average (i.e non epicing) experience.

Your experience may differ since we had to carry Ice Axes and Crampons since there was so much snow on the mountaineers route.

Day 1: Hiked in with 50lb packs. 7 hours
Day 2: Opted for a rest day to acclimatize, scout out the route, and pack our summit pack
Day 3: Climb day. Woke up at 4am, hiked to the base of the climb, Roped up by 6:30. Summitted by 2:30pm, and descended the mountaineers route. We were back at our tents at Iceburg lake by 6:30pm.
Day 4: Hike out. 3-4 hours.

It took us an extra long time to descend because we had to 3rd class scramble to the notch to avoid ice and had to don crampons to get past the snow lower down. Waking up extra extra early was worth it because descending the mountaineers route at night would have been nasty.

We had two climbers, slung leads, and carried a standard cam rack (doubles 0.3 to 2) and a single set of nuts. I ran it out in places but I liked having a double rack, and found it to be worth the weight. The rack weighed 9lbs including the weight of the sling, draws, biners, etc.

This was my first alpine climb and climb of this commitment level (grade 3). It was one of the best experiences in my life and totally won me over to alpine climbing. Aug 14, 2017
Given the dichotomy of comments here and in some trip reports (rope up it's exposed and hard to I just free soloed this thing its 1 5.7 move) I figured I'd post about our personal experience to give insight and beta to anyone planning the route. If any of my comments come off as a$$hole-ish or pompous feel free to mock me both on and offline...I am sincerely attempting to give a genuine description of who we are and what we did. For a little background I was scared to the gills about something this big (like butterflies in my stomach couldn't sleep for 2 days, etc scared) and the ranger that we got the permits from didn't help at all. Her advice was mostly fire and brimstone.

Ok Stats:

We did it car to car casually in 10.5 hrs; taking the hiking trail down. 3 hrs to the base of the route (got lost once), 4.5 hrs to climb (got stuck behind a slower party at the top), 3 hrs with the hiking trail down. Now by causal I don't mean you casually walked through the mall, I mean yes we were hurting and cursing towards the end, but we didn't feel like we needed to be helicoptered off or were gonna die.

We brought a rack from .3-3 plus 4 TCU's, nuts, a 9.1 70M. One lifestraw, carbon fiber trekking poles, 2 snickers, some leftover chicken fingers (which actually were not appetizing), plain salt in a bag, and one Powerade. Next time I’d bring less gear and prolly a 30-40m rope and maybe a few more drinks (soda, juice, etc)

Every pitch is seriously one “hard (actually they’re pretty easy)” move followed by really fun 5.0 climbing the only purpose of the gear is to really prevent you from falling completely off the mountain and protecting a crux here and there. If you’re sewing things up though you’ll be on the route for a while…be comfortable with running out pitches 40-50 ft between gear placements; again though to reiterate the climbing in those places is sooo easy and not exposed at all (trust me on the exposure…I got scared on ejesta and that’s like 5.2 and 100 ft off the deck).

Capable trail runner/climbers should easily be able to go car to car on this thing in 10-12 hrs. I will say I’m a pretty strong runner by Wasatch standards and my partner wasn't a newb either so that certainly helped moving fast and I could assist my partner when necessary (carrying two bags at times to take some weight off of him). If you’re comfortable taking the mountaineer’s route down you’re even going to save more time. Enjoy! Aug 11, 2017
Dan Froelich
Mayfield Hts, OH
 
Dan Froelich   Mayfield Hts, OH
 
My feet and hands felt nothing but pure joy and my smile was ear to ear despite a touch of altitude sickness. Absolutely the most fun route I have ever been on. Route finding was straight forward and the exposure was fantastic. The climbing is very easy/fun punctuated by a few 5.7 moves here and there. We thought nothing of running it out on many sections. We did it in 7 pitches. I recommend letting your partner go first as pitches 2, 4, & 6 were incredible! Pitch 7 was pretty vertical, fantastic, and probably the hardest for us (we went to the left to bypass a party). Used a set of nuts, cams up to BD #2, and 3 hexes (love those things). The scenery is inspiring. The descent was probably the most adventurous part. I recommend scrambling down the ledges on the mountaineers route, don't take the scenic route (choss fest). Dec 8, 2016
rafael
Berkeley, CA
  5.7 PG13
rafael   Berkeley, CA
  5.7 PG13
Make sure you watch the sky! I've been up twice and both times frozen water fell in the afternoon. The second time I went up, the 20% chance of T-showers turned into 100% chance of hail and thunder. Glad I was already on the descent.

