I know this is a few months late, but I figure it might actually be perfect timing with the lottery coming up. I got so much information from this forum, I wanted to be sure to give back.
Successful one-day summit on Monday, October 1st, 2018. 15.5 hours. Started a little after 2:00am
In a 160-mile voyage of foreshadowing, I must say Route 395 between I-15 and Lone Pine was designed with about as much ingenuity as the very trail it was leading me to (that was a cheap shot at the 99 Switchbacks). The speed limit for passenger cars was 65 but only 55 for semi-trucks. Since itís primarily only one lane in each direction and the trucks can barely manage 50 miles per hour, it ended up being one long slow-moving line of cars day and night. Bring a book on tape or something.
I chose to stay at Lone Pine Campground for no particular reason. It was fairly crowded, as I imagine it always is, and the sites are tight to begin with. Bring some ear plugs if you are a light sleeper. There is almost zero shade throughout most of the campground so plan ahead. If I were to do it over again, I would have stayed at the Whitney Portal Campground since itís closer to the trailhead and is among the trees. Also, itís elevation is higher than Lone Pine.
If you are planning on staying at Lone Pine Campground, keep in mind spaces 12 thru 38 are a pain because they are only accessible by a narrow one-way road. In other words, if you are in space 36, you have to start near space 10 and drive through the entire camp. For example I got stuck in a line of 6 cars waiting for someone having trouble backing their trailer into their spot. Spots 1-8 and 40-43 are a lot more convenient.
I thought the online process for the permit and campsite were simple. At the Visitor Center there were several of us waiting patiently in line to pick up our permits. The employee who perceived herself to be in charge had a minor freakout due to the length of the line (which wasnít even that long, it just looked like it because of group sizes) and began a ďlotteryĒ which she insisted was for order of service. This caused a great deal of confusion since, as we all know, the term ďlotteryĒ applies to people who havenít gotten their permit yet. Her issues only succeeded in taking even more time while putting people to the front of the line who hadnít been waiting as long as some of the others. If this happens just be patient and remember that position is usually part-time/temporary/seasonal and the whole process might not be as efficient as your local Starbucks or Chipotle.
I spent way more time waiting than I did actually talking with the Forest Service worker. If you give them the impression you have read all of the rules and otherwise done your research, theyíll likely just breeze through everything with you real quick and ask if you have any questions.
The Mt. Whitney Trail is a m****r f****r. Pardon my language but thatís the best way I can describe it. Your readings should have confirmed this information by now anyway. The climb out of the Portal is an attention-getter to begin with (plus is messes with your head because it's usually warmer down there), the 99 Switchbacks section was created by the Devil himself (I know exactly what you're thinking: "They're switchbacks, how bad can it be?"), and the 1.9 miles from Trail Crest to the summit will make you wonder if you packed enough paracord to fashion a noose out of. Take a lot of pictures at the summit because youíll be too hypoxic and tired to remember the view. Then just think, you have to get all the way back down!
To add some perspective: I am a 30-year-old triathlete and distance runner with experience competing at altitude plus Iíve done peaks in the 12ís and 13ís without any issue. Having said that, I have no shame in admitting Mt. Whitney repeatedly kicked me right in the balls for all of 15 hours and 25 minutes. I did not encounter any symptoms of acute mountain sickness on this trip nor have I in the past. My point is that you can be in great shape and have no issues with the altitude but still struggle on this mountain. By comparison how dangerous does it sound to try this hike in one day if youíre out of shape and suffering from AMS?
I highly recommend spreading this hike out over more than one day. Acclimate for more than one night. Be in great physical condition. Use trekking poles and load up on your favorite anti-inflammatory drugs. Consistently hydrate and fuel whether you want to or not. I know it's harder to get permits that way and you have to take more time off work, but it will make everything so much more enjoyable.
It was a beautiful, clear day. There was no snow and the only ice was in a 15-foot section that was off to the side of the footpath (I have read this patch of ice exists 365 days per year). I kept taking my gloves off and debated going from pants to shorts. The wind chill was way worse than the air temperature. Iíve heard scary things about Mt. Whitney in October but I couldnít have asked for much better. By comparison, I had to cancel my July lottery spot in 2017 due to inclement weather. Go figure!
Now that I'm done whining and being sarcastic, I want to take a moment to, in all seriousness, say thank you to anyone who might read this that had anything to do with making my trip possible. By this I mean those who envisioned and built the trail long ago, those who maintain it today, the Forest Service workers, all of the emergency personnel in that area (which thankfully I did not need to utilize), the campsite manager, the people working in Lone Pine, all of you posting and answering questions on this board, etc etc. Thank you for making it possible for us to climb to the top.
I'll keep an eye on this thread for a while in case anyone has questions.