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Mt. Whitney Trail in October
#12245 03/31/11 07:28 PM
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lawnerd Offline OP
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Hello everyone,

This will be my first trip up Mt. Whitney. I will be climbing Mt. Shasta on September 2nd and then Mt. Whitney on October 1st.

Does anyone have any experience on the mountain in early October? What can I expect from the mountain during this time of the year? Any advice, suggestions, etc?

Thanks!

Re: Mt. Whitney Trail in October
lawnerd #12249 03/31/11 07:51 PM
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Welcome to WhitneyZone, lawnerd! And congratulations on scoring the permit.

In the other section, you wrote:
This is my first trip to Whitney. I posted a topic under General Discussion for advice! Sounds good thus far! Thanks!

As Bee wrote, Whitney can be quite pleasant in the fall.

But the biggest warning I can give is to watch the weather forecasts. It can be dry and calm, but October usually sees the first winter storm hit, too. If any significant weather is predicted just prior to your hike, I'd cancel if I were you. If a storm passes through a week or more before your hike, the trail can have some snow to tramp through, too. It won't be terribly deep that early, but it could slow your progress.

The one thing you might keep in mind, if you want to try earlier in the season, there are often many unused permits available, especially mid-week days. Check the Unused permits numbers from last year. If you went a few weeks earlier than Oct 1, your odds for foul weather would be lower.

Re: Mt. Whitney Trail in October
Steve C #12254 04/01/11 05:26 AM
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It will most likely be cold up high and there is a significant chance of snow, about a 1/3 of my October Eastern Sierra trips I've seen snow on the ground.

My last Whitney Trail ended 9/21/09. The temperature on the summit at dawn was just below freezing but I've experienced much colder in August and during another September trip.

Re: Mt. Whitney Trail in October
wbtravis #12260 04/01/11 08:56 AM
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I was snowed out of my first Whitney trip (late August 1964, 4" snow at Trail Camp). Typical hot dry day on lower half of the trail. Probably 85-90 at Mirror Lake. Noticed cloud cover building at Trailside Meadow. By 4:00 pm at Trail Camp, overcast and temp dropping, starting to mist and drizzle. By next morning it was about 25F and clear, 4" snow on the ground .

Trip leader called it based on his view that such early winter weather systems typically ran several days, and that we could therefore expect to get snow for the next 5-7 days in the high country we were bound for (Lake South America). I never really determined whether this was a sound analysis or a convenient story. On the plane from LA to SF a few days later, however, there was still fresh snow visible down at least to 10,000', so as far as I know, the prediction held up. Anyone have experience with early winter systems dumping snow for several nights running?

My 3 Whitney ascents since (2 summits) were all in June and July.


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Re: Mt. Whitney Trail in October
saltydog #12278 04/01/11 03:35 PM
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I try to do Whitney twice a year - spring and fall - and the fall dates for the last four years are 9/12/07, 9/25/08, 9/28/09 and 9/15/10. Living nearby, I keep my eye on the weather and go before the first major storm. In a least 2 of those years, that storm occurred within a week or so after those dates. Does the first storm shut the mountain down? That all depends - if you live in a snowy climate, then it's probably no big deal. OTH, if you've never hiked in snow before, maybe it is.

Hopes this helps in terms of dates and planning.

Re: Mt. Whitney Trail in October
KevinR #12282 04/01/11 04:33 PM
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Sounds like so long as I have some experience traveling on snow with the proper gear I should be okay?

Re: Mt. Whitney Trail in October
lawnerd #12285 04/01/11 04:47 PM
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Originally Posted By: lawnerd
Sounds like so long as I have some experience traveling on snow with the proper gear I should be okay?


If you let conditions dictate how far you go and not the destination, you should be ok.

Re: Mt. Whitney Trail in October
wbtravis #12286 04/01/11 04:49 PM
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How many people return home on summit day vs. staying another night at Whitney Portal?

Re: Mt. Whitney Trail in October
lawnerd #12287 04/01/11 05:25 PM
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I have done it both ways. If there is an opportunity to rest (potentially shower) overnight before the potentially long drive, I would much more prefer to leave in the morning (I prefer travelling in the morning vs night travel)


The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.
Re: Mt. Whitney Trail in October
Bee #12292 04/01/11 06:22 PM
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My first summit was on October 4th, 2009. The weather was gorgeous. I was very happy to see the Sun when I passed Trail Camp, so I could warm up, but again, near perfect. If my memory serves me correct, it snowed just a few days later. Have a super time!