No need of bigger cams, yeah theres lots of places to place them, but there are plenty of spots to slot nuts and hexes too. Aug 1, 2016
It would seem to me that even if there are only 2 short sections of 5.7 you would want to be confident soloing 5.7. But that's just me. Aug 19, 2015
solidbeta
Salt Lake City, Utah
solidbeta   Salt Lake City, Utah
Beta for more solid parties:

This is easily done in a day car to car, even if you've never been to the area, as long as you're in decent hiking shape and confident soloing 5.6. I started up the trail in the dark, getting to Lower Boy Scout Lake (1 hr up) just as it was getting light, which is a good strategy because the trail is most confusing between there and Upper BS Lake.

Took me 3 hours to the base of the route, an hour on route, and was back down the mountaineer's gully to my pack just above Iceberg Lake 2 hours after I left it, but this was with zero snow and ice on the decent, and finally 2 more hours back to the car. The route finding isn't super straightforward but as long as you're in the general vicinity and follow the easiest path it will all work out, there's also a decent amount of fixed gear to assure you are on route.

I carried 3 liters of water, a small pack, a few candy bars, and trekking poles(definitely glad I had them). Did everything in my approach shoes. I thought this was a good amount of water, even with a high in the upper 80s for the portal, it's ok as long as you get an early start and aren't doing the approach under the hot sun.

I agree with the above post that the route is mostly 4th class, a decent amount of 5.4-5.5, 3-4 sections of 5.6, and maybe 2 10-15' sections of 5.7 that are not exposed; in fact, the route only has a few very short sections of decent exposure.


Aug 19, 2015
Climb To Safety
california
 
Climb To Safety   california
 
Climbed June 21, 2015.

The climb is fantastic and the scenery is incredible. We were the first ones on the route, and other than 2 guys from New York, there was not one other person on any technical route, or even on the Mountaineer's Route. Jun 22, 2015
Enjoyed this fine route yesterday, completing it c/c in a long day, (us being average climbers in our 60's). The fall weather was flawless, and there were no other parties on the route, or on the East Face. We did the approach at nite, climbed the route from 8 to 2 while the face was sunny, and descended the hiking trail. Easy to get a Whitney Zone day pass the day before, for free. A pleasant alternative to fighting the crowds in July-August. Sep 24, 2014
Tradiban  
 
Never really exposed and only a few moves of 5.6 between ledges. Simul'd it but it probably would have been safer to solo. Remember to go right of Pee Wee and more to the left higher up for the easiest pitches. Jul 8, 2013
Vit
Vit  
Agreed that the climb is overrated at 5.7 - I would call it 5.5 at most, with most of the route being 4th. There are jugs everywhere. Great views. Route never felt exposed. Jul 5, 2013
Justin Tomlinson
Monrovia, CA
 
Justin Tomlinson   Monrovia, CA
 
Minus a star for the crowds, and minus another one for loose rocks at some of the belays. Having this all to yourself would be great, but chances seem rare for that. Oct 21, 2012
Nelson Day
Joshua Tree, CA
  5.7
Nelson Day   Joshua Tree, CA
  5.7
Brutal approach. 4,300 feet elevation gain in 4 miles at elevation. The climb is totally worth it. This is the most beautiful area I have ever climbed in. Every pitch has breath taking views with excellent position. The climbing is not very sustained, but there are a few 5.7 places. We climbed this with a 70m rope and I was able to link pitches 6&7. Pitch 5 is a rope stretcher as mentioned by someone - a 60m rope is highly recommended for this pitch. Pitch 5 is about 200 feet long.

