Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Mt. Whitney's East Face: wilderness on a popular mountain

The East side of Mount Whitney at sunrise. The Mountaineer's Route is the
gully on the right. The East Face and East Buttress are on the granite face at
center. Photo by Tauru Chaw

AAI guide Jason Martin is the second in the past month to report very low to zero traffic on Mt. Whitney's East Face. Jason just finished guiding an ascent of this route with climber Angelique
Augereau (Albany, CA), and said every aspect of the climb went smoothly, from the approach to the exactly six hours it took them to summit from Iceberg Lake. "Angelique is a strong climber," Jason said, "and she had fun climbing the classic pitches like the Fresh Air Traverse and the Grand Staircase." (Read Jason's full dispatch here.)

In a late-July ascent of the East Face, guide Paul Ivaska and climber Bill Kish were the only party on the route the entire day. Not bad for such a popular mountain!

This is not to say Mt. Whitney itself experiences low climbing traffic. Far from it. Though the number of climbing permits issued per day for Mt. Whitney is regulated by the Inyo National Forest, it is certainly rare to see not a soul while climbing. The Inyo caps climbs of Whitney as follows:
  • -100 day permits per day to climb Whitney via the Whitney trail
  • -60 overnight permits per day to climb Whitney via the Whitney trail
  • -25 permits for hikers and climbers who approached Whitney via another trail and plan on exiting via the main Whitney Trail.
  • -Just 10 public and 8 commercial (guided) permits per day to approach and climb Whitney's eastern routes via the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek
  • -Total: 203 climbers per day!
Since only 18 permits are issued per day for the eastern side of Mt. Whitney, and since the East Face is one of the harder of the three main routes on this side, it's no wonder that you can expect little to no traffic while climbing this route.

Learn more about climbing Mt. Whitney with AAI.

AAI offers guided climbs of Mt. Whitney via the Mountaineers Route (3rd and 4th class scrambling), the East Face (up to 5.8), and the East Buttress (up to 5.8) throughout the summer, and offers winter ascents of the Mountaineers Route in the winter. To speak with an AAI program coordinator about climbing Mt. Whitney, please call Coley Gentzel at 800-424-2249 or email him at

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