East Buttress of Mt Whitney

East Buttress of Mt Whitney


Julie Jung and I set out on June 14th, 2022 to climb the East Buttress of Mt. Whitney (Grade III, 5.7, 1,000 ft). We planned to do the approach in the morning, the climb the same day, stay the night at Iceberg Lake, and climb Mithril Dihedral (Grade III, 5.10a, 500 ft) on Mt. Russell the next morning before descending the East Ridge of Mt. Russell back to the car.

Stats and the Trip

The temperatures down in Lone Pine were near 100 F that day, with the Whitney Portal area (the trailhead) significantly cooler. The forecast for ~12,500 ft (near the base of our climb) was sunny and close to 60 F.

We started our hike at 6:38 AM and it was nice and chilly at the trailhead. It heated up quickly as we gained our first few hundred feet into the sun.

It's 100 degrees hotter here than the trailhead just below
First peek at Whitney and the Needles

Overall, our approach took 3 hours and 44 minutes. We got to Iceberg Lake just before 10:30 AM.

  • 3.89 miles on the approach and 4,150 feet of elevation gain in 3 hours and 44 minutes
  • Started the approach from Iceberg Lake around 11:30 AM, roped up around 12:30, and summited around 6 PM. We got back to camp at around 7:45 PM.
North Fork of Lone Pine Creek - John Sigmon’s 3.8 mi hike
John S. completed 3.8 mi on Jun 14, 2022.

We ultimately hiked back down the next day, taking just under two and a half hours.

North Fork of Lone Pine Creek descent - John Sigmon’s 3.9 mi hike
John S. completed 3.9 mi on Jun 15, 2022.

We did our best to go light on this one, opting for a tarp and open bivy at Iceberg Lake after our climb.

The tarp in action

The approach went quick and we were basking in the sunlight at Iceberg by mid morning.

At Lower Boy Scout Lake. One of many photos of me pointing at something
Lower Boy Scout Lake in the background
Far above the Owens River Valley, approaching Upper Boy Scout Lake
Almost to Upper Boy Scout Lake
Julie showing off her burrito while we pause at Upper Boy Scout Lake
Showing my excitement to be almost there, as Whitney looms larger in the background
Me pointing at more stuff, probably at Lone Pine Peak (back right)
Scrambling up to Iceberg Lake. Whitney is in the center background.

After filtering some water and setting up camp, we decided to give it a go.

Picking a spot to drop our junk

I've camped in this one three times now it's a favorite
"the water is cold"

We decided to head up the climb in our sun shirts and windbreakers, around 12:30. It took a little longer than suspected to make it to the base of the first pitch, probably about 45 minutes or so.

Scrambling up
Almost to the base!

The first bit was fun, until a fatefully very incorrect topo led us astray on the second pitch, followed by a fun (i.e. loose and scary) traverse to get back on track. We ended up somewhere around the fourth pitch or so (not terribly far below the PeeWee landmark) when the sun dipped behind the summit and we became very cold. At this point we started trying to gun it to the top as fast as we could.

At the top of the "5.7 no pro piton" pitch
The "red corner" pitch in the upper left

The massive "Peewee" formation

After the Peewee, we mostly found a lot of loose 4th class climbing with a few 5th class moves sprinkled in, getting off route again. Long pitches were difficult with the rope drag and the wandering route.

Some 4th class on the last few hundred feet to the summit.

We surprised the crap out of some hikers on the summit when we topped out around 6 PM. We were cold and hungry so begged for snacks, got some cashews that had been stored in a dude's pocket, and took off for our camp and dinner.

Julie enjoying some pocket cashews
Jogging over to the downclimb notch on the north end of the summit plateau

The descent is a loose downclimb to the north, then an abrupt turn to the east and is called "The Mountaineer's Route".

Looking down the descent to the north. DO NOT continue straight down to the lake.
The remainder of the descent to the east back to Iceberg Lake
Almost back to camp!
Enjoying the sunset while I wait an egregiously long time for my dinner to rehydrate

After making it back to camp we were pooped and talked about how cold the route got. We really wanted to climb Mithril, but the route would be even colder first thing in the morning, and the only additional clothing we had would be our puffys. We didn't think it would be enough. We brought enough food to get to the trailhead hungry mid-late afternoon, and discussed waiting until the route got into the sun, which should be around 10:30 or 11, but thought that was cutting it a little close with how much food we brought.

We were bummed but decided it would be better to come back for it. The next day we had burgers at Whitney Portal and margaritas at Jake's Saloon in town as a consolation prize.