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Nice trail. Hiked up with my wife and two kids, little guys is youngest at 6 years old, both kids did great. We added some mileage taking the Emerald Lake trail then going up and around to Skelton lake then back down past Arrowhead Lake -- 3 lakes in one!! I would highly recommend going this route to Skelton Lake. We just went and camped at Coldwater Campground June 2018 and it was gorgeous! Plenty of shade on the trail. Super fun and easy hike for beginners like us

Words can't describe the overwhelming wow factor of reaching the top of Kearsarge Pass and seeing the view that lays beyond. I was so focused on getting up there and stopping to enjoy the wonderful scenery along the way that I didn't think beyond the goal. What awaits is glistening lakes and even more majestic peaks stretching in all directions. Lordy, this region is vast! But backing up... I am a 55+ female in pretty good shape, one knee that annoys and a back that can suffer if I push it. I am experienced with long hikes but rarely do any at elevations above 5000 feet. The drive up to the trailhead was long for my 4 cyclinder Forester but we plodded along using the manual gears. We started the trail at about noon. The parking lot was maybe 60% full. Most of the other hikers were backpackers, many were doing the PCT and came to the trailhead with hopes to find a ride into town to get some supplies (and good luck for that, Independence doesn't have too much in the manner of retail establishments). Anyhow, I had one treking pole and an 8 pound dog and a day pack. The trail was always clear and easy to follow. There were wildflowers along the way and even a wily marmot. I loved seeing all the people (mostly young, but not all!) who told me they were on extended hikes (goes from Mexico to Canada!). Lots of foreigners as well. The trail was challenging for the oxygen supply;) I had planned to reach the top at 3 hours in or so but it took me four. I stopped alot to take pictures and at one point to make a sling from my windbreaker for my little dog to give him a rest. We gladly stepped aside for the backpackers. Hiking alone allowed me to keep a pace that felt comfortable- I am no fan of 'arduous'. The last stretch, however, took a deep sigh of resolve- I had vowed to turn back after 4 hours no matter where I was and I was closing in on that. Huffing a bit, I got to the peak at 3:58 p.m. There were about four people up there and they took my picture for me. I took their picture too, they looked like a Patagonia ad! I literally felt overwhelmed by the beauty of the view on the other side of the pass. For certain the hike up revealed beautiful trees, the bluest sky, colorful rocks, wildflowers, a roaring creek and waterfall, and a couple small lakes with water like a fantasy. I was happy with that, so here was this extra visual reward for having made it. I watched the backbackers head on down towards it all. Dogs aren't allowed at this point so if I were to make this a two day overnight, the dog would have to stay home. Anyhow, I started my descent at about 4:15 and it took me three hours- downhill! Blame the knee for that. It convinced me that two poles is the way to go in the future. If I didn't have the dog I might have jogged a bit on the parts without rocks. Once at the parking lot I gave two backpackers (both well over the age of 60 and on a month long trip) a ride into town. I was wiped out. I camped at Independence Creek campground and slept well.

The Switchbacks are now open!

We started the day bright and early at 2am to not only escape the sun as much as possible, but also to hit the mountain before the snow had become too slushy.

We had come into the day prepared for anything, knowing the uncertainty of the switchbacks and conditions of the chute (which had been reported to be somewhat dangerous coming down). Lucky for us, the switchbacks were in great condition and our group of 10 summited and descended via the switchbacks!

There were several patches of ice that still remained heading up the switchbacks, maybe 4 at most, but ALL could be easily navigated with micro spikes and Trekking Poles. To my memory, these were at the cables, and also heading up to trailcrest. I will say that if you summit later in the day, these patches will become quite slushy and could potentially lead to some nervous crossings, but we had 5-6 newbies to any sort of climbing like this and they all successfully crossed without any issue.

That being said, it looked like the chute was slushy enough that people had to propel themselves down the mountain opposed to the usual report of it being too icy and people sliding out of control.. I would just caution that as the rocks become exposed, you run the risk of sliding into something that may not have been exposed that morning. Still, I didn’t see or hear of any issues coming off the mountain today.

Be safe, have fun, and pick up your wag bag please!

Great trail, and an unforgettable experience. My review is my own opinion but I wanted to share my experience and observations.

Myself and my wife did this hike 3/17-3/19 and boy was this hard. We took three days. Day one we started at 5am and hiked from the trailhead to trail camp and it took us about 11 hours. We took our time and took in the sights. We also live at 4,700 feet in SLC, UT so even tho we aren’t at sea level the elevation was something we knew was going to effect us.

