Mount Whitney Snow Coverage

Mount Whitney
Submission Info
Friday, January 22, 2021 - 12:00pm
Red Flags: 
Mount Whitney - Mountaineers Route 36° 34' 52.5" N, 118° 15' 55.2276" W
Snowpit Observations
More detailed information about the snowpack: 

On January 20th to 22nd we headed down to the Mount Whitney zone to do a winter ascent of the Mountaineers Route.  It was interesting to head south in the range to see the difference in overall snow coverage.  The verdict, its even thinner the further south you get.  For those of you lamenting thin coverage in the Mammoth area, you should feel good about what you've got.  The only skiable snow we found was in the Mountaineers Gully at around 13,000 feet for about 20 turns.  The other thing to note was the variability of snow depth from 0 cm to 45 or 50 cm on sheltered north facing terrain.  On south slopes the coverage was 0 cm from the valley floor to the summits of the 14ers.  It truly felt like October down there instead of late January.

To be clear we did not ski.  Snowpack analysis and avalanche hazard is not just for the backcountry skier or snowboarder.  You could argue that it is even more critical for alpine climbers to be aware of the snowpack since it would take a relatively very small avalanche to be consequential to a climber who may be in exposed terrain often.

When we traversed the pockets of wind drifted or sheltered snow, in gully features we found localized cracking around our boots from wind stiffened snow.  We did not find these to be consequential in size.  Finding one large enough to be consequential would be difficult right now without additional loading.  The low snowpack eased our foot travel even though it was a bit depressing to look at it as a backcountry skier.  For now I'll be focusing my touring in the northern part of the range.


Snowpack photos: 
Between Upper and Lower Boyscout Snow Coverage
Snow Coverage in the Mountaineers Gully Above Iceberg Lake
Traverse from the notch to the summit plateau
Snow coverage on the final 400
Isolated Cracking around our boots in the mountaineers gully, wind stiffened snow
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Observations don't necessarily have to be technical.  Photos and naratives about what you found out there are equally, if not more valuable!

Weather Observations
Blowing Snow: 
Cloud Cover: 
50% of the sky covered by clouds
Air temperature: 
Below Freezing
Wind Speed: 
Air temperature trend: 
Wind Direction: 
Accumulation rate: 
Less than 1 in. per hour
More detailed information about the weather: 

During our time in the mountains we witnessed a dramatic shift in the weather.  Springlike conditions gave way to gusty and stormy conditions by the time we left the portal.

On 1/20 and 1/21 we had clear skies to few clouds with calm conditions.  Daytime temperatures stayed well below freezing, especially in the shade.  Night time temperatures crept down to near 0 degrees F.

On the night of 1/21 though 1/22 the winds increased from calm to Strong winds from the NE.  Intermittent clouds and flurries of snow fell overnight and as we descended back to the valley.  It was clear we did not want to be moving up the mountain given the change in weather.

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