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#14229 - 05/19/11 06:06 AM Is the Mt. Whitney Shelter usually open
fmeier Offline


Registered: 05/18/11
Posts: 2
Loc: Switzerland
I have won a overnight-permit for mid July and want to spend the night on top of Mt. Whitney. Is the shelter usually open or locked? If its locked, where can I ask for the key?



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#14233 - 05/19/11 07:17 AM Re: Is the Mt. Whitney Shelter usually open [Re: fmeier]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7554
Loc: Fresno, CA
fmeier, welcome to WhitneyZone!

One side is open. It has a wooden floor and a small rock bench. It is large enough for 3 to sleep, maybe 4.

Make sure you are aware of the need to acclimatize before you spend a night on the summit. Without acclimatization, you might be very unhappy spending much time there.

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#14238 - 05/19/11 08:58 AM Re: Is the Mt. Whitney Shelter usually open [Re: fmeier]
dbd Offline


Registered: 11/09/09
Posts: 208
Loc: San Diego
The stone cabin is not maintained as a comfortable shelter for visitors. It has been known to fill with snow during the winter. Don't count on it for a safe, clean, dry, comfortable or even level place to sleep unless you can get very current information on its condition before you head up the trail. Have another plan ready.

Dale B. Dalrymple

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#14246 - 05/19/11 12:19 PM Re: Is the Mt. Whitney Shelter usually open [Re: fmeier]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7554
Loc: Fresno, CA
Pictures:

The bench in the room:


Accommodations are spartan:


The hut. Note the stove pipe -- there is no stove inside.

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#14286 - 05/20/11 05:02 PM Re: Is the Mt. Whitney Shelter usually open [Re: Steve C]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1556
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
Recall that in 1990, Matthew Nordbrock was killed by lightning in the hut while sitting in the middle of the floor. He may or may not have been in contact with the stove pipe, but he definitely took the direct hit. Note also that several others were seriously injured. This prompted the installation of the heavy duty lightning rods and the present warning signs.

All of which means among other things that the lightning rods do NOT make this place safe in an electrical storm. Safer, maybe, but not safe. Note that the one killed was nearest the stovepipe, where the strike went to ground. Others were injured as well, however, meaning you don't have to take a direct hit to be injured. The way the rods and ground cables are arranged, anyone in the hut at the moment of a strike could at best be surrounded by lightning. Shake and bake time.

Hence, posted on the door:



Edited by saltydog (05/20/11 05:12 PM)
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#14287 - 05/20/11 05:26 PM Re: Is the Mt. Whitney Shelter usually open [Re: saltydog]
wagga Offline


Registered: 10/07/09
Posts: 2243
Loc: Humbug Reach (Pop. 3)
Our poster is from Switzerland. Some European countries have a well developed hut-to-hut system (you hike up to the hut & they have beer!). So his/her expectations differ from our wild wild west environment.

fmeier:

If I'm wrong, please educate us. Pictures are always welcome.

On the other hand, you may have seen the Starbucks picture...
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#14291 - 05/20/11 06:32 PM Re: Is the Mt. Whitney Shelter usually open [Re: wagga]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1556
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
We have a pretty good hut system on the AT, too, less the beer, except maybe in the Whites. But few are on ridges and none that I know of are on summits, much less on the highest point for thousands of miles around. I wonder where they put' em in the Alps.

And hey, what's wrong with the Starbuck's pic? I love a good frozen quad grande grass-fed raw lo fat half caf Americano-macchiatto after an East Buttress free solo. Doesn't everyone?
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#14293 - 05/20/11 06:53 PM Re: Is the Mt. Whitney Shelter usually open [Re: saltydog]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7554
Loc: Fresno, CA
Originally Posted By: saltydog
Recall that in 1990, Matthew Nordbrock was killed by lightning in the hut...(snip)


That sign is there for several reasons. Hiker safety is only one of them.

Read Alan K's words -- they were deleted from the original forum because someone thought one of the posters was "fishing for information for a lawsuit." Regardless, they are quite informative:

    Thunderstorms on Whitney?

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#14294 - 05/20/11 06:58 PM Re: Is the Mt. Whitney Shelter usually open [Re: dbd]
KevinR Offline


Registered: 11/03/09
Posts: 591
Loc: Manchester, NH
Originally Posted By: db
It has been known to fill with snow during the winter


A few years ago we melted snow from inside the hut to make a bit of drinking water for one of group who didn't bring enough from Trail Camp. It was the cleanest snow available.

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#14295 - 05/21/11 05:27 AM Re: Is the Mt. Whitney Shelter usually open [Re: KevinR]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1556
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
Looks to me like it comes down to this: if lightning strikes in the area, assume it WILL hit the hut. Its the best grounded point around, by far. Its DESIGNED to be hit. If you are in the imperfect Faraday cage, you have some chance -- maybe 7 percent -- of trouble.

If you are anywhere away from the hut, and observing best practices you SHOULD look to lightning potential like any other rock on the trail, and nowhere as near as attractive as the hut.

Ergo, therefor, hence and consequently, are the odds of getting hit on the trail with probably fatal results, greater or less than the certainty of the hut taking a hit and a 7% or so chance of possibly fatal results?

