Mount Whitney Mountaineer's Route

Sequoia National Park, California 93262

Elevation Gain5,910ft
Trailhead Elevation14,471ft
Elevation Min/Max8719/14471ft
Elevation Start/End14471/14471ft

Mount Whitney Mountaineer's Route

Mount Whitney Mountaineer's Route is a hiking trail in Tulare County and Inyo County, California. It is within John Muir Wilderness, Sequoia National Park, and Inyo National Forest. It is 3.4 miles long and begins at 14,471 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 7.2 miles with a total elevation gain of 5,910 feet. The Lower Boy Scout Lake water can be seen along the trail. There is also a wetland along the trail. The trail ends near the Smithsonian Institution Shelter and the Mount Whitney survey point. This trail connects with the following: John Muir Trail and Mount Whitney Trail.

Mount Whitney Mountaineer's Route Professional Reviews and Guides

"The large Meysan Lake basin is ringed, from right to left, by the four impressive summits of Mount Irvine, Mount Mallory, Mount LeConte, and Lone Pine Peak. A base camp at Meysan Lake is a good location from which to ski Mount LeConte, Mount Irvine, and the numerous high-elevation bowls in the area."

"With a dramatic, towering, and vertical east face that cuts a familiar alpine profile as seen from the town of Lone Pine, more than 10,750 feet below, Mount Whitney is one of North America’s most impressive mountains.

Not only is the view of the mountain quite exceptional, but the vista from the summit is equally impressive, a reward commensurate with the diligence required to reach the climax of the Sierra. To stand on top of the 14,494-foot summit is an extraordinary accomplishment."

"The Mountaineers Route is the distinctive couloir on the northeast face and shoulder of Mount Whitney. It is readily seen from Highway 395 and the town of Lone Pine. In the winter and spring it is a challenging 30- to 35-degree snow couloir. In the summer and fall it is scaled by hundreds of rock climbers each year. This challenging route was first skied by Galen Rowell in 1974."

"Mt. Whitney is one of the most impressive mountains in North America with a classic east face presenting a towering and dramatic alpine profile to rival any peak in the West. Not only is the view of the mountain exceptional, but the vista from the summit is even more extraordinary, a commensurate reward for the diligence required to reach the climax of the Sierra. Standing atop the 14,494-foot summit remains a crowning achievement for many recreationists."

"Highpoint rank by height: 2nd. The East Face rock climb (a.k.a. Mountaineers Route) from Iceberg Lake offers the more adventurous climber an alternative to the hikers' Mt. Whitney trail. Don't attempt these routes if you don't have prior rock climbing experience. Avoid Altitude Sickness: A note of caution is in order here. It is unwise to sleep in Lone Pine, elevation 3,700 feet (1,128 m), the night before you try to hike up to Trail Camp or to make a one-day summit attempt. Going from Lone Pine to the summit involves ascending 10,794 feet (3,290 m). Going from Lone Pine to Trail Camp involves ascending 8,300 feet (2,530 m) in a single day. Such large altitude gains in a single day can easily lead to pulmonary or cerebral edema, both of which can be fatal. Instead, consider camping at Whitney Portal, elevation 8,110 feet (2,472 m) the night before you begin your hike up Mt. Whitney. Advance campground reservations are strongly recommended."

"Highest summit in the contiguous United States."

"This expedition takes you to the top of the highest peak in the contiguous United States, and to unparalleled views."

"The Mount Whitney “freeway” is definitely a classic hike in the truest sense of the word. The tallest peak in the contiguous forty-eight states has long been a life-list destination for hikers. Even from the Portal Road, its spires and obelisk-like profiles give Whitney an ethereal appearance as it commands the skyline from its lofty perch behind several towering summits that are formidable in their own right. The way in is long and tough, though many make the journey every day. Atop the highest point in the Lower 48, the views are commanding, though it is nearly impossible to get a full 360-degree, because the summit is so angular, and there is much of the bulk of the mountain behind you when you are on top."

