Peak(s):  Whitney Peak  -  13,276 feet
Date Posted:  06/07/2012
Modified:  06/14/2012
Date Climbed:   06/02/2012
Author:  madbuck
 Colorados Whitney from Whitney Lake   

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Hadn't seen a TR from the Whitney Lake side...

The trail to the lake is a steady but highly-runnable grade, from just over 9000' to just under 11000' in 2.5 miles. So in half an hour, we were standing at the lake, with our first views of Whitney Peak.

Whitney Lake

We were happy to find a pleasantly aesthetic peak worthy of our time.
As for routes, two obvious possibilities stood out: the constant grade of the southeast ridge, which looked promising but had some unknown terrain hidden behind the trees (left of picture); or a run along the northeast ridge (right of picture) which had a few open scree slopes that seemed manageable.

In either case, a fair amount of bushwhacking was required to start, so we headed counterclockwise around the lake. Ultimately, our route could best be described as fumbling around blindly until treeline, where we lucked out onto wide-open tundra slopes of the southeast ridge, where the rest of the climb was an obvious Class 2+ and the weather was still great.
SE shoulder tundra

Everything's coming up Milhouse!

After a bit of tundra walkup, we had some alternating snowfields, stable talus and boulder climbing, and even some solid slabs, we topped out near a rocky pile on the otherwise expansive flat of the summit plateau.

Higher points were evident in the distance, so we traced along the talus of the ridge, including a prominent notch on the summit that lead directly down into an artful couloir.

Farther along were the real summit(s), then: first, a large, smooth boulder just tall enough to be a 5.6 climb and which was a candidate for the summit. This boulder shall not be discussed further. More to the west, a seemingly equivalently tall summit pile directed our attention. It is here that both a USGS marker and summit register are placed.
Summit plateau

3rd and 4th summits of the year.
We enjoyed superb views to the North of Halo Ridge that leads to Mount of the Holy Cross: some other day.
Holy Cross Ridge

Although the weather was better than forecasted for the morning, rain was evident to the south with clouds building around us. Nick saw a flash of lightning in the distance. Time to head down.

We debated our options, and decided it was easy enough to head down into the drainage above Whitney Lake. We should then be able to take a direct line to the lake; quick and easy.
Eastern Face from drainage

Above treeline, we had some fun scrambling, running, and shoe skiing.
At treeline, then, we began the bushwhack anew. It began with some fun, runnable sections on game trails, but then, Holy Cross Wilderness spun it's well-deserved reputation as being the Bermuda Triangle of Colorado, with the lake eluding us despite our extensive, fumbling search for it.

At least we were in the trees when the lightning, thunder, and sleet approached.

Alternately splitting up and coming back together, mucking through marshes, and relying on our speed, endurance, and stubbornness rather than map-reading and planning, we arrived back at the lake, satisfied that we covered every square-inch of non-lake prior, with an additional half-mile in the log to boot.

Finally, a fun cruise back down the trail. Some wildflowers were knee-high and will be three times as tall next month, while groves of aspen will be on fire in September -- this is a spectacular place for the summer and fall. A lesser-visited summit, but definitely recommended.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6

Comments or Questions
The true summit....?
06/07/2012 20:25
There's always been a controversy about the true summit of Whitney Peak. FWIW, it's been water-leveled by others (and my GPS) and it appears that the harder boulder is the true summit. But it's a very close call as you know. Anyway, great report and pics!

..and runner's summit!
06/08/2012 01:03
Thanks for the bit of info, Tom -- the OCD part of me wishes we took turns hoisting each other up, but I'm content with the register and USGS marker. Mostly!

Yes, congrats!
06/08/2012 15:35
Absolutely, no intent to diminish your accomplishment! Just fyi I came up from the Holy Cross 4WD road, gotta say I really love that area. Great report!

07/29/2013 18:29
I've gotta hit this area sometime. Looks like a great one.

I probably wouldn't be able to keep up with you guys, but if you're interested in teaming up for some good distance ones in the Ft Collins area like Stones/Sprague, Elks Tooth/Ogalalla, Sawtooth/Algonquin/Red Deer, let me know. Thanks!

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