Mt. Whitney and Mt. Muir Dayhike Trip Report

October 11, 2003

Mt Whitney & Mt Muir Elevation Profile.

The following report of our hike was written by Joel Wilson:
It’s been a good summer for 14ers. Mark and I climbed four 14ers together over the summer. We wanted to get one or two more in before the season ended, and figured that Whitney and Muir via the Mountaineers Route would be good candidates. Mark sent out an email to CHAOS early on in the semester, and in the end we had two takers: Jono and Mouhsine. So, on Saturday, October 11, the four of us climbed Whitney and Muir as a long dayhike.

Mt Whitney & Mt Muir topo map.

I’d like to emphasize long. We left Berkeley at 6pm on Friday. The drive generally takes 8 hours, and with stopping for dinner, gas, and so on, it took 9. Thus it was 3am by the time we reached the trailhead, so might as well just start hiking, right? Actually, we planned it this way since we knew we’d have to leave Berkeley so late. Ha, who needs sleep.

We met up with Steve from Las Vegas in the parking lot. Mark had contacted him, another hiker who happened to be doing the same route on the same day, through the Whitney message board. Steve decided to leave later with another group so that he could guide them through the first few ledges. We packed up quickly and were hiking by 3:30am. The weather was perfect, although below freezing, with a clear sky and a full moon. It’s always fun to hike on a clear night under a full moon, and this was no exception. It’s amazing how much it lights up the trail and creates very distinct shadows. I had forgotten my headlamp for this trip, but with the moonlight, I never needed it.

Early morning TH start. (by Jono Hey)
Mouhsine and Jono early morning hiking. (by Joel Wilson)

We soon found the turnoff for the north fork of Lone Pine Creek. This is a fairly steep climber’s access trail that ascends about 1000’ per mile. The Ebersbacher Ledges were next. Mark and I had been up this trail earlier in the summer to climb Mt. Russell, so we were familiar with the route. And with the moon clearly lighting the way, navigation was easy. The ledges are class 2-3, with one easy but exposed traverse. We made quick work of the ledges and hiked on to Lower Boyscout Lake.

We took our first food stop just above the lake. We were feeling good all in all, and got moving again before getting too cold. The next stop was Upper Boyscout Lake, where we encountered two climbers who spent the night there and were just starting the Mountaineers Route. They set out ahead of us with a fast pace and acclimatized lungs. The sun rose as we reached Iceberg Lake.

Sunrise on Mt Whitney, with me, Mouhsine, and Joel. (by Jono Hey)
Alpenglow on Mt Whitney. (by Jono Hey)
SAR basket at Iceberg Lake.

At this point the lack of sleep was starting to hit some of us, particularly me. There were a couple of times when I almost fell asleep while walking. When we took a short rest break, I did fall asleep momentarily while standing. At Iceberg Lake, we decided to take a longer break, and ended up sleeping for 20 minutes. It was a fitful sleep however. At first I was tired enough to just zonk out. After ten minutes I realized that my leg was on a sharp rock and I had that tingly “leg fallen asleep” feeling. Then I couldn’t really sleep due to the cold. But by now it was light out, and the route was in clear view.

Mt Whitney, Mountaineer's Route.

We were lucky in that the snow is late this year. Last year at about this time on a trip with Heyning to Mt. Tyndall, we got snowed out at Shepard’s Pass, and it’s quite a long walk back. This time, it was clear and sunny, perfect for summiting. We took the left hand line up the start of the Mountaineer’s Route. It was solid 40 degree class 3 terrain. Continuing straight, we joined the main chute and continued up to the 14,000 ft notch. The upper half of the chute was very loose and dry, with a half step back for every step forward being the norm.

Scrambling up the first chute. (by Jono Hey)
Jono on the Mountaineer's Route, Iceberg Lake below, and Mt Carillon behind.
Mt Carillon.
Mouhsine following up the larger, 2nd couloir of the Mountaineer's Route. This one is pure junk - kitty litter on slabs.
Joel Wilson on the Mountaineer's Route.

We reached the notch at about 10am and took a longer food break.

Traverse from the Notch. This part can be hazardous when filled with late seasons snow & ice, but fortunately for us it was clear.
Joel clambering around at the notch.
A 'wind'break at the Notch. Jono Hey, Joel Wilson, and Mouhsine.

From the notch, we traversed a few hundred feet, then climbed the third chute up the north face of Whitney. The chute was solid class 3, similar to the first section of the Mountaineers Route. At the top were some impressive ice flows. The ice was very hard and thick, but easily avoided. We then topped out on the west slope, and boulder hopped over to the summit. I was surprised to see that the route tops out near the business side of the Mt. Whitney “outhouse,” a toilet with a wall of stones on the other side. It must be the world’s greatest view from a toilet until someone tops out in front of you (or vice versa)!

Nearing the summit. We found the scrambling easier & nicer following a rib just beyond the first couloir after the notch.
Joel above the scrambling crux.

We summited at about 11:30. Sea level to 14,497 in 17.5 hours. Not bad, feels good in fact, and a little woozy, which also feels good. The hour and a half we spend at the top went by quickly. There were a lot of people up there as expected, including Steve. We took a bunch of pictures, ate lunch, and then headed for Muir.

Mouhsine, me, Jono & Joel on the summit of Mt Whitney.
The Kaweahs from the summit of Mt Whitney.
Mt Muir seen on the descent from Mt Whitney.
Descending the trail, just below Mt Muir.

When we reached Muir, Mouhsine opted to continue on down. Jono, Mark and I enjoyed the class 3-4 scramble to the top, which is just a couple hundred feet directly east and up from the trail. In fact you can see part of the summit block from the trail. It took just 20 minutes to summit, another 20 to enjoy, and 20 back down for an hour detour. We then speed walked down the ninety odd switchbacks in pursuit of Mouhsine.

At the point to leave the trail for Mt Muir. The crux of climbing this peak is probably finding it!
On the small summit of Mt Muir. (by Jono Hey)
Many switchbacks to look forward to on the trail descent. (by Jono Hey)
Mt Muir on the far right, seen on the trail descent. (by Jono Hey)

It turns out Mouhsine is a real speedster on the descents. It took a good two hours of fast moving to catch up. When we did, we still had about four miles to go. Those were a long four miles after spending so long on all those switchbacks. When walking down, the trailhead in the valley looks fairly close. But the Whitney trail descends so gradually that it takes forever to make ground. Watching the sunset was really nice though, and gave us something to think about other than aching joints, feet, and muscles. We reached the car just after dark at 7:30, 16 hours after we had started. We then drove to Lone Pine for food, and then back to Movie Flats to camp.

Racing down the trail, and racing daylight. (by Jono Hey)

The next day we got up at 7 and headed for home. In Yosemite, we stopped to climb Pothole Dome at Tuolumne Meadows. It’s a very short hike just off the road. We took a few more pics and then headed back. It was a very worthwhile trip with wonderful weather, a good route, good company, no getting lost, no injuries, really no problems. A great time had by all.

Morning camping in the Alabama Hills. (by Jono Hey)
Playing around on Pothole Dome on the drive home. (by Jono Hey)
Jono Hey, Mouhsine, me & Joel Wilson on the Pothole Dome summit boulder. (by Jono Hey)
Pothole Dome. (by Jono Hey)