Please be aware we saw lot of day hikers turn back before the summit and even some overnighters at trail camp changed their minds and went back. Also, If you aren’t a high level hiker with a lot of elevation experience and you decide to day hike this trail this will be a very hard hike to complete. Most day hikers we spoke to started between midnight and 4 am and they were starting the 99 switchbacks around 4-7 am. They were moving fast. Anyone that arrived later than that struggled. We only meant to do the hike in 2 days and added an extra night because there was no way we were going to make it back down on the second day.

Day 2 took us about 12-13 hours and we started at 7:30 am. Now we were definitely one of the weaker hikers on the trail but we made it. We took more than 3 liters of water each and ran out just after the summit and came down fairly dehydrated. The 99 switchbacks were fairly simple/straightforward and I wouldn’t do them without at least having micro spikes. However I believe that an ice axe is complete overkill and hardly needed. Unless you’re trying to look like a badass on the trail. There’s only one spot that that’s a little scary. It’s pretty crazy and lasts about 10 feet. Just walk slowly and don’t be stupid. Don’t buy an ice axe just for this hike. I saw some people do the hike even without micro spikes. Crazy, but they did it. The backside of the mountain was long, took us forever because the elevation killed us. Also, bring sunscreen or a really good hat. We made it back off the mountain switchbacks to camp just before dark and there were still plenty of day hikers coming back down. They still had about 8 miles in the complete dark to get back down. We also saw someone in a emergency blanket camp out overnight.

Day 3 was easy, we made it down in 4 hours and had a meal at the trail cafe which is just after the trailhead. I would also highly recommend that you don’t bring younger kids on the trail. This is pretty hard and we saw a couple groups turn back that had an 11 and 14 year old with them.

Day hiked and summited 6/15/18. The trail up to trail camp is straight forward. i used the chute going up and the switchbacks coming down. Hopefully the snow conditions are getting better by the day.

We did this hike on 6/14/18. We lucked out and got a walk in overnight permit. We stayed one night at Lone Pine Lake and one night at Trail Camp in order to acclimate. We left our tents from Trail Camp at 330am and got to the top of the chute using Crampons and an ice axe at 9am (we took a lot of breaks....). We hiked the longest 2 miles of my life from Trail Crest to the summit and summited at 12pm. We were terrified of glissading down as we had never done so before and of the 8 people we were with by the time we reached the chute, no one had ever done it before. So after 5 minutes of writing our wills and exchanging goodbyes we started down. It was so much fun and very intuitive. Watch a YouTube video or two, know how to hold the ice axe, know how to properly self arrest and be smart about speed on the way down and you should be good to go. A very physically challenging hike but so very worth it. I would recommend spending as many nights out there as possible to help break it up. We wished we had had another night to stay instead of doing 16 miles the last day. Also the water crossings and glissading will soak your shoes. Would recommend gaiters and water proof boots or shoes to cross creeks in.

Absolutely beautiful! There were a lot of day hikers but only saw a few that were staying overnight. Definitely one to add to the list.

camping
5 days ago

A super scenic hike and there wasn’t too much snow left on the trail. It’s easily passable but bring dry socks if you’re camping out!

We did Mt. Whitney on 6/15. Instead of taking chute, we took infamous 96 switchbacks. Crampons and ice axe helped us to navigate few challenging spots. But I saw few folks did the complete hike with micro spikes as well. It was tough but memorable hike. Best wishes.

totally worth the hike. My dog and I hiked to second lake, it was breath taking. also make sure you drink plenty of water with high altitude. if you have a dog the ground gets very hot so make sure to check their paws.

Summited at 1:30 after a chute climb. We hit the summit in a fair time, but our descent was challenging.

As of yesterday, the "chute" was very technical and moderately dangerous. The chute section pretty much requires you to use an ice axe and crampons or spikes to climb up the snow that covers the chute to the right of the switchbacks. There is exposed rocks, mixed ice, snow, and slush with more water run off in the day light. Try to get to the chute as early as you can for better conditions.

Yesterday alone I witnessed at least 4 falls, with one person having multiple hand lacerations and body contusions after sliding down from the top snow into rocks below. Many hikers bailed and justly so. It's pretty nerve tracking if you haven't done something like this before. You can practice ice axe techniques on the safe snow patch below the switchbacks to the left of the chute.

