For people who read this blog on a regular basis, you might remember my first trip to Mount Whitney, if not feel free to read about it here. This second trip went much faster, which largely could have been from not having any snow at all. For this hike we had a two day permit for our group of four which worked out just about perfectly.
Thursday night I arrived at Whitney Portal around 8:30 PM, and had to wander around a little bit to find the other members of my party. After we all found each other we had a brief chat to figure out exactly how we wanted to tackle this trip, and decided to all meet at 11:45 PM at the trail head. To that end we all headed to our cars and got as much shut-eye as we could. After meeting at 11:45, we did the final reorganization of our bags, used the facilities for the final time, and were on the trail by 12:35 AM.
Everyone was doing really well on the way up, although one member of our party was feeling the elevation a little bit (which coupled with wearing a nearly 50 pound pack wasn’t the greatest combination). We arrived at Lone Pine Lake and took a nice little break around 1:00 AM. From Lone Pine Lake, we only had a short hike to get to Outpost Camp, which we reached at 3 AM. Outpost Camp ended up taking us a bit longer than we anticipated as the camp was very full so it took a while to find a good spot to pitch our tents.
We got the tents setup by 5 AM, packed our day packs, and started heading up towards Trail Camp. Everything moved pretty smooth here, although I personally was feeling the fact that I had been up for over 24 hours by this time. Waiting for the sun to come up higher seemed to help with that a lot. Once we made it up to Trail Camp we had a discussion and decided to all take an hour nap to refresh ourselves. The only big downside with this is that we needed to be very vigilant about marmots, as those critters will do their best to get into your packs, as it is one person found some interesting holes in their pack that he hadn’t noticed before our nap, so the marmots may almost have gotten a nice snack.
After the nap, we pumped a bunch of water as the lake at Trail Camp is the last nice source of water until we get back from the summit.
The 97 Switch Backs to Trail Crest
Trail camp is the gateway to the infamous 97 switch backs that bring us up to trail crest. The switchbacks went much faster this time than the last time I did Whitney, which I believe mostly be to the fact that we weren’t struggling with the snow this time. The cables going up were a lot easier to manage as well without the large amount of snow pushing us right against them, which also meant we lost a lot less time there as well.
Trail Crest to the Summit
Once we made it to trail crest and soaked in the view for a few minutes, it was time to start heading down to the John Muir Junction, and then up the last couple of miles of the Mount Whitney Trail. This stretch of trail takes a very long time, as trail crest is at 13,500 feet, and while you get to go down 100 feet or so, the elevation is very noticeable.
After winding back and forth on the Western slope of the mountain, the summit is finally there. Interestingly, at the summit my phone decided to finally start taking pictures.
There are lots of great views from the summit, with Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills way below us to the east, Sequoia National Park below us to the west, and many other mountains in the Sierras visible below us.
As you come back down, it is possible to look out some of the “Windows” between the “Needles” along the Mount Whitney Trail
After making up to the top, there is a long hike back down. Enjoy this stretch of the hike as now gravity is working with you, so it should be possible to make it down the switchbacks substantially faster than you went up. For us, we made it back down to trail camp just as the sun was starting to set.
This Mount Whitney trip was a huge success, we made OK time, hiking from Whitney Portal, to the Summit, and back to Outpost Camp in about 19 hours. In the future it would be nice to get to Whitney Portal earlier, probably around noon, in order to do a quick hike to Lone Pine Lake and back down in order to do a little extra elevation acclimatization.