Prior to Anderson, Brett Maune had the overall fastest ascent (1h56m54s) and car-to-car (3h6m39s) times for Whitney on Oct. 5, 2012, via the Mountaineer's Route, as reported below (trip report and splits). Maune also reports some historical FKTs below. Prior to Maune, Jason Lackey had done the Mountianeer's Route car-to-car in about 3h08m in 2002.
I have had aspirations for breaking the Whitney record for a while and 1-2 years ago I did some internet research on the topic. My findings are below.
In 1991 Marty Hornick ascended via the Mountaineer’s Route in ~2:08:30. No information on roundtrip time.
In 2002 Jason Lakey also ascended the Mountaineer’s Route. He ascended in 2:09:30 with a roundtrip time of 3:10:07. There are references to other times in the following link as well.
Added by admin: Note that Greg Horvath reports below doing the ascent in 2h7m later in 2002.
In 2007 Dan Howitt did an ascent via the Whitney Portal trail in 2:02:54. This is the fastest ascent I have seen reported. The now broken link where I got this info is: www.bookrags.com/wiki/Mount_Whitney
This past Friday I did the ascent via the Mountaineer’s Route in 1:56:54 and had a roundtrip time of 3:06:39. A trip report follows.
I drove from LA to Lone Pine and got to the Mount Whitney turnoff along highway 395 around first light. Soon, imposing Mount Whitney came into view and I was disheartened. You can see the summit towering 10k feet above the valley. Seeing the distant summit left me feeling that my sub-2-hour ascension goal was absurd. To comfort myself I repeatedly muttered to myself “Trust the math.” The math said I could do it—or at least I could do comparable climbs at lower altitude. The altitude penalty was going to be significant though. My guess before starting was that I would do it in 2:00 +- a few minutes. I thought my chances were 50/50.
I arrived at the trailhead and quickly got ready. In some sense the clock was already ticking. From experience I know I have a several hour window before I start getting altitude sickness symptoms. I have found the best strategy is to do either zero acclimation (and get up and down fast) or a lot of acclimation. Anything in between is worse. I started running around dawn at 6:55 AM. I elected to start with my jacket tied around my waist. I was cold but figured running would soon fix that.
I left the Whitney trail at ~8:00 and got to the base of the Ebersbacher ledges at ~23:00. Here is where I had the first of several minor route finding issues. Going into the run I thought I knew the route well, but not well enough to have flawless navigation during a taxing FKT attempt. On the first ledge I traversed too far and then later had some unnecessary elevation gain and loss. Soon though I was climbing towards LBSL and arrived there in ~36:00, a minute or two slower than I had hoped.
Navigating above LBSL was one of the parts that worried me. I didn’t really know the optimal route and the best place to cross the stream. In the end I crossed the stream with only a little bushwhacking. At the time I thought I had botched the crossing but in hindsight I now think that I may have taken the best route. The subsequent slabs provided a convenient opportunity to eat my first gel.
I found the route from the junction with UBSL to Iceberg Lake a bit confusing. I frequently wasn’t sure if I was on the proper trail and invariably lost a little time by not always taking the best route through this area. After slogging through a frustrating sandy traverse, I climbed a ledge system that brought me to the flat area around Iceberg Lake. I immediately started running as best I could and got to the base of the final 2000 ft climb right at 1:20. In terms of elevation gain, I was right on pace for a 2:00 ascent, which was not good since I was likely slowing due to the altitude and exhaustion. I wanted some time in the bank at this point but had none. My only hope was that the steep climb up the chute to the summit would produce a faster ascension rate and more than make up for the other effects.
I began climbing the chute. I tried picking the best lines I could see while climbing but mostly just went straight up. A couple times I was forced into doing class 4/5 boulder moves but didn’t lose much time on these. I trudged up the seemingly never ending loose chute and got to the top in 1:50. Now, just a several hundred foot mostly class 3 climb separated me from the summit. I dropped my handheld water bottle to free up a hand so I could climb a ~6 foot class 5 section and take the direct route to the top. Despite the gloves I was wearing my hands quickly became numb from touching the freezing rock. This part was downright frigid and the physical exertion barely kept me warm. I soon gained the summit plateau and was relieved to see the hut so close. I reached the plateau in ~1:56 and started jogging as best I could given the altitude. I soon was on the summit after 1:56:54.
Now the comedy started. The summit was naturally cold and windy and I rapidly became cold. I scrambled and struggled with my gloves to untie and put on my jacket. I eventually got it on but then jammed the zipper in some fabric. It was stuck halfway and wouldn’t budge. I soon gave up. I downed my second and last gel and left the summit at around 1:58:30. I quickly made it back down to the ~6 foot class 5 crux at the beginning of the final climb. After briefly mulling what to do, for expediency I decided to just jump. I soon regretted this decision—the jump was farther than I thought--but it was too late. I made the best of it though and tried to distribute the force of impact as much as I could to minimize the likelihood of getting an injury.
I was now at the top of the loose chute again where it was considerably warmer. I knew I would soon bake in my jacket and so stopped to take it off but I still couldn’t budge the stupid zipper. I soon decided to pull it off over my head. In so doing the snug jacket became stuck. I felt like I was in a straitjacket. I was about to try and rip the jacket apart when I was finally able to squirm free of it. Of course this has to happen during an FKT attempt!
My goal of a sub-hour descent was in jeopardy with each passing squandered minute. I knew I needed a rapid descent of the chute to make it and so I charged ahead. Let me just say that the top of that chute is total crap. I soon fell, and fell, and fell again. I seriously think I fell like 5 times in the span of a minute. Soon after recovering from one of the many falls my feet slid out from under me and I landed hard on my posterior, which almost knocked the wind out of me. This figuratively and literally knocked some sense into me. I was at 14k feet in freezing conditions and wearing shorts. These falls were serious business. I was already bloodied and in much pain, but at least I could continue. I still needed to get safely off the mountain. Prudence dictated risk reduction and I slowed down. At that point I abandoned the goal of the sub-hour descent. I had to slow even further when I approached a group climbing up the chute so as to not knock loose rocks on them. I got to the base of the chute at ~2:20.
I then began running but didn’t really push the pace. On the slabs on the way down to LBSL I couldn’t tell where to cross the stream. After wandering around a bit between two cairns I decided to just pick a route. I chose incorrectly and had to do some considerable bushwhacking before regaining the trail. Fortunately this happened on the descent and so gravity assisted me in plowing through the vegetation. Had this occurred on the ascent I would have lost a lot of time and energy.
Once I got close the Whitney Portal Trail the trail became runnable and I pushed the pace all the way back to the trailhead, dodging hikers along the way. I finished in 3:06:39—barely a minute ahead of the fastest roundtrip time. At the time I didn’t even realize I was at risk of not beating the roundtrip time and could have easily fallen just short had I not pushed the pace at the end. I hope to try again after I am more familiar with the route.
Left Portal Trail ~8:00
Beginning of ledges ~23:00
Iceberg Lake/base of climb ~1:20
Saddle at top of chute ~1:50
Left summit ~1:58:30
Base of chute ~2:20