I was hiking with 2 others, and one didn't have an ice axe and the other was a novice. I am more more experienced and gave my axe to my friend and scrambled up the chute with a trek pole.

We finally got over the chute and headed to the summit. Our weather was great, but we would have been in a lot of trouble if there was wind or thunderstorms coming in.

Aside from ascending, the descent is also fairly dangerous to green ice axe and crampon users. You'll have to glissade down on the right side of the snow (you'll see tracks in the snow) after scrambling down the top of the snow pack directly above a rock field.

Great hike, and even better with friends.

Update from previous review on May 8, 2018:
2nd attempt. Trail completed on Monday, June 11, 2018, start time 0915 hours, Onion valley campground temperature @ 76°, starting elevation @ approximately 9200 ft. Highest altitude reached per established sign stated 11760 ft, AllTrails (AT) indicated 11878 ft., difference of 118 feet? For story telling purposes I like the sound of AllTrails. End time was at 1700 hours, with an ending temperature at 77°, total miles 11.9.
The scoop in between start and end is very much an individual experience, but this was mine....
This date, the trail was loaded with backpackers both coming in and going out, very few day hikers; it was a constant stop and move out of the way experience from start to finish. At one point I was kind of dreading it- the smell of hard work (sweat) is not the most welcoming and Ew. Little did I realize that fast forwarding a few hours that would be me, I only say that because there was no one else around to blame. The first mile is awesome, lots of elevation gain that the very well maintained switchbacks disguise. The scenery is dramatic! Mile #2, you climb up to approximately 10367 ft., on rocks, this little stretch was not fun, I was not comfortable using my trekking poles and should have put them away. There is a lake you have to stop and check out, very picturesque. Towards the end of mile #2, my heart was ferociously beating and my quads were on fire (again individual experience). Mile #3 is Barron, hot, and dry. It was a gradual but loooong hike up. You see your destination the entire way, and it never felt like I was getting closer! The sound of crashing, falling boulders with a sprinkle of a mini avalanche is -stop you in your tracks frozen scared, kind of terror! I have never witnessed or heard such a terrifying sound before. At around 3.9 miles you come across a beautiful lake, this time around it had a thin layer of frozen ice over it, unbelievably spectacular! According to AT, you are situated at approximately 11466 ft at this point. Mile #4 is long, bare terrain, mentally I felt like I was falling apart. At 4.5 miles you reach the Kearsarge Pass, you can easily identify it by all the hikers resting on this tiny bit of rock space. As a matter of fact, I felt like a walrus trying to move around and among an overcrowded small rock full of other walrus with their trekking poles also. From the pass to the lake valley Mile #6 marker, you have to understand what you hike up or down, you will have to do it again. I was not mentally prepared for this, and only for the playful and God forsaken commentaries of a friend, I knew I had to finish it! And that's where my story ends, the rest was an emotional and physical experience that killed me out there.
I left the valley floor at approximately 1345 hours, with plenty of daylight to burn. For the first time hiker, you got this. For the less conditioned hiker, slow and steady- just keep climbing.
***not sure if jumping in those lakes is permissible, but my fingertips convinced me not to baptize my own self. The lakes are far too inviting!***

10 days ago

Very scenic hike with dramatic alpine scenery. Went yesterday up to the Duck lake pass - the upper part of the hike is sometimes under snow so had to hike around on talus. We were wearing our street shoes and managed to walk around most of the snow. No mosquitoes yet!

Most amazing views. Definitely worth going!

DO NOT do the chute without an ice axe and crampons or microspikes!!! Yesterday someone used trekking poles, got seriously injured, and took out two other hikers in the process! Just because people said they made it with trekking poles doesn’t mean you should do it too!

But the hike is beautiful and challenging! We camped at Whitney portal 6/8/18, hiked to trail camp the following day, then summited and came pack home on Sunday! We started the chute around 3 in the morning which is perfect because all the snow is iced over! I wouldn’t attempt doing it when the sun is out because the snow turns to slush!
Make sure you glissade down! It’s super fun and easy! Since the ice will be slush by the time you head down you won’t go too fast! DON’T try and climb the rocks down because you risk rocks coming loose and hitting someone at the bottom!
If you don’t know how to glissade, ask the guy that works at elevation! There is a right and wrong way to do it! But once you learn it’s super fun!