At the top of pitch 7 (after an amazing flake), I mistakenly went halfway up the offwidth pitch, which goes straight up from the belay. I didn't have enough large gear to feel comfortable on it, so I down led it. The actual pitch 8 goes to the left up much easier (5.6-5.7) terrain. You should feel comfortable running out 5.7 for this climb - there are a few places that don't offer much protection, but the climbing never gets harder than 5.7. Except maybe at the top where you can "choose your own adventure" climb to the summit on the last pitch.

I took a full metolius rack and a #0.75, #1, #2, and #3 BD camalot. I placed the #3 on almost every pitch; very useful. The pro seems to be mostly in the .5-3" range. I placed a nut on every pitch as well. I took 14 slings, which was too much, but I didn't place much gear. Probably 3-4 pieces per pitch, except for pitches 6 and 7, on which I didn't place any gear except for the anchor.

Hiking down the mountaineer's route was my least favorite part of this whole experience. The whole route is loose with large rocks that could kill someone if dislodged with someone below. Be careful. Some relatively easy downclimbing on the mountaineer's route is required. Not anything worse than the average walk off in Joshua Tree, though. The descent down the mountaineer's route took about 1 1/2 hours back to Iceberg Lake.

We set our alarm for 5:00 AM at Iceberg lake and left our campsite as the sun was coming up at 6:00 AM. The approach to the base of the climb took about 45 minutes. Take your time; you will burn out at elevation if you push the approach too hard. We started climbing at about 7:15 and topped out at 12:30, and weren't pushing ourselves too hard. No point - the climbing is spectacular and the views are breath taking. Take your time on this route, it is worth taking some extra time to admire your surroundings and appreciate the climb!

Make sure you make a note where the approach crosses the creek at the 2nd creek crossing. We walked past it and had to go back up the slab, which was strenuous after a full day of climbing. The crossing is NOT obvious. Our GPS was the only thing that saved us in the end from wandering around trying to find the crossing. It took us about an hour of blundering around to find the crossing on the way down. I definitely recommend trecking poles for the descent. Going downhill over loose skree and ankle breaker sized rocks requires a lot of concentration, and the trecking poles were almost necessary. Especially when you have a 50 lb pack on your back. I slightly rolled my ankle at 11,000 feet on the descent, which got my heart going.

Both me and my partner carried packs to the top with 3L of water each. I ran out of water right before arriving back at Iceberg Lake. I wore a R1 and carried a rain jacket, which I used as a wind breaker on the descent. I was completely comfortable the whole way up the climb, although we did finish the route before the route entered the shade, which seemed to be about 2 PM. The shady sections of the route were definitely cold and I was eager to get off of the belay at the top of pitch 3 and back into the sun. We took sandwiches for lunch, which we ate at the summit and were thankful for. Sep 4, 2012
46and2
Salt Lake City, Utah
  5.7
46and2   Salt Lake City, Utah
  5.7
We got caught in a very nasty storm (unexpected and NOT in the forecast....but hey this is the Sierra) on this route a couple years ago; freezing water running down the cracks makes it much more spicey and interesting. Watch the weather! :-) Jul 23, 2012
Anfarwal Vr
Denver, CO
  5.7
Anfarwal Vr   Denver, CO
  5.7
Did the car-to-car last weekend. Started the hike in at 1am and got to iceberg lake by 6:30pm, weather was perfect; barely any wind. Topo was right on for the approach; we had no problems with the ledges and following the cairns up from upper boy scout to iceberg.

