Mount Whitney, the mecca of hiking in California and highest peak in the lower 48 at 14,505 ft. Total distance round trip is 22 miles with 6,200 ft in elevation gain.
This hike is no joke! Preparation hikes included Saddleback Mountain, Mt Baldy via the Bear Canyon Trail and San Gorgonio via the South Fork trail. You do need a
permit in order to hike Mt Whitney and can apply for one in an advanced lottery that is chosen at random or you can go the day before to claim any permits that have not
been released. Here is a link to apply:
We picked up our permit at the following location which is 2 miles away from Lone Pine where we stayed:
Eastern Sierra InterAgency Visitor Center
Junction of Highway 395 and State Route 136
2 miles south of Lone Pine, CA
There is a store at this location with souvenirs, memorabilia and a lot of good knowledge about the mountain. They also provide you with the famous WAG bags for your hike. No human waste is allowed on the trail so if you need to do your business, you are required to hike it out in these provided bags. (We did not need to use these, so no stories there:)
We arrived to Lone Pine the day before the hike and stayed at the Whitney Portal Hostel. I believe this is the closest place you can stay to the start of the trail head. Its right in the middle of town and you can walk to any of the restaurants or stores along Highway 395. It also offers a great view of the mountain.
After grabbing a quick bite to eat, we decided to head up to the start of the trail head to check out the parking area and scenery since we would be start hiking early the next morning and everything would be dark. There are some small waterfalls, lakes and even a restaurant/store at the trailhead. I really do recommend if you have the time to explore this area as it does have a lot to offer.
Clouds started to roll in and the faint sound of thunder could be heard so we headed back to Lone Pine to grab supplies for the next day and a quick dinner. We did hear of a pending storm that was supposed to hit the area and boy did it ever. The thought of canceling the hike was on our minds the rest of the day and night but we decided to stick with our original plan and see how the weather was when we woke up.
We woke up around 4:00am, packed our stuff and headed to the trailhead which is about 20 mins away. Be careful on the road up as we had 2 deer run right in front of the car. We snapped some quick pictures at the trailhead and started up right at 5:00am
The trail starts off fairly gradual and the beginning portion is highlighted by crossing a log bridge and some rocks to get across running water. Be careful as they can be slippery. Once the sun started to rise you really get to see the true beauty of the mountain and surrounding area. I remember thinking, I can’t believe this scenery is in California.
As you continue up the trail does become more rocky and is hard on the bottom of your feet. However, you have lakes, waterfalls, and a majestic mountain to keep you pushing on.
The next portion of Whitney is the most famous, the 99 switch backs! It is tedious and headphones definitely helped. Also, there are cables are a section of the switch backs which do help when there is snow. We did hit patches of snow and did have micro spikes for extra traction.
After what seemed like a lifetime, you come to the Trail Crest sign at the top of the switch backs.
The remainder of the hike was actually the hardest for me personally. It is rocky the rest of the way up and after already hiking 10 miles or so, it was hard on the feet and knee’s. However, after 7 hours, we reached the summit. The feeling is really indescribable and you have to stand up there to experience it. There are many summit markers, plaques and even a house to make for great pictures.
After a 30 minute lunch break we headed back down. Marmots greeted us right before the 99 switchbacks and be careful to set you pack down because they will steal your food.
Mt Whitney was truly an experience I will never forget. Would I do it again, ABSOLUTLEY. It is a lot of miles and elevation for one day but the complete experience is worth it. I want to thank my best friend Rich for coming on this journey with me. As always, he served as inspiration to accomplish this huge goal and check another one of the bucket list.
Below are the switchbacks drawing made by Wayne Pyle.