While we were climbing up the chute, my toes were freezing so maybe where an extra pair of socks or throw toe warmers in your shoes.
Once we got to the top, my hands were freezing because all the sweat in my gloves got cold! So I would look into getting a wool liner for your gloves or some kind of glove that wouldn’t freeze when you sweat!
If you don’t want wet feet, I would invest in some nice gaiters! I got the outdoor research verglas gaiters and they were perfect! Snow never got in my boots and they helped keep my lower legs warm!
MAKE SURE to wear sunglasses that are polarized!! I just wore cheap $10 ones from some random store and my eyeballs got sunburnt!

Marmots did get in our tent and go through our stuff, but didn’t ruin anything because we left our tent partially open and our packs unzipped!

Hopefully this info helps! Good luck on your hike!

hiking
11 days ago

Hiked all the way up to Seventh Lake. After the Third Lake, it was pretty un-crowded. Trail is snow-free but a bit muddy crossing the meadows on way to the Sixth and Seventh Lakes.

June 3rd hike. Like most, had to turn back at Chicken Foot the snow was too much for us. I'll be back soon though. This hike is a must do!

backpacking
14 days ago

Nice hike! We did it in the spring time and all the lakes were still frozen but very scenic.

Great hike up to Flower Lake, patches of snow on the hills, but trails and campsites are clear. A bit cold at night, no bugs. Saturday night there were a handful of campers but Sunday night had the place to myself. Take a left when you hit the lake and find more secluded campsites on the hill. The lake is clear and green, you can watch the trout swim past your line. I day hiked up to Kearsarge Pass. Fill up on water before you go, it's not as plentiful as you climb. It's also very exposed, a challenging but doable climb. From the top you can dip into the valley below and camp at the Kearsarge Lakes or push on to Charlotte Lake or up to Rae Lakes, both are supposed to be gorgeous.

Amazing hike. You need crampons and an ice axe for the Chute and don’t even think about the switchbacks for another week or two. I would recommend hitting the chute right as the sun comes up and bringing sunglasses for this section. This was my favorite part of the climb.

There are about 5 50-100 foot sections on the crest trail with a rock wall on your right 6 inches of ice to walk on and a 50 foot cliff on man your left. I would recommend not slipping here as it would be quite painful.

We left the trail head at 130 am at got back to the car at 530 pm. There is enough water on the trail where you can bring a single bottle and filter at every stream.

Received a pass to complete in a day. I’m very fit however did not take a day to acclimate, which forced me to come down from 13,000’ due to altitude sickness Overall, the hike is very fun and challenging. I’d highly recommend micro spikes and an ice axe (for on the way down).

Did it in a day (6/2/18) - left right at midnight from the portal - summited at 8:22am - got back to the car by 2:32pm. Used crampons only on the chute. Perfect conditions - no clouds, no wind, warm. Great views. Crowded.

There's a little bit of everything in a spring ascent here. Camped at trail camp and made the summit on 5/30. The chute was by far the most strenuous part of the hike, but also the most rewarding. Trail crest is among the better views, and on the way back after the sun had softened the snow, 1000+ ft of glissade is about as fun as it gets. The summit is awesome, and worth every step. So glad I made it out here. I've posted photos and more details on my adventure on my blog.
https://www.thejugglersworkshop.com/life/2018/6/3/mt-whitney

Great hike. When you start there is a fork. Go LEFT for Morgan Pass for this hike. Just before you get to Long Lake, there is a river crossing. It has stepping stones, but on 3rd June, you had to put your feet under water to cross it. Luckily we were wearing waterproof boots thanks to a recommendation from a guy who hiked on Memorial Day Weekend. Then once at Long Lake, there were snow patches on the path that you had to trudge through. We didn't quite make it to Gem Lake, because the snow was up to our knees. Up to the fork for Chicken Foot Lake was ok.

hiking
18 days ago

Camped at Big Pine Creek campground and hiked to the second lake on June 1st. The entire hike is absolutely beautiful and the view of the second lake with Temple Crag on the back is just breathtaking. Words can't describe how beautiful this place is. We are definitely coming back for an overnight camp by the lake.

Such a great hike. It tested my limits. Altitude got me pretty hard but I summited. Met some great people along the way as well. This hike inspires me to try for all the 14rs in California.

Great 1/2 day hike.

a lovely hike with so many beautiful lakes, still snowy up towards Morgan pass, but glad we came. hiked on June 2, 2018.

Not enough can be said about the beauty of this mountain. I chose to do the ascent and descent in a day which was wild but worth it. My only tip if you do it is to leave the portal by 1 am. The switchbacks are all frozen over so ensure that you get to them before the snow starts to slush over.

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