20090701 Condition Report for Mt. Whitney

On the last day of June I guided Whitney's East Buttress and descended the Mountaineers Route to Iceberg Lake.  Here's what we found.
  • There is still significant snow surrounding Iceberg Lake, though the majority of bivy sites are clear.
  • It is possible to make the approach to the East Face and East Buttress with minimal snow.
  • A team descending on the 29th reported very wet conditions on the 3rd class sections of the East Face, confirming my suspicions that the East Buttress was a better alternative.
  • We encountered snow only on the biggest, north-facing ledges of the East Buttress.
  • There is still significant snow in the North Chute of the Mountaineers Route, but it is melting fast.  Still, parties ascending early in the morning probably will want ice axe and crampons.  Climbers reaching this point late in the day are hopefully descending and can manage without.
  • There is a significant rockfall hazard in the upper fourth of the couloir.  Please be smart and ascend the clean rock slabs to climber's left until you can cross to the ledges on climber's right (or in reverse if your descending).  We had a near miss when a team below chose not to stay in a protective alcove while we were traversing the gully, and one of their climbers was almost taken out by a block dislodged from one of mine.  Irish saints, indeed.  DO NOT ASCEND/DESCEND IN THE NARROWEST, LOOSEST, CENTRAL PART OF THE COULOIR'S GULLY.
  • The mozzy's are out!!  Expect severe mosquitoes attack, in squadron strength or more, from the time you exit your vehicle until  at least Lower Boy Scout.  By the time of this writing I'd expect them at Upper Boy Scout as well.
Looking up the North Chute.  Its possible to avoid the "mixed" difficulties visible by climbing 3rd class rock to the left until the very end.

A great view of the upper Couloir.  The exposed loose rock is readily apparent.