Type: Backcountry or Sidecountry
Whitney Portal Road has a hard closure until end of April.
Need to Know
Crampons and ice axe required.
Currently the road closure at around 6500ft brings a 3 mile pavement hike to the actual trailhead and results in more than 7800ft total elevation difference.
From the trailhead, follow the Whitney Trail for about 0.7mi. At the second creek crossing (around 8700ft), leave the main trail, and hike up Lone Pine Creek North Fork. The first part leads through dense, steep forest, but the valley opens up at about 9000ft where often skinning can begin or a well trodden snowshoe path can be followed. In late season or with low snow, follow the trail over two creek crossings and the Ebersbacher Ledges (class 3) over the rock slabs on the right side of the valley to avoid the dense vegetation until it is possible to traverse back into the valley.
Continue up the valley to Lower Boy Scout Lake (10,350ft). There are good camp sites on the southeast side of the lake. Note that there are no good camp spots between the trailhead and Lower Boy Scout Lake, and that the last access to running water in winter and spring is typically at the side stream entering the valley at about 10,100ft before reaching the lake.
Continue up the broad and gentle valley towards Upper Boy Scout Lake (11,338ft, good camp sites) and ascend the steep slope south (left) just before reaching the lake to gain the gain the high valley heading west with dramatic views of Keeler Needles and Whitney's east face. There are convenient camps at around 12,000 ft during winter months. Follow this valley until it is possible to climb the short steep section up to Iceberg Lake (12,621ft) at the base of the Mountaineers Couloir. There are good but wind-exposed campsites here.
Follow the obvious couloir to the notch at 14,150ft on the north side of the peak. Most skiers will make a ski-depot at the notch at 14,150ft. The last section on the north side to the summit plateau is extreme, steep, often icy, and only the brave will ski it under best conditions. A fall would be hard to arrest and long. This short section is objectively the most dangerous part. Traversing farther west to reach the summit plateau is possible and easier, but can still be icy and serious. Finally hike over the flat summit plateau to the summit and hut at 14,505ft.
Shared By: Oliver Kaltenbrunner