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Hiking Mountain Biking Pine Trees Jul 7, 2022
Special Instructions
Wilderness Permit Req'd
Mt.Whitney Ranger Station
P.O. Box 8
Lone Pine, CA 93545
(760) 876-6200

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You are here: Home : Hiking Last Updated on 11/02/2002    
Diff: Rating 10/10
Scenic: Rating 9/10
Tech: Rating 2/10
Mount Whitney
         via Main Mount Whitney Trail
Location: Sierra Nevadas, Inyo National Forest, California
Region: Sierras - Lone Pine
Wilderness: John Muir Wilderness
Total Distance: 22 Mi
Elevation Gain: 6,900 Ft
Season: June-Sept
Type: Out & Back
Start Elev: 8,320 Ft
Peak Elev: 14,495 Ft
Total Time: 12 hr
Time In: 6 hr
Time Out: 6 hr

Peak List Peak List
Peak Name Elevation
Mount Whitney 14,494 Ft

Hike added by
on 11/02/2002
Driving Directions
From Southern California take Highway 395 north to Lone Pine, CA. Stop at the ranger station to get your wilderness permit on Highway 395 in southern Lone Pine. Make a left onto Whitney Portal Road and drive to the Portal parking area.
From the parking area, hike up the signed main Mount Whitney trail all the way to the peak. The trail is easy to follow the whole way up, so long as it's not covered by deep snow or something.
We decided to do this hike because the wilderness permit qouta season ends November 1st. From November 1st on, there are unlimited wilderness permits available at the drop box outside the Ranger Station in Lone Pine. No reservations, it's simple. However, it probably wouldn't be that hard to obtain a permit during October without reservations. We drove up to Lone Pine on Friday night, November 1st. We stopped outside the ranger station to pick up the wilderness permit and then drove up to the Whitney Portal parking area. Camped in the truck for the night. I didn't get but an hour and a half of sleep that night, too wired because of the hike the next day. The temperature only dropped down to 28 degrees at the coldest point in the night. Got up at about 5 am. I went to put my boots on and my shoelace broke. Tied that up and started hiking about 5:45am just as the sun started to light things up enough to see where we were going without lights. We kept a good pace all the way until we reached the switchbacks near the cables below Trail Crest. It had snowed a few inches about a week before and the switchbacks were icy. The temperature here was probably around freezing or a little less. It was hard to keep hands warm without putting them in something. It was also icy from the low spot beyond Trail Crest to in-between Mount Muir and the Keeler Needle. After that, we picked up the pace again and made it to the summit just before noon, almost exactly 6 hours after we started. We were the first ones to summit from the parking lot on that day. We probably could have made it there in about 45 minutes less if it weren't for the ice. At 12:30pm on the top it was 26 degrees and a little breezy but not bad. It felt more like 50 degrees after all that hiking to get there. We stayed on the top for about 45 minutes or an hour and during that time, we probably saw a total of about 30 people up there. Then we headed back. The ice was more difficult to navigate going down. I fell a few times, nothing bad, but crampons would have been nice to have to get off those switchbacks. We took it easy the whole way back, enjoying the scenery until it got dark. We got back to the truck at about 7:30pm. The switchbacks above the parking lot seemed like they would never end. I didn't remember half that many on the way up. Got back to the truck, pretty tired, and drove down to the Alabama Hills just west of Lone Pine to camp for the night. Left the next morning.

There was a group of about 5 that started just after we did and were holding tight with us for the first couple miles. But they were long gone behind us well before treeline. Turns out only 2 of them summited, the other three - altitude sickness. I used to have a problem with altitude sickness but I found a great way to prevent it from ever coming on. I now keep a pretty regular low elevation pace regardless of the altitude (at least up to 14,500 feet). The main thing is, I focus on breathing. The key has been to forcefully exhale with every breath and breathe regularly by timing breathing with steps. This method has never failed for me but it requires a constant effort to focus on breathing. This means that I can't talk and breathe correctly at the same time. But heck, if it means I can hike far, high, and fast, then ain't silence golden!

There was a group of three old guys out there too. They started about 2:30am, I know because I was awake. We passed them in the marshy area between Lone Pine and Mirror Lakes. I don't know if they made it because I never saw them on the way back. Maybe they were camping at Trail Camp or something. There were quite a few people staying at Trail Camp, with tents scattered here and there. We heard that it got pretty cold out there the night before. Dayhiking Whitney wasn't bad, it was even relaxing at times, not a bad hike to do in a day.
Trail Condition
Besides the ice, the trail was immaculate. Great condition, made for easy hiking.
Forest Details
The forest disappears by about 11,000 feet elevation.
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