May 23, 2011


I'm so excited—Whitney has eluded me since 2006, when I passed on skiing the Mountaineer's Route, figuring I'd get to it next season. Every year since then, I've waited for the north chute (above the notch) to fill in...and waited, and waited, and waited...

This year too, despite the record snowfall, many of the big north faces in the Eastern Sierra failed to fill in, including Whitney's north chute—alas. As I was resigning myself to yet another year of waiting, I suddenly wondered if maybe, just maybe, something else on Whitney's north face might be skiable. So, back to Whitney Portal I went. Starting from Iceberg Lake, Trevor and I went up Iceberg col, then began traversing around the base of the north face, toward Arctic and Guitar Lakes. When we found what looked like a skiable line through roughly the middle of the north face, up we went.

I think of all my Sierra adventures this one becomes an instant favorite. We did the whole route in one huge day, under changing light and alternately clear and snowy skies, and I don't think the interior Sierra has ever looked so good. The north face proved steeper than I was expecting, and fairly complex, with an interesting choke section that passed through cliffs and slabs. Snow quality was quite tasty, not at all the scary ice I was expecting, and I skied right from the Smithsonian shelter atop the summit, thanks to a skinny ribbon of snow that wound its way across the summit plateau. Outstanding!

  1. Jeff S says:

    Andy, you’re having an epic season! I’m so jealous!

  2. tim says:

    Wow. That’s a super cool line. Well struck!

  3. Dan Conger says:

    I’m jealous, too. You’re a rock-star!

  4. Michael B says:

    stellar…absolutely stellar! Job well done.

  5. Michael says:

    Wow thats awesome Andy! It looked like quite a dramatic day for light and weather too. I have been meaning to tell you also that the new pano format photos on the site look great.

  6. Scott says:

    Nice. Very nice. That is some bitchin’ ski mountaineering right there.

  7. Marc says:

    Andy, can you give any pointers as to how you found this chute? Is it further south of the Mountaineer’s Route after the notch? I’ll be there this weekend and it looks like an awesome line….

  8. Andy says:


    We skied pretty much in the center of Whitney’s north face–there was a narrow bit of snow that led through the cliffs/slabs. Do not attempt to ski the face from above (ie, via the MR). Begin at Iceberg Col (not the notch), traverse below the north face toward Guitar Lake, and look for a line that is climbable/skiable.

    It was steeper than I expected and exposed. If it’s at all icy, save it for another day.

  9. Marc says:

    Yeah, I’m a little concerned about icy conditions because the winds around supposed to be howling today and tomorrow, but calmer Sunday and Monday. I’ll just have to call it when I get there. If not this weekend, I definitely know where I’m heading next year… Thanks for the beta!

  10. Kuangkai says:

    What kind of ski boots/crampons/skis did you use? I wanna go!!

  11. Andy says:

    K, a complete gear list is here

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When there is snow, SierraDescents is Andy Lewicky's California backcountry skiing and mountaineering website. Without snow, sierradescents becomes an ill-tempered hiking and climbing blog.

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