Whitney in May!! Summited May 23rd. I was 1 of 5 people to summit this day.
This was my first time doing Whitney. During my prep research I had a hard time finding info about early season conditions, so I thought I’d share a bit of what I learned.
Crampons and an ice axe are a must. We used them once before reaching trail camp, but you’re probably fine to only use them from Trail camp and beyond. This is where we camped and left for day two around 5:30. If I’d do it again, I’d leave even earlier, it’s light enough around 4:45 to set out without a headlamp. Biggest tip is reaching the summit by 11am! Both days I was on the mountain the clouds quickly rolled in after that. First off, it will obstruct your few on top of the lower 48, but also there’s risk of lightening, low visibility etc.
The notorious switchbacks your read about in every Whitney prep guide... they don’t exist this time of year. You take the snow/ice covered chute off to the right, which you go at with your crampons and ice axe. I recommend staying near the rock clusters, because avalanche risk is real this time of year (another reason you must hit the chute early).
After the chute you go around the backside of Mt. Muir and you traverse over/up to Whitney. The elevation gain isn’t much from this point and apparently it’s only 2 miles to the summit...but it’s a grueling “2 miles.” If there’s an area this time of year a life threatening accident would happen, this 2 mike stretch is it! It’s narrow and snow covered. What was sketch for us and turned 9/10 people back, is that the trail is completely snow covered so you’re trekking through thick snow, which is exhausting, but worse than that is that you don’t have a good place to stick your ice axe if you were to slip. With that said, if you’re thinking about your steps and not rushing it, anyone can do this.
Overall, great first Whitney experience. This is probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. Beside the cold and unpredictable weather, Whitney in May is where it’s at!! Felt like I had the mountain completely to myself during my summit push.