East Coast v Left Coast: Climbing the Mountaineers Route on Whitney

Steve, Pace and Don on the Eberbacher Ledges
18 June.  Braden and I met Don, Steve, Pace, Amanda, Wes and Steven at the Whitney Portal Trail Head for my first Whitney climb of the summer, via the Mountaineers Route.  This was Braden's first trip since last September, so he stepped back and I did my best to step up and lead the group.  They were obviously better at this whole leadership thing then I was, 'cause they followed me all the way up without complaint to Upper Boy Scout Lake.

Wes and Steven at The Shoulder break, Mountaineers Couloir
In the morning, we left camp just before 6:00am and headed up to Iceberg Lake, stopping halfway to put on crampons.  The Mountaineers Couloir was buried in a deep layer of snow, so we found a nice set of tracks that matched our leg length - mostly - and started on up.  At 13,400' on the climber's left is a feature I call "The Shoulder," a sandy ledge that makes for a great break spot.  Amanda and Pace decided that this was their high point - difficult decisions for anyone to make, and I thought they both made the right call.  They started to descend with Braden as we continued on.

Wes, Steven and Steve in the Notch
From the top of the Couloir - in The Notch (14,000'), the traditional route takes a left-hand, 90-degree turn and climbs up the North Gully, and 400' feet of 3rd class scrambling reaches the summit.  With all the snow in  the Couloir, I was really expecting more snow and ice in the Gully - you can imagine my pleased surprise to find it completely snow free!  By some weird randomness, the North Gully had completely melted out.  So we all cached our crampons and ice axes there in the notch, roped up, and reached the summit.

Steve, Don and Wes at the Smithsonian Hut on the summit
Coming down always seems anti-climactic and never-ending, and this time was no difference.  Thanks to all the snow in the couloir we were able to glissade down most of it and hike back to camp.  Burgers and beers were waiting for us at the Whitney Portal Store, and we were looking forward to them!

Statistics:  Mt. Whitney, 14,495', via the Mountaineers Route; Moderate Snow 30 degrees, 3rd Class, 2300' ca.  Total trip:  9+ miles of travel, 6225' elevation gained and descended.