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Mt Whitney via the Mountaineer's Route

Extremely Difficult
  4.8 ( 10 ) Favorite


9.2 mile 14.9 kilometer out and back
Extremely Difficult


Ascent: 5,928' 1,807 m
Descent: -5,919' -1,804 m
High: 14,292' 4,356 m
Low: 8,365' 2,550 m


Avg Grade: 24% (14°)
Max Grade: 75% (37°)


No Dogs
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Trail shared by Daniel Birdwell

A more technical and far more adventurous approach to Mt Whitney.

Daniel Birdwell

Features Lake · River/Creek · Spring · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Open year round, but only through a very strict permitting system. This is probably the biggest challenge of the whole journey. Visit the Forest Service website for details.


This is a great class 3 route to the summit of Mt. Whitney. This route is usually done in about three days, though more time can be taken to acclimate to the elevation. This route skirts the crowds of the Mt. Whitney Trail in favor of a more technical, but more rewarding approach.

Though only about 5 miles (depending on your abilities at route finding), there is about 6000ft total of elevation gain; it's an understatement to say that this trail is steep. It definitely requires a high level of fitness to complete safely. But, the rewards are amazing. There are beautiful lakes, and amazing views of the surrounding peaks the entire way. The trail shares the Mt. Whitney Trail to start, but soon branches away from the crowds.

Need to Know

For more detailed information regarding the Mountaineer's Route specifically, be sure to hop over to Mountain Project.


At about 5 miles, and 6000ft of elevation gain, and some class three scrambling, this route is tough. It requires preparation and good mountain training to be done safely. It is usually done in three days of moving, round trip. Though it is challenging, it is very rewarding. Because it is far more technical than other routes, there are far fewer people on the trail. The lakes are beautiful, and the views are stunning, and you can feel proud you have completed a route that John Muir himself pioneered.

The trails begins by sharing the Mt. Whitney Trail, then cuts off to the north at the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek. This is where the steep terrain begins. The first technical challenge is the Eversbacher Ledges. I recommend helmets for falling rock, as well as time spent studying a guide book as to where you first climb on to the ledges. Camp at either Upper Boy Scout, or Iceberg Lake. The further you make it the first day the smaller your task on summit day.

From Upper Boy Scout Lake, you'll see the obvious chute. Stay on the left of this chute as long as you can to avoid falling rock and then ascend the upper portion of the chute. Once you top out at the shoulder, you'll either head up a class three section for the final 400 ft, or continue along the trail that wraps around the back side. This trail eventually meets with the John Muir Trail \(JMT\) Choose your route wisely based on your experience, as both methods will lead to the summit. You'll top out on the summit plateau, and you have made it! Enjoy the view, you earned it!

Reaching the top of this route is only the halfway mark, and you'll have to get back down. You can either retrace your steps, or descend via the John Muir Trail.

Flora & Fauna

Watch for marmots, they like to chew through packs in their hunt for snacks.

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May 25, 2019
Emerson Hofer
Hiked the Mtnrs Rte 5/24-5/26 with a summit on Saturday 5/25 9mi — 12h 00m
Mar 27, 2019
Ferdinand Santiago
Mar 1, 2019
Nate G
Aug 5, 2018
Red Beard
Day hike ascend MR, descend Main Trail 6.7mi
Jul 11, 2018
Charm Smith
Apr 28, 2018
Heather McCoy
Sep 14, 2017
Chris Connolly
2:30am start, solo. Time-consuming route finding. Turned back at 13.6k', won't risk crossing snow in steep gully w/out axe/crampons. 8mi
Apr 16, 2017
Christian Flores

Trail Ratings

  4.8 from 10 votes


  4.8 from 10 votes
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in California


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22,686 Since Apr 8, 2016
Extremely Difficult



Tired and happy to be on the summit of Mt. Whitney, a pair of hikers enjoys their accomplishment.
Feb 28, 2017 near Lone Pine, CA
Hiking up Mt. Whitney brings a hearty challenge but a beautiful reward.
May 5, 2017 near Lone Pine, CA
Approaching the Chute.
Apr 18, 2016 near Lone Pine, CA
In the Chute.
Apr 18, 2016 near Lone Pine, CA
Approaching Mount Whitney
Jul 19, 2018 near Lone Pine, CA
Gorgeous views abound while climbing Mt. Whitney's Mountaineer's Route.
May 5, 2017 near Lone Pine, CA


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