2 days on Mount Whitney
The Vitals: Elevation change
6,140 feet - Peak 14,505
click here for interactive topo
map click here for the Mount Whitney Gallery
We started planning our trip only two weeks before, which can only be done very late in the season at Whitney (or after season). We got into Lone Pine about 4 Monday so we could get our permit and head out early Tuesday morn. Bear box, Wag bag, and permits in hand we decided to drive up and see what the portal was like. It's a great place and the campgrounds there look first rate. It is over 8,000 feet so expect some cold nights. For people in great shape the peak can be done easily in a day, especially camping at the trailhead. Expect 6-7 hours up and 5 back. It can be done 8 hours round trip, but only by someone who does it all the time. Anyone else would simply have to take some time to marvel at the beauty.
We started up at about 8:00. When we got out of the car the flakes started falling almost immediately. My pack weighed in at 45 lbs. We headed up unto intensifying snows. By the time we reach outpost camp we figure it's best to set up shop since the snows are sticking pretty good and there is no shelter above at Trail Camp. Here, we are able to set up under trees where no snow has accumulated yet. After setting camp, the weather breaks. we decide to head up and see what we can see. Maybe we'll even get a go at the top if everything works out. It doesn't. We get to the cables and make it half way up before finding hard ice. It's apparent we could hug the cables here and clear this section, but we have no idea what lies above, and not the gear for the situation (crampons, ice axe). We opt for a return to camp which is definitely the right decision since it was already getting close to 3 pm.
The next morning we head up about 9:30, while the rest of the folks left Outpost Camp around 6 am. We make great time on a crisp bluebird day. We talk to several people who have already made it to the top of trail crest in sneakers with no difficulty. The cables section is no longer a problem now that there are tracks in the snow showing the way. After this it is smooth sailing all the way to the top. We arrive at about 1:45. The views on top are amazing, but they have been since we left camp. After signing the book and snapping some quick photos we head back down, since we have to break camp and head all the way down. We made it out by 7:15, with more great views on the way out.
What to Expect
Overnight trips as well as day hikes in the Whitney Zone require permits, which are issued at the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitors Center at the junction of Hwy 395 and SR 136. These permits are heavily restricted. Whitney can be very cold, and the weather can change very quickly. Be prepared with layers of clothing. The hike can be done in one day, but I do not suggest that for first timers. You will not be able to take the time to enjoy it. For those spending the night, camping is not allowed at Trailside Meadow or Mirror Lake. Other than that, just stay 100 feet from water or trails. Outpost Camp does have trees and shade. Trail Camp is quite exposed. You are required to use a bear proof container to store all foods and fragrances. They can be rented where you pick up your permit. They can also be returned there and there is an after hours drop somewhere along the fence or gate. When we went, packing out your poop was not a suggestion as mentioned on the official Whitney site. It was a requirement. The solar toilets were closed, and may never reopen. There is water along the entire trail, but it comes from an area with lots of humans camping. Bring a water filter.
Official Mount Whitney Page from The Forest Service
Tips: About Hiking Whitney in the Fall
Photo gallery from another hiker on the same day
Whitney Portal Store