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Re: Mt. Whitney Trail in October
quillansculpture #12293 04/01/11 06:25 PM
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Awesome! Thanks, I hope for the same!

Re: Mt. Whitney Trail in October
lawnerd #12294 04/01/11 06:50 PM
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General question. I'm a little confused regarding exit dates. Do you have to exit the trail on your exit date? I have heard that it is good for a certain amount of days? How does that work.

Re: Mt. Whitney Trail in October
lawnerd #12298 04/01/11 07:37 PM
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lawnerd, if you have an overnight permit, it is good for up to 14 days. You do NOT need to exit the date declared on your reservation or on your permit. They do like to record your planned exit date so they might have an idea whether to start looking for you if you are reported missing. And possibly for statistical purposes.

The only place an "exit" date is required is those people hiking out the MMWT (main Mt Whitney trail), who have started on another trail within the Inyo National Forest. They imposed a quota of 25 per day on those permits after they found a large number of people were coming in from Horseshoe Meadows and Onion Valley to climb Whitney and exit the MMWT.

As for driving home on summit day -- I have often done that, and my drive is farther than yours. I find I am especially charged up after a good day on the mountain, and my body is very happy to sit in a comfortable bucket seat and do nothing for hours after all that exercise. smile

Re: Mt. Whitney Trail in October
Steve C #12299 04/01/11 07:40 PM
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Yea, I think I will drive home on Summit Day. I was concerned about being too tired to drive. There will be two others with me so hopefully between the three of us we can manage to make it. How long does it typically take you to reach Fresno from the mountain?

Re: Mt. Whitney Trail in October
lawnerd #12300 04/01/11 07:41 PM
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about 4+ hours, 5 if you start from the Portal, and figure in stops. Google maps puts Exeter only about 25 minutes shorter.

Re: Mt. Whitney Trail in October
lawnerd #12305 04/01/11 08:07 PM
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Lawnerd,
A lot will depend on how tired you are.

Last year I spent the night at trail camp and pretty much got no sleep. After summiting and then going all the way back to the portal, I was pretty exhausted. But I started the drive home anyway. It was all i could do to keep my eyes open until I found the rest stop 40 or so miles south of Lone Pine. I slept a solid 6 hours at the rest stop reclined in my front seat.

If you feel invigorated after the hike and had a good night's sleep the night before...probably not too much of an issue. Else, better to get some rest and live to hike another day.

Last edited by tdtz; 04/02/11 12:31 AM. Reason: spelling
Re: Mt. Whitney Trail in October
tdtz #12309 04/01/11 09:00 PM
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Good advice, td. My buddy I hiked with could not stay awake after our hikes. I'd drive and he'd be passed out. So it just depends.... Most importantly, BE SAFE!

Re: Mt. Whitney Trail in October
lawnerd #12312 04/02/11 03:52 AM
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I also have tried it both ways.

I live in Sacramento. Mapquest says "6 hrs 28 mins / 335.20 miles".

The two times I drove thru to home were the two most miserable drives in my LIFE! I barely remember them and looking back I don't see how I made it. I certainly don't remember much of those drives!

** serious question ** What's more dangerous, the mountain activity, hiking, climbing etc, or the drive to and from the mountain?

Another two trips back from Whitney I stopped at the side of the road at the 120/395 junction and slept the night. Completely transformed the drive back into a glorious experience, sleeping in the car with the moon lighting up the Mono Lake Basin, waking up as the sun starts to warm up the car, breakfast at Whoa Nelli, morning light (something I don't normally see) on Lee Vining Canyon, Tioga Pass, and the rest of Yosemite, arriving home in the middle of the day, all makes the end of a trip a completely different experience.

Re: Mt. Whitney Trail in October
Joel M. Baldwin #12316 04/02/11 06:46 AM
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lawnerd Offline OP
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Great advice everyone. It's greatly appreciated. I'm thinking a night in Lone Pine with a hot shower and warm meal.

Re: Mt. Whitney Trail in October
lawnerd #12343 04/02/11 07:00 PM
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Lawnerd,
I am going to be on the trail Oct 1st with 10 of my friends as well. Are you doing a day hike or camping? I attempted a day hike 9 years ago with 3 other people and 3/4 of us didn't make it due to AMS. We went in late Sept and had beautiful weather. I am hoping for the same luck in weather. I figured we would have better luck this time if we camped on the trail. Maybe our paths will cross.

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