I developed this guide to help out my group of greenhorns from Pizza Port who were still interested in climbing Whitney after a couple months had passed. Since I knew that the bulk of the group didn’t have much mountaineering experience, I developed this list of things to provide them with the information they would need to be prepared for the hike. Since I’m a modest guy, I think that this list is a pretty good guide to climbing (or as some people would say, “walking”) the mountain from Whitney Portal in two days anytime from late spring to late fall, when no snow is present on the trail and conditions are otherwise good. Someday, I’m sure I’ll post an article about climbing the mountain technically, and in snow, and the particulars needed to accomplish those climbs. (For a preview, check out this series of blogs: http://www.lastadventurer.com/last-adventurers-firering/winter-climbing-mt-whitney-2005-style-part-1.html) But for now, I’ll stick to this plain vanilla guide of things an average hiker needs to know when planning to climb Whitney.
Also, there are two things people should be aware of before utilizing this guide. First, this guide is based off of my personal experiences on the mountain. If you’ve never read any of my blogs before, let me just say that I’ve been mountaineering for a very long time, and I’ve been to Whitney four times in all sorts of conditions; and summitted it three times. I do know what I’m talking about, especially when it comes to hazards and the general route of the trail. But like all things in life, things change, conditions change, and above all else, everyone has their own unique experiences in the wilderness. This brings me to my second point: be prepared. Check the weather before you go. Carry foul weather gear. Be ready for the unexpected, because in the wilderness, anything can happen. While my guide can – and will help people, it’s just a starting place. Everyone’s summit bid is different, and should be treated as such. Above all else, make it your own experience, and enjoy it!
Part I: Obtaining a Permit
Mt. Whitney is the highest mountain in the continental United States at 14,496 feet. As such, it is one of the most popular climbing destinations in the United States to climb. There are a variety of routes; both technical and non-technical to the summit. Every year, thousands of people attempt the climb to the summit. All of these people have one thing in common: they had to apply for a wilderness permit to enter the Mt. Whitney Zone. Because of the high traffic entering the area the Forest Service requires permits for both day-users and overnight use. The permit system runs on a “Lottery” system, although from my experience, I would call it more of a “first come, first served” type of system. Of the four times I have been on the mountain, I have never had trouble obtaining a permit. For this fifth trip, our group had a little difficulty obtaining a permit as we had eleven people. The obvious piece of advice for the permit system is that if you have a large group, apply for a permit earlier, and have backup dates available, and be aware that during the summer season and holiday weekends, it is more difficult to obtain a permit. More information about permits and the permiting system can be found here: http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/inyo/recreation/wild/mtwhitney.shtml .