Type: Snow, Alpine, Grade II
FA: unknown
Page Views: 198 total · 13/month
Shared By: kenr on Aug 26, 2017
Admins: Chris Owen, Lurker, M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin ., Vicki Schwantes

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Access Issue: Certain Peaks: Access limited from May to October every year Details


Skiing down from the summit of Mt Whitney may not be in condition often, but it's great when it's there - (steepness 35-40 degrees for 1200 vertical ft). Even if come to decide that the NNW face is not in condition for a ski descent, just getting up into that area on skis is a wonderful spectacular tour.

Avalanche hazard: Need to start assessing it before getting out there. Avalanche hazard could remain substantial for a long time after the most recent snowfall. Some of the slopes are sustained at the steepness of maximum danger, and at least one sustained steep slope is slabby rock so snowpack is not well anchored.

Avalanche equipment: Bringing beacons + shovels + probes and/or airbags is a smart idea. But the Mountaineers Gully is a "trap", so if there is an avalanche there big enough to bury one or more members of the party, they might not survive even if found. And in a situation like that, an airbag might not prevent death or severe injury. Or if "bombed" from the steep slopes above the narrow lower creek valley, equipment is not likely to make much difference. Therefore the more important strategy is not to be there at all on a day when a significant avalanche might occur.

overnight? While strong parties might be able to ski the Mt Whitney summit and NNW face car-to-car in a single day, camping on the snow in springtime can be a great experience. Offers the possibility of adding another ski descent on another day, say the SE slope of Russell-Carillon Pass - (or perhaps could try exploring SE slope of Cleaver Col, or NE slopes of Thor Peak). Obvious places to camp are near Lower Boy Scout Lake or Upper Boy Scout Lake. Check at the Eastern Sierra InterAgency Visitors Center just south of Lone Pine for permit requirements.

approach: The obvious way to the top of main descent is to go up North Fork Lone Pine Creek [ see info for approach ], then climb to the top of the Mountaineers Gully (35 degrees sheltered East-facing). Descending this same way might be a good option if the NNW / N face is not in condition for skiing.

. . Or could approach the bottom of the main descent (more work) - by going up North Fork Lone Pine Creek to Iceberg Lake, then W across the ridge between Mt Whitney and Mt Russell over the notch which is W above that lake, then ski down NW and W toward Arctic Lakes.

For details of the approach and the ascent of Mountaineers Gully
- - See this route description - -

warning: Avalanche hazard in the Mountaineers Gully is substantial (especially the possibility of slabs forming due to frequent wind from west). and might persist long after the most recent snowfall.

At the top of the Mountaineers Gully, make a short scramble up to a point which allows looking W to the North slopes, to see if they have enough snow to be worth going closer to check for skiing.

From here the shortest way (and normal climbers' route) to summit of Mt Whitney is S up the slope. But this slope is rather steep and the exposure below is deadly, so from a ski descent perspective it is Extreme.

Instead the most likely skier's way to the summit is to next traverse West horizontal across the upper North face (likely need to cross some exposed rocks even in a big snow year) -- and continue assessing snow coverage and quality and avalanche hazard on the N + NNW slopes below. Where the slope gets gentler, turn back SE up onto summit plateau, then E toward the summit (with a shelter building). Likely plenty of rocks showing (due to exposure to the prevailing west winds) even in a big snow year. But because of the gentler slope, much of it might be skiable in between the rocks - (so could hope to reach the summit of Mt Whitney with your skis on your feet).

From the summit of Mt Whitney, ski down gentle W then NW to reach the NW corner of the summit plateau (N36.5787 W118.2988) - (unless your assessment has led you to try skiing down some steeper line more right/east on the North face).

warning: Serious avalanche hazard, which could remain for a long time after the most recent snowfall. The snowpack rests on a rock slab surface, so it is not well anchored.

Ski what you find to be the best line down toward roughly below the W summit of Mt Russell, a ways east from the Arctic Lakes,

Next put skins on and go up gentle E then SE toward a bit south of the pass between Mt Russell and Mt Whitney. Do not cross the pass at its lowest point. Instead find the (second or third?) notch to the right (south) above from the low point. When you reach the correct notch - roughly around (N36.5832 W118.2885) - you see Iceberg Lake (N36.5815 W118.2855) a short ways below East. Down to the lake (and look back up right to see the Mountaineers Gully.

Ski back down North Fork Lone Creek roughly the way you came up (except might enjoy some extra turns on slopes above S side of creek).

warning: Especially in the afternoon on sunny days, the creek could be subject to avalanches from above.


The top of the steep skiing is at the NW corner (N36.5787 W118.2988) of the Mt Whitney summit plateau and the bottom is about 0.3 mile east from Arctic Lake.


No fixed hardware.