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Mt Whitney, California



Distance: 17.6 miles

Mt Whitney Solo
  • Summit
  • WhitneyOct09 210.JPG
  • WhitneyOct09 269.JPG
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  • WhitneyOct09 152.JPG

Departed Edwards AFB on Saturday around 1300 and arrived at Lone Pine, CA, around 1700ish. Drove up to check out the TH and decided to stay at the Tuttle Creek Campground close to town. I highly recommend staying there due to no bears, quiet, and cheap. Had a good nites rest and made my way up to the Whitney Portal Trail around 0800. After some gear shakedown, I started off the journey around 0914. Very nice trail with quite a bit of traffic so I thought till I heard from some other hikers that this is relatively quite compared to the summer months. I started the trek with a 4-some from Orange County and ended up hiking the last mile or so with them to Trail Camp – this would be the “base camp” for the next couple of days, so I thought. Most of the hikers coming off the peak shared their summit experience and it was like; 70 mph winds on top with a steady state temp of 5 degrees and wind chill of -35. Said it was almost imbearable. Also heard from many that they didn’t make the summit due to altitude sickness and or temps too cold to bear. They also said to be prepared for the cold temps at Trail Camp around 15 degrees. With the tent set and everything ready to go for the summit, made some lasagna and hit the sack around 1830. Tried to sleep all night, but just wasn’t happening I guess due to the altitude and cold temps. My tent was full of ice crystals and when the wind blew, it was extremely loud. I decided I would get moving around 0400 since I was cold and was ready to go. I found that my camel pack was almost frozen solid and had to fill it up if I was going to make it to the top. Went down to the little pond that had refrozen and had to break a hole in the 1 inch ice with my trekking pole. My water filter was frozen from pumping water from day before, so I had to heat up some water to get it to work. finally got it working and filled up my camel pack. After all this, I hit the trail with cranium lamp around 0525. Time for the 99 switchbacks from HELL! Started off pretty good till about ¾ of the way up and started feeling horrible. Was hungry, but had no appetite and a headache that wouldn’t even think about letting up. I slowed down to a crawl around sunlight.  Once up to the crest trail, I took a GOOD rest and took some HD video and pics. The 2 guys that camped next to me caught up and we shot the bull and took some hero shots of each other. From here, started the traverse over to the summit. Was quite cool where the “sphires” intersected the trail and you could see out to the East. Was almost looking down at the TrailCamp. Pretty cool!! A lot of hiking in and around the sphire peaks with some sweet views to the West.   Once out of the zig zags, I reached the point where you could see the summit and the stone cabin on top. Was a depressing sight seeing how far around I had to hike across a “bowl” if you will in order to reach the part that diverged direct to the summit. About half way around, I found a large flat rock and de-packed and laid back enjoying the sun and wanted to just shut my eyes for a second before starting up again. fell asleep for about 3 minutes which felt like an hour. Didn’t mean too, guess I was so tired. Once to the 90 degree jink back to the North East, seemed like I was never going to see the top. Felt like I was on a spinning ball and not going anywhere fast. Finally!, I could see the cabin and made my way right to the edge. SPECTACULAR!!! visibility was unlimited and looking down on TrailCamp was amazing.  Took tons of pics to include hero shots, panorama, and some random ones down the valley at the TH. About 20 minutes after hangin’ out, the 4 some group made their way up and we were able to rejoice the accomplishment. I began to think about the return and gathered my gear and started down. The biggest thought in my nugget was that I needed to pack up my shizzle and start back down to the TH. I was not going to freeze my arse off again in 15 degree temps if I didn’t have too. Original plan was to chill out back at TrailCamp and get some more pics around that area and set up some photo ops to hopefully sell on the net. Once back to the camp, packed up the tent and found my bear vault. Said bye to the 4 some that milled into TrailCamp and started down around 1600. I knew it would probably get dark on the way down so I tried to speed up the descent and had my cranium light handy. Passed a lot of tired folks asking “ are we there yet”? , and spent more time than I wanted talking about my summit experience. Came across a couple of dudes turtling down the trail. One had a twisted knee and the other was still feeling the effects of altitude. I hung with them for a while just to make sure they rendvoud with their buddies because it was starting to get dark which happened around 1600. I got dark enough to turn on the nugget lamp about 3 miles from the TH and I was really stepping up the pace now. all I could think about was a hungry pissed off bear tagging me off the trail for all the food I didn’t even touch. Needless to say, I made it back without seeing any wildlife. Back to the rental Kia, grabbed my extra food and “smellables” out of the bear locker, threw my gear in the backseat, and started driving down looking for a some bars on my phone. I ended up staying at the BestWestern due to my spent body and regrouped in there with a hearty Big-Mac and 10 piece chicken nugget!! Excellent climb and was pretty psyched to get a hot shower and rack in a nice bed.    – 

Trail Reviews & Comments


Susan H
Jan 02, 2014

The Whitney trail is a long, uphill, 22mile slog. 11 miles up, 11 miles down. You need a permit, so check with the authorities prior to planning the hike. It takes some serious pre-planning and conditioning, as the trail summits at 14,500 feet, which will undoubtably make you feel miserable unless you eat and drink enough food and fluids. If you are planning to stay overnight in the Whitney Zone, you need a camping (2 day) permit, if you are hiking the 22 miles within 24 hours, you need a one day permit. When last I checked, you need to enter a lottery for either permit, submitting several dates you can be available. It is not advisable to do this hike alone. YOu MUST eat at regular intervals, whether you are hungry or not. You must drink large amounts of fluids; avoiding dehydration is the first defense against altitude sickness. I did this hike about 7 years ago, trained for it for 4 months. You can literally be gasping for breath by the time you get to the top. If you live in Southern California a great conditioning hike for me was to take the Palm Springs Aerial Tram to the top and hike up to the top of Mt San Jacinto, which tops off somewhere around 10,000 ft. If you can do that, you can probably do the Whitney trail. By the time I was done, I calculated that I had drunk close to 7 LITERS of fluid (mixed gatorade and water), and had eaten at least 5 sandwiches and many, many cliff bars in the 22 hrs the hike took. Jolly Ranchers kept the mouth from getting dry. Bad weather up there has spoiled many a hiker's dreams. You cannot summit if there are clouds closing in, lightning or thunder, or snow. Good luck and be prepared for anything.


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