Took 2L on the hike in and refilled at iceberg lake with a filter. Like vic, we went light--60M rope, 2 sets of nuts (although we used only 1 set), doubles of 0-3 in TCU/master cams (could have just brough 1 set), doubles of 0.75-#2 BD cams, lots of slings. For clothes: long pants, long sleeve wicking shirt, R1, nano puff and soft shells, liner gloves, wool hat, buff and approach shoes, socks with our climbing shoes, hiking poles (for me, bad knees). Walkie-talkies were a must, and we had a GPS. Once the mountain went into the shade (2pm), the temps dropped into the 30's, and every with all of the layers I was still pretty cold. I had to do it again, I'd probably bring a down sweater too, and probably add another 0.5 L of water.

Fantastic climb with great views; route is generally mellow with a crux on every pitch except the last 2 (which is 4th and 5th class). We had some route-finding issues that made this climb longer, especially when we were trying to get over the summit blocks. I got surprised a few times (like on pitch 5, I barely made it to the belay ledge for pitch 6 with a 60M rope).We topped out late in the day, and took the Mt. Whitney Trail down to avoid doing mountaineer's at night. We had some issues on the hike down (altitude related), so the easier trail for us was the right decision, although it took forever to get down (the switchbacks are a knee buster!)
Jul 11, 2012
Chris D
the couch
  5.6
Chris D   the couch
  5.6
What Buzz said.

It's a spectacular position, and the rock is outstanding. The views are mind-boggling, and the climbing is quality; it's just not very hard.

P1 was some sustained easy fifth, then the rest of the climb was 4th and 3rd interspersed with fun, casual low-fifth class moves. All of the harder moves are easy to protect and a fall would usually land you on a big ledge.

The "5.7, poor pro" face climbing at the start of P3 that everyone gets excited about is good, but the climbing is easy with lots of crystals and features to climb on. The "5.7 Fingers" called out on P7 of the supertopo is actually probably the crux of the path we took, but still goes at under 5.7 if you use everything available to you.

All in all, very positive holds abound, and there are many options as you ascend the buttress. If you're competent at 5.6 and lead lots of trad routes below 5.7 including multipitch, there is no reason why you can't do this route from rope-up to summit in 5 hours, swinging leads with no simulclimbing. Jun 13, 2012
Dan Lay
 
Dan Lay  
 
Day 1 - 7 hour approach to Iceberg Lake
Day 2 - Climbed Pitches 1-8, Simul climbed pitches 9-11 with some interesting route finding, 8 hours on route; Descended the Mountaineers Route and hiked back to WP in 2.5 hours from Iceberg. May 12, 2012
Tyler Williams
Flagstaff, AZ
 
Tyler Williams   Flagstaff, AZ
 
much better than east face, IMO. a great route. Jan 12, 2010
Dennis
 
Dennis  
 
Duke Cutter and I climbing the East Buttress last week. Permits were easy to obtain at the Lone Pine office mid-week. Be sure to ask for North Fork permits.

6/24: Hiked to Boy Scout lake with 45 pound packs. 3 hours.

6/25: Climbed East Butt of Whitney on 6/25. 2 hours approach to base of climb, 3.5 hours on the route with some simul climbing and soloing, 2 hour descent back to Boy Scout Lake.

6/26: Climbed Fishhook Arete on Russell and hiked back to the car. 3 hour approach, 5 hours on the route, 2 hour descent down the 3rd class East Ridge, 2 more hours to the car.

Highly recommend this 3 day itinerary.

The supertopo is helpful for general landmarks on the East Buttress, but we found it to be otherwise useless. We passed 3 parties on the first pitch via the 5.8 variation (though didn't find the pitons as listed on Supertaco). This variation is fun and the rock is relatively solid. However, on the rest of the route the rock is suspect in many places, breaking off on occasion and falling from above as well. Bring your helmet!