"Anna Mills, the first woman to climb Mount Whitney in 1878, wrote of her journey, “I can candidly say that I have never seen, nor do I expect to see, a picture so varied, so sublime, so awe-inspiring, as that seen from the summit of Mount Whitney.” (Mount Whitney Club Journal, 1902). Indeed, Mount Whitney is a perch that inspires the use of superlatives. Less intimidating than most peaks, Mount Whitney welcomes hikers to her gently sloped top with a winding path that requires no technical experience. As 14,000-foot mountains go, Mount Whitney is a relatively easy one to climb. But relative is the key word. Hiking to the top of the highest peak in the lower 48 states (second in the continental United States only to Alaska’s Mount McKinley), is still a feat to be admired. Thin air, winding switchbacks, endless sun, and wind exposure can all take their toll, and this is not a task to be taken lightly. Preparation— both mental and physical—is the key to success. From trailhead to summit requires more than 6,000 feet of elevation gain over 11 miles. The fittest of trail runners accomplish the feat in less than three hours. But your average hiker will need anywhere from 12 to 16 hours to make the journey. Outstanding features: Mirror Lake, Trail Crest, Mount Whitney"

"The Rock Creek and Sky-Blue Lake area is a skier’s paradise. A week here would not be sufficient to ski the major summits and couloirs in the area. Joe Devel Peak has an impressive couloir (30–35 degrees) that drops from just north of the peak into the upper end of the Erin Lake Cirque; for the extreme skier, a 50-degree couloir rises from the shore of Erin Lake to near the summit. The slopes of Mount Newcomb and Mount Chamberlin provide a 3.5-mile-long ski descent of Perrin Creek. And up by Arc Pass, the east couloir of Mount McAdie provides challenging skiing. But the best of the group is possibly Mount Pickering, which has numerous descent routes in spectacular and varied terrain."

"People come from all over the world to hike to the top of the highest peak in the continental United States. The scenery from the trail and 14,495-foot summit of Mount Whitney bring people back to do this hike time and again. Before your feet ever touch the trail, you must work your way through the preparation process. The first step in the process is to obtain an overnight or a day hiking permit. The process can be frustrating (put your sense of humor into high gear, then take a look at Case 6). Once you have your permit, the next step is to physically prepare yourself for the challenge. For most hikers, the length of the hike as well as the starting and ending elevations require a minimum of one night spent at the trailhead to acclimate and one or more nights spent on the trail."

"Perched on a shelf with awesome views down a heavily glaciated canyon that gives name to Whitney Portal, Lone Pine Lake makes an excellent consolation prize for the hiker who does not have a permit to climb Mount Whitney."

