Ascent of Mount Whitney on 2016-08-04

Climber: David Sklansky

Others in Party:Joe Sklansky
Date:Thursday, August 4, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Whitney
    Elevation:14498 ft / 4418 m

Ascent Trip Report

High Sierra Trail to John Muir Trail to Mount Whitney Trail to Whitney Portal National Recreation Trail. Day 1, Crescent Meadow to Bearpaw Meadow; day 2, Bearpaw Meadow to Big Arroyo; day 3, Big Arroyo to Kern Hot Springs; day 4, Kern Hot Springs to Wallace Creek Junction; day 5, Wallace Creek Junction to 11,900 ft. tarns above Guitar Lake; day 6, 11,900 ft. tarns to Whitney Summit to Lone Pine Campground. Comments: (1) This is a great, great hike. The scenery is spectacular and varied. You don’t get a lot of solitude, but it’s not as crowded as the JMT—until, of course, the HST joins with the JMT at Wallace Creek Junction. (2) Almost everyone ends the HST (or the southbound JMT) at Whitney Summit, but road construction has been causing traffic delays on the Whitney Portal road, so we agreed to meet our ride at Lone Pine Campground, and we spent the night there after our last day of hiking. To get from Whitney Portal to Lone Pine Campground, we took the four-mile Whitney Portal National Recreation Trail. This turned out to be a wonderful way to end the trip. We were pretty beat when arriving at Whitney Portal, but after stopping for hamburgers we were much revived. The late afternoon walk down the NRT, from forest into high desert, was really lovely, with terrific views of the Alabama Hills and the White Mountains. We had no trouble getting a campsite, and the campground itself was a pleasant place to spend our last night. Oh, and we were alone for the entire stretch of the NRT—maybe the only four-mile stretch of our trip where that was true. (3) We had planned to start hiking on our summit day at 6 a.m., but showers delayed our departure until 7. This turned out to be plenty of time. We got to the summit at 10, hung out until 11, and reached Whitney Portal around 4:30 in the afternoon. (4) Rattlesnakes are moving into higher elevations. We came across one by the trail along the Kern River, and other hikers told us about other rattlesnake encounters in the same area. (5) The summit of Whitney is a kind of a surreal experience. There were twenty or so people up there with us, about half of them at any given time chatting on their phones or checking Facebook. (6) The most challenging aspect of hiking the High Sierra Trail is the logistics of getting back to your car. We left our car in Visalia and spent the night there before beginning the hike. We took the Sequoia Shuttle to Giant Forest and then an in-park shuttle to Crescent Meadow. This worked great. The shuttles were punctual, fast, and comfortable. We got a ride from Lone Pine Campground back to Visalia from Kurt Pauer. Kurt was easy to communicate with, his rates were quite reasonable, and he went out of his way to accommodate us, even when we finished two days earlier than we expected. Plus, he was pleasant and engaging company. (7) Warm and hazy until Kaweah Gap, quite pleasant after that. Morning and afternoon showers the last two days. Mosquitos were tolerable. We brought DEET but didn’t use much of it; mainly we were OK just keeping our legs and arms covered in the late afternoon and early evening. Got a horsefly bite approaching Bearpaw Meadow, but the cold beer more than made up for it. (8) We brought canisters so that we wouldn’t be dependent on the back country bear boxes, but we wound up camping near bear boxes every night but the one just before our summit day. If I had it to do over (and I hope that I will!), I’d take just one, small canister, and rely on bear boxes for most of the trip. I would do that even if I wanted to go more slowly: in addition to the boxes near where we camped, there are bear boxes at Hamilton Lake, Moraine Lake, Junction Meadow, and Crabtree Meadow. (9) We used the trail guide in Paul Richins's Mount Whitney book and found it helpful and reliable. (Last year we used his guide to the Rae Lakes Loop in Trekking California, and we found that helpful, too.)
Click on photo for original larger-size version.
Approaching Whitney Summit (2016-08-04). Photo by David Sklansky.
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Summary Total Data
    Nights Spent:5 nights away from roads
Ascent Statistics
    Route:High Sierra Trail
Descent Statistics

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