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Client/Guide Ratio: 2:1

USFS Whitney Zone fee, guides climbing and safety gear, tents, cooking gear and 1 dinner, climbing helmet (reservation required).

Does not include:
Personal items on gear list, 2 trail lunches and one breakfast.

Operating on a non-discriminating basis under Special Use Permit, Inyo National Forest.

Mt. Whitney

Mt. Whitney East Face III 5.6     2-3 Days

This is truly a historic and classic route. This was the preferred route chosen by Steve Roper and Allen Steck to be included in their book, Fifty Classic Climbs in North America". It provides excellent climbing on great rock, following an interesting line of weakness in the mighty face. It is a testament to the route finding, skills and climbing ability of the first ascent party. It remains one of our absolute favorite climbs in the ASI program.

Cost: Custom Rates

Custom dates 

The Approach:
From Whitney Portal (8,268') we begin via the "old trail" directly to the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek. The recently relocated climbers path on the northside of the creek makes travel easier than it used to be. After a few creek crossings we find the "Matterhorn shaped" boulder that marks the access to the infamous Ebersbacher Ledges. This is the class 2-3 passage that allows reasonable access to bypass the alder-choked steep drainage of the North Fork. These ledges require attentive climbing with an overnight pack and impecable route finding to keep the ascent safe.

After a bit more ascent of the steep northside of the canyon, we arrive at Lower Boy Scout Lake with a feeling we have arrived in the true "high country" (about 3 hrs). From here we ascend a large talus slope, cross a creek above a waterfall and ascend to Upper Boy Scout Lake (4 hrs) we continue our ascent rounding a corner to the sudden close-up view of the East Face of the Whitney Massif. This memorable Patagonia like view is of world class grandure. Continuing on a path through scree and talus takes us either the Waterfall route or the sandy ascent option to our highcamp at Iceberg Lake (12,700' - 6 hrs).

This strenuous approach is challenging both from the elevation and the elevation gain as well. However, it is rewarded by one of the most spectacular climbers camps in the world. It makes the entire trip far more interesting than camping anywhere lower on the route.

The Climb:
Leaving camp near dawn, we quickly gain elevation by scrambling easy class 2 & 3 to the notch between First and Second Tower. The first pitch ascends a pleasant ramp up and left to a ledge and the Tower Traverse. This involves some steps down and left on friction holds for the feet with hands mostly for balance. The pitch is completed with a short flaring and slanting chimney to a comfortable belay ledge.

A few traverse moves up and left lead to The Washboard, a well named undulating feature that is quickly climbed in 3 pitches and is mostly class 3. The last belay is at the top beneath the formiddable towering corner of the upper Great Book. The next pitch has an awkward move or two at the start and ends at the top shoulder to the left of the steep wall above. Next, climb down the other side of the shoulder and traverse ledges deep into the corner.

Above is the infamous Fresh Air Traverse pitch. Climb up with the traverse out of view. Step left to find the ledge with the notch that must be bridged with a wide step with enormous exposure. After a few steps up, left then up again you'll find the belay at the base of a steep chimney. This broken chimney pitch ends at the base of the Giant Staircase or Grand Staircase as it was originally called.

Two pitches of zig zaging with a strenuous move leads to a belay beneath the Exit Crack. This pitch contains the technically hardest move on the climb. It involves reaching in the corner crack to find hidden holds then stemming the corner. From here, there are many options to the summit. The easiest is to first traverse up and right to join the top of the East Buttress and climb two more pitches. One climbs through a tunnel under a chockstone, the second up, left then up again to the summit. 13 pitches in all (about 4-6 hrs from Iceberg Lake).

The Descent:
From the summit, we descend the sloping plateau to the west. We choose one of two descent variations of the Mountaineer's Route depending on the amount of snow or ice in the upper chutes of the north face to the prominant notch that gives access to the east facing couloir. We descend this couloir back to Iceberg Lake (2 hrs). We mostly retrace our ascent route back to Whitney Portal with the exception of one varriation below Iceberg Lake (4 hrs from Iceberg Lake).

Cardiovascular conditioning: prepare with at least 3-4, 40 min+ aerobic workouts per week including hill running, biking, or hard-hill hiking with a pack and ski poles. Strength training for upper body including pullups and practice climbing. Pre-climb acclimatization recommended to include hiking and sleeping at 8,000' or higher 1 or 2 days before the climb.

  • Expereince climbing 5.6 or greater with a top-rope
  • Previous rappeling experience
  • Previous multi-pitch climbing recommended
  • Mountain hiking
  • Familiar with modern, light-weight overnight equipment
  • Very good physical condition prepared for over 6,000' of elevation gain and loss in 2 days (see physical condition description)

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