Overall a fun adventure, though perhaps not as aesthetic as Fishhook Arete. Jul 2, 2008
M. Morley
Sacramento, CA
 
M. Morley   Sacramento, CA  
 
My notes from 2002:

- 5.5 hr approach from Whitney Portal to Iceberg Lake via N. fork of Lone Pine Creek

- 5.5 hrs on route (5 x 60m pitches + 300' 3rd class)

- 1.5 hr descent via Mountaineer's Route w/o crampons Feb 16, 2008
Bill McConachie & I did the East Buttress route in a day from Whitney Portal at the end of last summer (2007). We left WP at 4 am and arrived at Iceberg Lake around ~ 9am, started climbing around 10 am, and reached the summit at 6 pm. We went v. light...our packs (including rack & rope) weighed 18 lbs (mine) & 22 lbs (Bill's). We used a 50 meter, 9 mm rope with a modest rack of cams, stoppers, carabiners, and lots of slings. We took rock shoes, helmet, & head lamp each. For clothing I brought long pants, parka, gloves, long sleeve synthetic shirt, wool cap & approach shoes. We were fortunate to have excellent weather. For food we brought crackers, cheese, salami, energy bars, chocolate, and dried mango. We carried a H20 pump w/filter, so we started the approach from WP with only 1 liter H20 each. When we arrived at Iceberg Lake we filtered 2 L each for the climb. The water filter, light rack, and good weather were the keys to success.

The E Buttress starts very close to the start of the E Face route, near the Tower Traverse. Basically you're looking up at the left side of the 2nd Tower at the start. Check out the SuperTopo for this route...it is fairly accurate. The climbing is easy to moderate but exposed with 4 or 5 pitches in the 5.6 to 5.7 range.

We descended the Mountaineer's route and filtered H20 again for the hike out. The Mountaineer's route is basically a gully of flowing talus (i.e., it sucks). The Ebersbacher ledges are fairly straightforward to go up, even in the dark, but descending these ledges in the dark is another story. You have to be very careful and we ended up retracing our steps several times before we made it down these ledges. It took us all night to get back to WP in the dark. In retrospect we should have descended via the hiking trail from the summit not the Mountaineer's route. I'm sure we would have made it back to WP by midnight. Instead we arrived back at WP at ~5 am the next morning.

Get fit, Go light, Be safe, Have fun! Jan 21, 2008
Chris Owen
Big Bear Lake
 
Chris Owen   Big Bear Lake  
 
That's not how I remember it Buzz. Aug 7, 2007
Did this today; not what I expected. It was 4th class, with four 25' sections of 5th class. Long way to haul a rope for that. Good rock though, and great scenary and position. Aug 5, 2007
Josh Hibbard
Los Angeles Area, CA
 
Josh Hibbard   Los Angeles Area, CA
 
I climbed this a couple years ago and really enjoyed it. Supertopo makes a very good route description and diagram for detailed beta(as does the description above).I do remember reaching a huge block on the final pitch of which the only feature was a crack system to the top of the block. My friend went up the crack and thought it to be more like 5.9, not 5.7. My partner and I took an airy step around the left side of the block (climbers left) and the move was not more than 5.7 and was easily protected (for the leader, at least).
I would recommend this route as a classic Sierra climb. Mar 26, 2007
426
426  
Classic, fun route. FP's description is right on. Watch where you traverse. You can also top out direct on the summit through some devious overhangs right near the top. 5.9?? maybe more like 5.10. Mar 6, 2007
Mike
Phoenix
 
Mike   Phoenix
 
We did this route, as a party of 4, car to car in 24 hours. Although I don't remember exactly, we needed much less than the listed 11 pitches- more like 6 or 7 with a little simul-climbing thrown in. Sep 18, 2006
Floridaputz
Oakland Park, Florida
Floridaputz   Oakland Park, Florida
This is an outstanding route. Much more 5th class climbing than the East Face. You can start off right at the 1st Tower (start of E Face) and do a 5.8 inside corner, or go around the base of the buttress (N) to the standard start. There are variations all over this route, but staying on the Buttress is probably the most fun. I was most struck by the amazing rock formations, great belays and outsanding views. Aug 21, 2006
Chris Owen
Big Bear Lake
 
Chris Owen   Big Bear Lake  
 
Pitch 3-5 and 6 above; I headed for the right side of the Peewee, and passed it on the right. Mar 20, 2006