Mount Whitney Mountaineer's Route Reviews

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Lives up to expectations. We stayed at Horseshoe campgrounds at 10K ft to acclimate, then the following day drove to Whitney Portal, hiked to base camp and set up tent. next morning, we ascended up to the summit and came all the way down to the portal. Perfect itinerary.
A great climb on the Mountaineer's route in perfect weather and with snow to make the couloir climb enjoyable. The very top of the steep slope above the notch was iced and pretty sketchy with no protection. Going up was OK but getting back onto the slope was not going to be safe so we did the traverse across to the notch from lower down the summit plateau. We had the mountain to ourselves on summit day. I tried uploading a GPS route for the ascent, but only the first mile or so showed up?? Sorry.
This was my second attempt on Whitney. The first came nine months before in late September. My party of three got stopped by hip deep snow drifts at the chains on the switchbacks. It looked like everybody got stopped there that day. A small party of Marines tried to break trail higher; I don't know if they were successful. Despite the fact my small party didn't summit, the experience was exhilirating. This summer I returned with my nephew. We camped the first night at Whitney Portal and then the second at Trail Camp. Carrying 40 pounds to Trail Camp was an immense physical exertion for me at 60. Our plan called for us to rise at 3:00 AM and head for the summit. I drifted in and out of sleep with lots of doubts about heading up the switchbacks but figured if my nephew was game, I'd go with him as far as I could. We headed up at 4:00 AM. Dawn at the top of the switchbacks was breathtaking. From Trail Crest to the top was a slogging meditation, no beautiful speed hiking here. The summit unbelievable! Clear in every direction, no wind, mild temperatures, a truly rare confluence of weather features! Headed back down to Trail Camp, broke camp and returned to the trail head. Took a well deserved overnight in a motel in Lone Pine.
I hiked up Mountaineer's Route and returned down Mt. Whitney Trail, 17 miles RT (6 up, 11 down). Awesome hiking and scrambling (class 3 at top). Views were incredible! This route is not for faint of heart. Doing this as a dayhike made it very enjoyable due to light pack weight. Permit required but got walk-in permit day before hike no problem.
I have hiked this trail several times. It took me longe this time because I am older and it was hotter than ever. I went up in one day. I got on the trail around 4 am. Reached the summit around 2pm. Climbed down to the bottom around 7 pm. Next time I am going to start around midnight. There was a full moon and I suggest going when there is a full moon. I met a lot of people climbing in the dark--it is easier. One person I met was going for two climbs back to back.
As most of you will already know, Mt. Whitney is famous. There is little to be said that you won't find readily in any of the numerous books and online guides. I did this trip solo early in the year and I want to leave a few pointers. The trail can be snow covered till late July which means crampons and ice-ax are needed. The temperature can vary a lot in spring/early summer and cause the snow to go from slush to ice depending on the time of day. Plan your ascent for early in the day so you have solid footing on the hardpack. Wet snow can make the first 7 miles more difficult than the actual ascent to the peak. There is plenty of water so bring a pump or iodine tablets and reduce your water load to a one day ration (and limit your pack weight). Eventhough there is snow, the sun can be merciless and hot. Be prepared with multiple layers and lots of sunscreen. While Whitney is often thought of as a one day hike, in spring/early summer this is difficult unless you are prepared/fit for a 14-16 hr hike in wet snow. Take the time to enjoy the mountain and plan for an overnight trip. If you plan a two day hike, I would recommend to stay at the trail camp. This is the closest to the peak and allows for an early ascent and a beautifull morning sunrise. Whitney is a spectacular climb and an amazing experience that includes wooded swithbacks, pristine, troutstocked mountain lakes, mountain splendor, and a very diverse hiking experience on the highest peak in the lower 48. Enjoy
Mt. Whitney was a tough one day hike. I started in the dark, which was a new experience for me, and when the sun rose an hour later at 6:15 or so, I realized I had been moving very slowly. The next stretch was beautiful and not too tough but I was worried about my slow time. Once I reached the 6 miles mark with more than 50% of the distance and elevation covered, my time was better. But the land was barren. Trail Camp, the last camp prior to the summit, seemed bleek and bitter, but that may have been the cold winds, lack of sun and upset stomach (altitude already at 12,000 feet?). The 97 switch backs were as tough as everyone said. At the trail crest, the views were spectacular but at 13,600 feet and with narrow windows (e.g. no walls on either side of the trail) my nerves got a bit jittery. The last 2 miles were difficult and not sure what drove me on but the summit was amazing. Going down was long and tough. Although the pain was brutal, the sights and feeling of accomplishment will last quite a while.
Good, well travelled trail to Lone Pine Lake. The view from the eastern rim of the lake is beautiful. If you have the time, stamina, and permits an additional 2 mile hike to Mirror Lake is worthwhile.
Believe me the view from the top is well worth the effort. This is one of the most beautiful places in the lower 48 states. The panoramic view of numerous 12,000-14,000ft snow-capped peaks. This trails starts in the forested area of Whitney Portal. This hike shows many different environments. You hike through a marsh on the way up. Then you reach a less forested area and start to see the sheer cliffs of Mt Whitney and the surrounding peaks. This trail ascends rapidly. It is a difficult hike. The elevation gain is tremendous. You should plan on hiking part way up and camping to get used to the elevation. Then do the actual final ascent to the top and back down the next day. A word of warning. About 2 miles from the summit, in early-mid summer, you will encounter a large snowfield that becomes very icy in the morning and late afternoon. The trail is only about 2 feet wide and can be very slippery. I recommend carrying an ice axe or crampons for this section. A slip here could be disasterous. I have done is without either, but it requires very careful placement of your boots. And it is much more difficult when carrying a heavy pack. I witnessed a fall on it my first trip up here. Some people will use the ice axe to slide down the snowfield as a shortcut. I also do not recommend this unless you are very experienced with an ice axe. Believe me, you might see why. From here you will encounter hurricane stregth winds as you navigate through tall pillars. Then you are ready from the final ascent. Appox. a mile of scrambling over large boulders to reach the top. If you are carrying a heavy pack, stash it for the final climb and use a smaller daypack. Once you negociate boulder after boulder, you will be standing on the top of the Lower 48 States. Enjoy the view! This hike is a must! Happy Hiking! :)

Mount Whitney Mountaineer's Route Photos

Trail Information

Sequoia National Park
Nearby City
Sequoia National Park
Additional Use
Sequoia National Park
Local Contacts
USGS’s Mount Whitney
Local Maps

Activity Feed

Jul 2018