Ascent of Mount Whitney on 2015-07-28

Climber: Alan Barber

Others in Party:Mike Duggins
Date:Tuesday, July 28, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Mount Whitney
    Elevation:14498 ft / 4418 m

Ascent Trip Report

We checked into the Dow Motel in Lone Pine California on Saturday, three days before our scheduled hike, in order to become familiar with the area and have some acclimatization hikes. The next day we drove to Whitney Portal and hiked to Lone Pine Lake at 9900 feet where we spent several hours.

On Monday we drove through Independence California up to the Onion Valley campground near the trail to the Kearsarge pass and spent a few more hours at elevation. Finally, feeling reasonably ready, we packed our gear and turned in early that afternoon.

The alarm we off at 1am Tuesday morning and after a hearty breakfast at the Lone Pine McDonalds drive-through we headed for the Whitney Portal. We found parking on the road just below the overflow parking lot, grabbed our gear, and started out. The time was 2:25am.

Hiking with headlamps was not as hard as we expected and we followed the trail p to Lone Pine Lake. The creek crossings were a little more challenging in the dark especially crossing the stepping stone ford and the 11-log bridge over the final creek crossing. When we reached Lone Pine Lake (3:55 am) about 2.8 miles up the trail, our headlamps illuminated a fox.

Leaving Lone Pine Lake we passed into the Whitney Zone and climbed the trail to Outpost Camp at 10,400 (4:25 am). Trying not to disturb those sleeping in their tents, we moved through the camp area and on up the trail. As the sky was beginning to show the early indications of dawn, we passed Mirror Lake at about 10,640 feet and 4 miles into our hike. After that we no longer needed our headlamps.

We reached Trailside Meadow at 11,400 (6 am) and taking a break, filtered enough water so that each of us had 4 liters for the round trip up and back to this water source. In retrospect, 3 liters was all we really needed. From Trailside Meadow, we hiked another mile arriving at Trail Camp (12,000 feet and 6 miles into the hike) at 7 am.

There were many more campers and tents at Trail Camp than at Outpost Camp. In addition there were over a dozen Marmots visible exploring tents and camping gear. After a food break to recharge, we left Trail Camp at 7:15 am and headed for the infamous switch backs. There are reports which indicate that the count is 99 or 97 switchbacks.On the way down I tried to count them but only identified 95. However, fatigue could have resulted in my missing some in the turns. Any way there were a lot. At 9:30 am we reached Trail Crest at 13,765 feet and then the junction with the John Muir Trail (13,480 feet at 8.7 miles).

The trail had dropped about 500 feet at the JMT junction and then moved along the western side of the mountain ridge gradually rising back up to 14,508 over the next 1.9 miles to the summit of Mount Whitney. We rested, took summit shots, signed the register and ate some food. The high altitude was uncomfortable so we did not linger on top. After spending about 20 minutes on the summit we headed back down at 12:05 pm. Going down is always easier than coming up and we could really appreciate the struggles of those we passed heading for the summit!

We returned to the John Muir Trail junction, slogged back up to trail crest, and then descended the switchbacks arriving at Trail Camp at 3:30 pm. It was certainly a lot easier going down than up! After some food and a change of socks, we headed back to the Whitney Portal which we thankfully reached at 7:15 pm.
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Clear

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