Posted by bob d, 07-29-05

I just returned from summiting yesterday. Left the Portal at 1:30am, summited at 10:00am. The trip down was death defying. On the way down the switchbacks a storm came in quickly on all sides. Made it down to Trail Crest where it started to hail quite hard. That was followed by thunder and lighting. Although we were prepared for most anything, it was the sheer exposure to the elements that was tough. As we made our way down, the run off became small rivers going down the trail. We would get low anticipating the lightening, then wait for the rain/hail to stop, then head down again as quickly as conditions would allow. We made the first creek crossing with no problem but after that, it was crossing with boots on as the rocks were covered with a rather swift moving current. We would stop once in a while to check on each other, then continue down. Many times we hunkered down until things calmed down. The hail was brutal, hurting like getting stung by a bee. We finally got to the logs below Lone Pine Lake. Going up only two or three logs had water running under them. Getting down-all had water below them, with a swift current. We were starting to get ahead of the storm when it caught back up just below the logs. Thunder, lightening, hail, rain, just miserable, and very scary. Still exposed on the hill above the Portal, we inched our way down. The thunder was so powerful, bouncing back off the walls above the Portal. And the lightening was incredible. We finally made it down to the car at about 4:00pm, wet but unhurt. We were prepared for most anything except our total exposure to the elements, and how vulnerable we were to the lightening. At times we would find a place in the rock to get out of the elements for a few minites. Other times we would simply squat down on the balls of our feet and make ourselfs as small as possible. My main concern was getting caught out at night, unable to get down. If we had not made it down when we did, we may have had to spend that night out. Not a good thought but we could have done it if need be. Just a word of caution. I have been on Whitney four times, none of which included an experience like this. Be prepared both physically and mentally. The storm lasted well after we got back to the Dow Villa. I know there were still people on that mountain as we got cleaned up. Know what you are doing, and know how to do that under any and all conditions. If you don't know or belive you can deal with a situation like this, go find a smaller mountain. We made it back because we were in control of what we could control. And we kept our minds focused on where and what we were doing. It was amazing the number of folks still going up in that slop!! Safe climbing. Bob

Posted by Wayne, 07-30-05
Bob, sounds like you got caught in the same storm that killed the assistant scoutmaster and Boy Scout on the other side of the mountain. Obviously, your terror was well justified! We're all glad you made it out. I've been caught in the Sierras in horrific lightning storms, where there was no time difference between the flash and the ear-splitting thunder. Yep, mighty scary.

Posted by napman9, 07-30-05
Thank you Bob for your detailed trip, we plan to go up there on this coming Monday morning if we are lucky enough to get day hike permit.
Your info. made me think twice about going up, but we'll make decision when we get there on Sunday.
There were another member (Bob K and Sue, his wife) according to their plan, they'd be up 2 nights on Main trail on 27th and 28th. I hope they did it OK, I'm kind of worry about them.
I met them when they trained at Icehouse saddle Mt baldy area about 2 week before they went up Mt. Whitney. Surely hope they are back safe and sound.

Posted by speedcat, 07-30-05
My husband is backpacking with 3 other guys and should be coming into whitney Portal today--my concern is that he is an assistant scoutmaster and although he does not have a scout with him, I am obviously concerned about who the scoutmaster who was killed was. Any input will be appreciated
Fawn Hanks

Posted by napman9, 07-30-05
I copy this from Yahoo news.

The troop's assistant scoutmaster, Steven McCullagh, 29, was killed instantly when the bolt struck Thursday, the Tulare County coroner's office said.

One injured troop member was under observation at the hospital and six others were treated and released from Kaweah Delta Hospital in Visalia, authorities said.

Sequoia National Park ranger Alex Picavet declined to identify the other injured Scouts late Friday while families were still being notified.
Hope this help

Posted by speedcat, 07-30-05
Thanks a lot--I wasn't my husband. Seems like the weather has been a little nasty this week. My husband and his friends should get to the portal today and have permits to summit Whitney tomorrow. I hope all is well.

Posted by Bob K., 07-30-05
(Napman, Thanks for your concern. Hears a copy of a post I made on another message board.)

All the worries of snow had melted away by the time we began our trip on 7/26. After camping the night at Whitney Portal, my wife and I had planned to have a leisurely hike up the mountain, 1st camping at Outpost Camp 7/27, then Trail Camp on 7/28, summitting on 7/29 then staying at Trail Camp or Outpost Camp, and then hiking out on 7/30. In the late morning of 7/28 we encountered a few rain drops on the trail. We reached Trail Camp at 1:30 PM and set up our tent just before the full force of the thunderstorms hit. They were on and off until about 7:00 PM, if my memory serves me right. Since we were cozy in our tent, I liked seeing the flashes of lightning, the symphony of thunder, the rain and hail bouncing off our roof. During a break in the thunderstorms, and after the worst, I looked at the switchbacks and was surprised at how many people were still there. What a contrast their experiences must have been compared to mine. The last person that I noticed coming down through Trail Camp was at about 5:00 PM. The next morning we decided to go down without summitting because of the potential of more thunderstorms indicated by cloudiness that morning, a knee that wasn't 100%, and insomnia.

We had a good time. The area was beautiful. I'll be back.

Posted by napman9, 07-30-05
Bob K and Sue
Glad you guys back down safe and sound, like they say the mountain still going to be there like it was/is and will be long after we've all gone.
So let's do it another better time, I think you've made a right decision to come down and not risking yourself and particularly your wife's.
I'll play by ear when I get there tomorrow with my friend.

Posted by napman9, 07-30-05
Thanks Bob K
I'd just go wherever the wind blows (and rain?), guess just have to enjoy the scenery not the destination!
I'll bring along my rain poncho and heart full of soul that worked well at Mist trail Yosemite!
talk to you later.

Posted by HappyHiker, 08-01-05
We are planning on doing the one-day hike this Saturday, Aug. 6th and from Bob's scary experience of the elements, I wanted to know if there was any or much snow to hike through? I know thunder and lightning is a given this time of year and being prepared is a most. Any words of wisdom is much apprecitated. - Jill

Posted by bob d, 08-01-05
Snow was not an issue on the trail. Just be aware of the weather and be prepared to descend things close in on you. Good luck on your hike.

Posted by HappyHiker, 08-01-05
Thanks for the feedback. I re-read your harrowing experience as it makes a great story to share and most important no one was hurt. I can related as several years ago I had a similiar experience and what a rush. This will be my 5th yr. hiking Mt. Whitney and each time find new and challenging experiences. Thanks again for sharing your story. Jill