This is our video description of what it is like to go up the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek with SMC to approach the Mountaineers Route, the East Face, the East Buttress and Mt. Russell.

This is our video description of what it is like to climb the Mountaineers route with SMC

And here is video of a trip up the Mountaineers with a group from Japan.


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The best guidebooks are Supertopo’s “High Sierra Climbing” by Chris McNamara and Peter Croft’s “The Good, The Great, and the Awesome”.

Get them from Maximus Press.

You can also get our unpublished SMC Guide to Whitney here.

We highly recommend that you spend at least one night at moderate altitude (higher than 8,000′) just prior to the trip. Spending a night at Whitney Portal or the Cottonwood Campground would do the trick. Please refer to our Planning for Success info sheet for more info.


Want to do the climb, but worried about carrying the heavy pack up there? We can provide a burly youngster with a strong back to do the hard work for you. Call us for more info.


The hike in begins at 8:00 am at the Whitney Portal trailhead, which is the same trailhead as for the main Whitney Trail. This is one of the busier trailheads in the Eastern Sierra so expect some company at the parking area—sometimes quite a bit of company. We start on the Whitney Trail but after thirty minutes or so leave this for the relative solitude of the Mountaineer’s Trail. This is a steep, seldom maintained route with sections of scrambling, boulder-hopping, and loose terrain, so participants need to feel comfortable carrying a three-day pack across this. We usually reach Lower Boy Scout Lake (10,300’) in time for lunch and gain camp at Upper Boy Scout Lake (11,200’) by mid afternoon. This is a very hard day with a gain of about 3,000’.

The Climb

This route offers a mostly non- technical way to and from the summit. John Muir ascended what is now known as the Mountaineers Route in 1872, starting on foot from the town of Independence. He promptly failed on his first attempt, climbing Pinnacle Ridge instead. After a day of rest he tried again finally gaining the summit in the late October cold.

These days we no longer have to walk from Independence, but the ascent still remains a challenge and a good alternative to the crowded “Trail route”.

We make a predawn start and plan on rounding the corner above camp to catch sunrise on the east face and continue on to Iceberg Lake where the rough trail ends.

After a break here and stashing ski poles and any extra gear we head across slabs to the main gully. There is some easy un-roped scrambling in this area before we arrive at the base of the final 1000 feet to the notch.

The condition of this section depends very much upon the time of the year. In early season it will be snow-filled and may require the use of crampons, ice axes and rope. In late season the snow has melted out and we are climbing loose talus and sand. This section is strenuous and the fact that you are nearing 14,000 feet becomes apparent to the lungs.

Finally we arrive at the notch 300 feet below the summit plateau. The final section involves the use of the rope, not because the terrain is very difficult, but more because the consequence of a slip. Although intimidating from below the angle eases and we find that if you can get to the bottom of the final section you can most certainly get to the top. Once above this step we drop the rope and helmets and wander over the near flat plateau to the summit of the lower 48 states.

To return we retrace our steps, again being roped up for the section below the summit and in the gully if there is snow, and arrive back to camp in the afternoon. If there is time we can head down to the Portal Store for an evening burger and fries or we can spend the night in the mountains.

Program Prerequisites:

High level of physical condition and prior backpacking. Rock climbing experience not necessary. Ability to carry a heavy pack on uneven terrain.

Program Inclusions:

Price includes guiding, permits, group climbing gear, tents, kitchen gear, 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.

Details, Itinerary, and Equipment List:

Details, itinerary, and equipment list


Mount Whitney Mountaineers Route Map