Mt. Whitney Ascent in Winter

At 14,505 feet Mt. Whitney is the high point of the lower forty eight states and the goal of virtually every mountaineer. The eleven mile long Trail Route offers the easiest route to the summit and is ascended by hundreds of climbers each year. In summer the summit is often crowded with excited climbers calling home on their cell phones and marmots cadging scraps from those lolling in the warm sun.

Winter however is a totally different story!

In the “off season” Mt. Whitney becomes a remote and difficult ascent. Few people are willing to take the chance of putting in a lot of work trying to climb, only to be turned back by weather, avalanche conditions and deep snow. But for those who want to test themselves and see how they do in this difficult environment  Mt. Whitney offers a great climb and an adventure that is unique in California.

For over the snow travel we recommend snowshoes for most people since skiing with a heavy pack in variable snow requires very advanced ski techniques. We also do not like to have split groups with some people on skis and some on snowshoes because of the different rates of travel.

Each day weather conditions, avalanche danger and group ability will be assessed to make informed decisions. A full itinerary cannot be guaranteed in advance; you need to be flexible as we play it day by day.

Return to Whitney Trips

The Climb

We climb the Mountaineers Route on the east side of the peak, starting from Lone Pine. We’ll meet at the Whitney Portal Hostel in the center of Lone Pine at 7:30 am. The hostel is on the east side of Highway 395 just south of the only traffic light in town. You should have had a good breakfast and other than final packing be more or less ready to go. After introductions we’ll do a pack check and distribute group gear before carpooling to the road closure, some 20 minutes out of town.

Exactly where we start hiking depends upon the road closure which may be well below the regular parking at Whitney Portal. In fact it might just take a day to get to the parking area! We also have to consider the difficulty of retrieving vehicles should the weather change for the worse. Above the Portal we follow up the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek to Lower Boy Scout Lake and then on to Upper Boy Scout. We may camp here or place high camp at Iceberg Lake at 12,400 feet.

Above Iceberg Lake rises the Mountaineers Gully proper. In winter this will be a snow-filled gully of about 35 degrees and at the top, three hundred feet of snow-covered rock lead to the summit plateau and the culmination of the climb.

Program Prerequisites:

This is a major ascent so come prepared for hard work. Prior climbing, snow camping and overnight backpacking experience is essential.  A positive mental attitude helps enormously and will be your most important asset. Have your systems down so that once we get to camp you know what to get organized and into the tent and out of the cold. Packs will be heavy and the snow may be deep. Avalanche hazard assessment will be essential and success will depend upon safe conditions.

There are no guarantees of success in winter and a big storm may well put all of our careful planning into disarray. Do not be summit oriented but go out with the goal of gaining skills and enjoying a very different climbing season.

Program Inclusions:

Price includes guiding, permits, all necessary group climbing gear, tents, kitchen gear and breakfasts, lunches and dinners (you bring hot/cold drinks and snack items). Scheduled dates include USFS trail fees. Private programs do not.

Local accommodation is not included.

Please Read before you go

We feel the following information is essential... (links open as PDF in new window)

  1. Details, itinerary, and equipment list for your trip
  2. SMC Cancellation Policy
  3. Suggestions on preparation - get the most out of your trip!
  4. Tips on physical training for your trip
  5. LNT - Let's work together to protect our precious mountain environment.

PDF Maps:

Mt. Whitney Winter Map

Rental Equipment:

Need to rent equipment for your trip? We can help.