Mt. Whitney Trip Report

Written by Jared Smith

First time Whitney Hiker and Trip Reporter here…so take it easy! 🙂

My brother and I hit the trail at 5:30 am on Sunday the 24th. This was a first time for both of us so despite looking tired, we were really excited about this! We got a late start because of an evening of bear encounters ,but now we were ready to roll!

We were both surprised at how hot it got so quickly. Shedding layers very shortly after we took off, we had a couple of goals heading up to trail camp. The first was to GO SLOW! No matter how many people passed us, we didn’t care, by resisting the urge to fly up that mountain from the get go, I believe you are really investing in how you are going feel those last couple miles when you really need to dig deep!

The second goal was to drink and eat often whether we wanted to or not. Lots and lots of water, stinger bars, peanuts, pop tarts, cliff blocks, jerkey, etc going up. Next time around, I would pack more of this smaller/quicker stuff and less “larger meals” like mountain house, etc. My brother using a steri pen to sterilize the water.

The last weather report that we had seen called for a slight chance of thunderstorms the following day so we decided that if we felt well at trail camp, we would set up camp, drop some weight and push on up to take that slight chance out of play. That’s what we did and turned out to be the perfect call for us. We reached trail camp at 11:00am, took an hour break. We ate, rested, drank and then took off at noon. We both left with 3L in our hydration packs (as advised here on WZ), food and a packed jacket and extra layers and took off. We figured we could hopefully make summit in 4 hours and be back down in 3 hours putting us back at trail camp way before dark around 7:00pm.

The switchbacks were the hardest part of this whole thing for both of us, not so much physically, but mentally. The really are endless…The snow crossing before the cable section was definitely tricky because of the steep grade, on the return trip we noticed you could scramble down there and bypass this area by dropping down to a lower switchback. The cable section was really a non issue. There was a clear dry pathway. The 3rd snow crossing was a little trickier but still not bad…hand over hand works well here. It was the next snowy area on top of the chute that was the toughest for me. Go slow here, watch your steps, don’t look down and you will be fine. Take advantage of whatever equipment makes you most comfortable here. We were fine with trekking poles and trailrunners.

Cable Section

2nd Snow Section on switchbacks

Snow crossing at the chute

We made trail crest at 2pm and I think many hikers were worried about us thinking that we might be day hikers and most likely would never make it back in daylight heading up this late. We assured everyone that we were only heading back to trail camp that day and pushed forward.

From trail crest to the summit was a haul…The trail is very technical, loose rocks, etc. Never felt I was going to fall off or anything but it definitely slows you up. We were still on pace to summit by 4:00pm so we kept pushing, getting a second wind of sorts after taking in the spectacular views of Sequoia NP and breathtaking views through the 4 windows.

We finally reached the last snowfield, it was a fairly simple pass. It looks worse than it is. The last couple hundred feet ascending to the top was torture. You want to be there so bad and waiting for the Smithsonian hut to appear, but we just kept seeing more rocks!

Finally we arrived…we made it and just a couple minutes passed 4:00pm. We were all alone up there, just me and my brother. Perfect Clear skies, warm day…it was perfect! We took some pics, looked around, signed the registry, refueled and headed back. All the message boards I had read, all the research I had done, all the training hikes made had finally paid off…we had done it!

No problems on the way down, the slush was now ice, but in many ways easier to deal with because despite being more slick, it was easier for poles to anchor into.

Returned to trail camp at 7:12 pm…right on schedule.

Some smoke rolled in trail camp that evening from a nearby fire, but all in all…it was great night’s sleep and we were literally on top of the world from the experience!

Hiked out the next morning…not worried about food, hydration, schedule, altitude sickness,or any other variables, just me and my brother laughing and hiking in the woods like kids again!

Had a amazing trip and met many really great fellow hikers…

Final Thoughts

Absolutely a trip of a lifetime!

Educate yourself about your trip: read these boards (the good people know their stuff here on WZ), look what has worked and hasn’t worked for people on their trips. Stay up to date on weather/trail conditions. I literally spent hours and hours looking at pics, reading posts and questioning those who had went before me, not saying it’s necessary, but it worked for me.

Acclimate: We stayed one night at Horseshoe Meadows and then one night at the Portal. We also both used Diamox…just in case.

I hope that this report could be a help to someone planning a trip. That is really my motivation in writing it…I know that I literally burnt up my refresh button as I looked for any new trip report or any tidbit of information the weeks leading up to my trip. Hopefully this well help someone in some small way. Good Luck… and THANK YOU – Whitney Zoners for all your contributions that helped me so much!

One Response to “Mt. Whitney Trip Report”

  • omegaman66 says:

    Wow the Jared at the summit picture sure is impressive. You can see forever. Being from the south myself I would prefer a bit more green but I am sure the lack of it would really make an impression on me too.

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