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Mount Whitney

Background information:

Altitude: 14,497'

Tidbits:  Highest mountain in the Continental United States (and only 40 miles or so from Death Valley, the lowest point in the Continental United States)

Highest mountain in California (also the highest point in both Inyo and Tulare Counties)

Summitted: 9/30/1999

Time Zone: GMT -8 hours

Maps:     Mt. Whitney  Topographic 7 minute.


When to go:

Mid-July through mid-September offers the mildest conditions, although snow and storms are possible at any time.


Route Selection:

I decided to use the Whitney Portal Route which is 21 miles (roundtrip) and starts at an altitude of 8,365'.  


Hotel and Climb Reservation:

Permits are absolutely required from May through October.  If you plan to do this hike in more than one day (it is possible to do it in one day, but you will miss much of the beauty of the area since you will be hiking for at least 10 hours in total darkness) you must obtain the permit well in advance. This is usually accomplished by lottery.   Day hike permits may be available at the local ranger station up to 24 hours in advance (valid between midnight and midnight).  To get an overnight permit, you can contact the Wilderness Reservation Service of the National Forest Service for details (1-888-374-3773, expect busy signals), or go to the US Forest Service web page at   I thought it would be best to spend 2 nights on the trail.

Several small hotels are available in the town of Lone Pine off of Hwy. 395.  The forest service runs a small campground at the base of the Whitney trail (at an altitude of 8,000).  See their website for availability and rates.


Packing List:

Standard alpine packing arrangements (tent, 20 degree-rated sleeping bag during the summer, provisions, etc.).  Bring a flashlight and extra batteries.  There are no wood fires permitted, so bring a fuel-burning stove.  Bring a water purifier.  There is water available almost any time of year up until "Trail Camp" located at 12,000'.   Trekking poles are strongly recommended. The Whitney Portal Store, located at the base of the trail, has provisions and equipment readily available at reasonable rates (along with facilities for showers).  At the time I climbed, they would even loan you a free "evaluation" set of trekking poles.

Getting There:

Drive north or south on Highway 385 until you reach the town of Lone Pine.  The 13 mile long Whitney Portal access road is clearly marked and intersects with the highway in the middle of town.  Please note that this road is not maintained in the winter, so if you suspect significant snow at the 8,000� terminus of the road, you may want to think twice about parking at the trailhead.  At the trailhead itself, there is ample parking.  You will also find the Whitney Portal store and campground.  There is significant bear activity in this area, so do not leave food in your car. 

Approaching the Mountain on Whitney Portal Road

On the way up you will pass through several climate zones

Above Treeline

Above Treeline at sunset

Dark skies due to high altitude

Nearing the summit

Summit View

My favorite shot...I'm standing at the highest point in the continental United States and in the background is the lowest point in the continental United States (Death Valley, just past the small mountain range in the distance)

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