X

Tips for climbing Mt. Whitney

Guest Author
The night before leaving home to Mt. Whitney, I read tips on the internet until 2 o'clock in the morning. Some of them are useful but others are misleading. Let me tell you why.
1) Acclimatization is important. This is true. To get acclimatized before climbing Mt. Whitney, a mountain over 14,000 feet is a must for climbers coming from sea level. If you don't have much time or don't want to do camp on the mountain, you better sleep at the Whitney Portal camp (8,300 ft) where the main trail starts. I camped at the Lone Ping campground, which is not much higher than the town Lone Ping at 3,700 ft. This might be the reason why I felt some what strong mountain sickness.
2) You only need carry water for the next hour as the trail is not far from creeks or lakes. I disagree with this. Actually I was told at the visitor center to carry clean water as the water might not be than clean as too many people climbing in the summer. Not just that, actually, once past the Trail Camp, no more creeks or lakes near the trail, and you won't be able to get back soon. It took me more than 6 hours. My problem was that I carried too much in my backpack, 6 bottles of water and 6 bottles Gatorade. But I drunk only 4 bottles.
3) The main trail is only class I. During the summer and autumn months, only sneakers are necessary to ascend this summit. Don't try this, yes the trail is not steep, but this is not a trail well paved besides the the part to Lone Pine Lake that does not even require a permit. I regretted that I wore my old hiking boots. If I go again next time, I would buy a new pair with thicker sole. On my way down, I felt I was wearing sneakers not a boots.
4) Weather can quickly change without warning, and that near the summit, lightning can be an extreme danger. Whitney and neighboring pinnacles along the Sierra crest can turn into lightning rods. Ditto for people climbing them. The weather changing normally happens at afternoon. Sept. 2, a very sunny day turns into cloudy after 2PM, and sprinkle lasted for a hour. Good I took the advice from visitor center to start earlier. If I woke as my plan at 6AM, I would get wet. Hopefully there was no lightning that day, as several climbers still went up after 2PM.
5) I didn't know hikers need permit for climbing Mt. Whitney until a few weeks before the labor day. My friend told me we might still get one if we could reach the visitor center early enough. Though we knew we got to leave early, but we actually left bay area home after 7AM, spent 1 hour at Tenaya Lake for lunch, and reached camp group at 3:30PM. From the camp group, we asked the direction to the visitor center. When we stepped in the center (located at south end of Lone Pine), it already passed 4PM. We were so lucky that day. Park ranger told us someone canceled their applications. And getting the permit there is free. If you apply it ahead of time, it cost you $15 per hiker. Here is site for how to apply.
6) Besides high mountain sickness, there is another big challenge - No toilet once you start on the trail. In the visitor center, each of us received a "poop bag". No joke, now it is no long allowed to bug a cat hole on Mt. Whitney. Do your business at 6 inches deep cat hole and 100 feet away from any water or camping locations was considered a standard "Leave No Trace" (LNT) hiking practices to limit human impact in the wilderness at other places. Two hours before I summited Whitney peak, that feeling already started. Unfortunately my poop bag was in my friend's backpack and I left him behind as he couldn't stand the mountain sickness. I fought hard against the urge on the whole way down. Once I got back to the trail head, you must know what I did first.
7) The ranger told us the trail map printed by forest service is not accurate. But we don't know the mileage labeled on the map is off so much. To make it simple, you add 0.5 miles to every milestone, for example, it says 2.5 mile to Lone Ping lake, it should be about 3 miles. So once you get to the beginning of crest trail, the peak is not 2.8 miles away, but 2.2.

Be the first to comment

Comments ( 0 )
Please enter your name.Please provide a valid email address.Please enter a comment.CAPTCHA challenge response provided was incorrect. Please try again.