Mt. Whitney Rock Climbing
Mt. Whitney. Photo by Blitzo.
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.
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. (Mid slabby section of trail not shown)
Weather station 16.1 miles from here
7 Total Climbing Routes
['4 Stars',2],['3 Stars',4],['2 Stars',1],['1 Star',0],['Bomb',0]
Classic Climbing Routes in Mt. Whitney
Browse More Rock Climbing Classics in Mt. Whitney
Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes for Mt. Whitney:
East Buttress 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b Trad, Alpine, 11 pitches, 1000'
East Face 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b Trad, Alpine, 10 pitches, 1000'
Featured Route For Mt. Whitney
East Face 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b California
: High Sierra
: ... : Mt. Whitney
From Iceberg Lake, scramble up to the notch just above the First Tower. Gear up. Make the Tower Traverse across the south face of the Second Tower, and climb a short chimney (5.4-5.5) to the first belay.Scramble or simul climb up three pitches of 4th - easy 5th to the top of the Washboard. Climb left up and over a tower/chimney (5.2-5.5) to a large ledge, and traverse to the base of the Fresh Air Traverse. The Fresh Air Traverse pitch (5.5) climbs easy ground up then left to three fixed piton...[more] Browse More Classics in California