Mt. Whitney Hiking Trip
September 13 - 18, 2010

Bob and Shirley
Hiking, Backpacking, and More

Shirley And Bob
At Lone Pine Lake after hiking 3 miles and climbing over 1,700 ft from Whitney Portal parking lot

Trip Summary

Mt. Whitney is the tallest peak in the contiguous United States (Alaska has taller ones). The summit is at an elevation of 14,495 ft. A trail begins at Whitney Portal, which is west of the city of Lone Pine. The trail climbs over 6,100 ft and is 10.4 miles long.

Tuesday, September 14, the afternoon we arrived, we hiked up to Lone Pine Lake and back, a distance of 2.8 miles (actually 3 from the parking lot) each way. The previous day we had driven from Santa Rosa to Lone Pine, going south down the Central Valley, then back north through Owens Valley. We had spent Monday night at a motel in Lone Pine.

Wednesday morning Bob began hiking up towards Mt. Whitney, camping the first night at Trail Camp (a 6.2 mile hike to 12,000 ft elevation), then the next day hiking the rest of the way to Whitney and back down to Whitney Portal, where Shirley met him.

Shirley meanwhile hiked trails around Whitney Portal, meeting two English backpackers/hitchhikers.

Friday morning, after Bob's return from Whitney Summit, all four of us drove to San Francisco, with a one night stop at Yosemite's Curry Village.

Shirley at our campsite in Whitney Portal. We lucked out. Although we had no reservations, we got 1 of 2 remaining campsites. It was right next to a stream and private.

The second night Shirley thought someone was walking near the tent, until she heard guys at a nearby campsite say: "He's big! Look how black he is. He's standing right next to her tent."

She looked out to see the bear going down the road.

On The Trail To Lone Pine Lake

Pretty Flowers On The Trail

Bob at start of hike up to Whitney Summit.

Meadow At Outpost Camp
[See video]

At Trail Camp - around 12,000 ft elevation, just before 98 switchbacks ascend to Trail Crest

Ice On The Trail - around switchback 40

The colors of dawn. I began hiking between 5 and 5:30 AM in pitch black, the galaxy clearly spanning the sky. Dawn broke as I ascended the switchbacks. I took the first photo because it was colors I had never seen before. The picture does not really capture the look and feel.

If you look closely, you can see the Trail Crest sign. This was more exciting to me than seeing the hut on the summit of Mt. Whitney for the first time. When I looked over the crest a few minutes later, it brought back memories of 41 years ago. In case you cannot see the sign, here it is:

Approaching Trail Crest along the 98th switchback

First View Of Western Sierras - From Trail Crest, 13,600 ft

Bob at Trail Crest

Mountain Reflections - These are upper and lower Hitchcock Lakes, along with Guitar Lake. I thought the reflection of the peaks and the sky in the lakes beautiful. Click on image for full photo.

Trail Shots [see also video]

This is a view of the approach to Mt. Whitney. You can see the hut at the top of the mountain. I could make out people walking around. The photo barely captures them, as you can see here:

The distance from Trail Camp where I started in the morning to the summit of Whitney is about 4.2 miles. I went extremely slowly going up, taking just under 5 hours. I avoided getting altitude sickness doing so.

I made it!

41 years earlier, in 1969, I attempted the same trip, pushed myself too hard (I was 22 years old), and failed to reach the summit because of altitude sickness. The story of that trip is here

Going back down to Trail Camp was a lot easier! Covered the distance in just under 2 hours, packed up the tent, and backpacked down the rest of the way to Whitney Portal, where my wife Shirley met me. What a great birthday!

Views From The Summit. Here is a video taken at the summit.

While I was heading up to Whitney Summit, Shirley was hiking around Whitney Portal. She met two English college students, Jack and Tim, who had just backpacked from Yosemite to Whitney. They were looking for a ride back to San Francisco via Yosemite so they could return their bear cannisters.

At first it appeared they would be able to find a ride before we were ready to leave. However, the night after I returned, as Shirley and I were getting ready to pack the car, we met the guys again. We were able to cram everything and everyone into the car and head out.

We first drove to Yosemite, went to the Camp Curry registration desk, and - again without reservations - were able to get one of only two remaining tent cabins. It held 4 people.

We ate at buffet at the Camp Curry restaurant - which we highly, highly recommend. The next morning, after another breakfast buffet, we traveled to San Francisco, first stopping for lunch at an In 'N Out burger place. It was on Jack and Tim's to do list and we also had never eaten there.

We dropped Jack and Tim off near the youth hostel where they had reservations. Here they are.

Trail From Whitney Portal To Mt. Whitney Summit

Contact/Website Author: Bob Phillips

Bob Phillips [phillips bob 27 at yahoo dot com - no spaces]
Santa Rosa, CA
September, 2010

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