I also think its safe to assume that the NPS lawyers were advised of all the risks in putting up the sign, advised by the same information in AlanK's post ( and I have reason the believe they did) and that the technical experts, not the lawyers, decided that the safest course was to warn people away from the hut. the lawyers may have pounded on their client to make the most conservative choice, but only the science can determine what that choice is.

And I, too know what mine would be.





Edited by saltydog (05/21/11 05:38 AM)
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#14300 - 05/21/11 11:26 AM Re: Is the Mt. Whitney Shelter usually open [Re: saltydog]
KevinR Offline


Registered: 11/03/09
Posts: 591
Loc: Manchester, NH
IIRC, a couple of years ago there was a similiar thread on the other BB, and Bob R. described the efforts made to make that hut safer from lightning. I recall it being rather detailed, and I believe he offered an opinion as to its current relative safety.

That summit is a tough spot to be in a t-storm given its broad nature. Hope never to get caught anywhere near it in those circumstances. Have taken WFA courses from SOLO several times, and how to keep oneself safe(r) during a t-storm was always covered in detail.

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#14303 - 05/21/11 12:38 PM Re: Is the Mt. Whitney Shelter usually open [Re: Steve C]
CMC2 Offline


Registered: 11/04/09
Posts: 160
Loc: CO
Slightly off Whitney location but pertinent. A good friend of mine, a former US Forest Service Park Ranger, was killed when hit by lightning at the 12,500' level on Pikes Peak back in 1995. There were no clouds in the sky, no rain, no visible lightning in the sky anywhere, yet he somehow was killed as a lightning bolt traveled through the ground to where he was standing, taking photographs, as he had switched from Ranger duty to becoming a professional photographer.

I knew him well and he was one of the most cautious persons I have known. We always turned back when hiking if he felt the conditions were dangerous, but somehow his luck ran out at age 38 & I miss his talent in taking wonderful pictures ala Laura.

There was another person with him who sustained no injuries and verified the conditions as cited above.

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#14365 - 05/23/11 12:32 PM Re: Is the Mt. Whitney Shelter usually open [Re: CMC2]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1556
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
CMC2

Was your friend Rich Buzzelli?
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#14372 - 05/23/11 03:20 PM Re: Is the Mt. Whitney Shelter usually open [Re: saltydog]
Harvey Lankford Offline


Registered: 11/10/09
Posts: 1012
Loc: Richmond, Virginia
salty, sorry to sidetrack but, you mentioned Faraday protection. I read this

Some linemen wear Faraday suits, which allows them to work on live, high voltage power lines without risk of electrocution. These suits work because they are not grounded. The suit prevents electrical current from flowing through the body, and have no theoretical voltage limits, as linemen have successfully worked even the highest voltage (Russian 1150 kV) lines safely.

No way to do this while hiking on the trail, or being in the hut, but I guess the closest one could get would be to follow usual lightning advice and to lower your profile by kneeling on your (hopefully dry) non-conductive mat, thus also limiting being grounded (maybe). But, then there is EMP and no matter what you do, you're dead. There is some interesting physics and of course disastrous and sad biology here.

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#14417 - 05/24/11 10:03 PM Re: Is the Mt. Whitney Shelter usually open [Re: wagga]
fmeier Offline


Registered: 05/18/11
Posts: 2
Loc: Switzerland
Hi Wagga
I do not expect a nice cosy hut as the SAC-Hütten in Switzerland. I only seek a shelter in case of a thunderstorm. I will carry a tent with me just in case the hut is closed.

I rely on the lightning rods all over the Whitney Shelter. Am I wrong relying on the lightning rods?

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#14418 - 05/24/11 11:03 PM Re: Is the Mt. Whitney Shelter usually open [Re: fmeier]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7554
Loc: Fresno, CA
fmeier, on Mt Whitney, the best practice is to stay away from the mountain if thunderstorms are developing. The trail travels north from Trail Crest for about 2 km, gaining the last 500 meters to the summit. If you are on that section and a lightning storm builds, you have no protection!

Last summer, there were not many thunderstorms on Whitney. But other summers, there have been quite a few. They tend to occur mostly in August, but can occur any month. They also tend to build in the afternoon.

Check the weather forecasts and talk to hikers coming down, just before you start. If thunderstorms are likely, you can minimize your exposure if you get to the summit and back down at least below Trail Crest by noon.

The hut will be open, so don't need a tent above your camp site. But you should consider a rain parka if rain is in the forecast.

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#14423 - 05/25/11 06:55 AM Re: Is the Mt. Whitney Shelter usually open [Re: saltydog]
CMC2 Offline


Registered: 11/04/09
Posts: 160
Loc: CO
Right you are. I have about 18 of his pictures including the rare "Garden of the Gods" photo which shows the Stop Sign in the lower right hand corner. The original was ruined by a photo lab and subsequent pictures do not show the Stop Sign. His sister in Arizona sells many of his photographs but some have been withdrawn from circulation.

I don't know how to edit my original post, but his date of death was 9 July 1995 & not 1994 as I had written. Just curious, did you know him or only through his books and photographs?

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#14443 - 05/25/11 01:33 PM Re: Is the Mt. Whitney Shelter usually open [Re: CMC2]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1556
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
CMC2:

Didn't have the pleasure, but the Pikes Peak region and I go way back (lots of summers in Florrissant) and the Peak is really at the root of my connection with Whitney ( and as it happens with lightning, particularly what we called "heat lightning" back in the day, no rain, no storm, just fire from the sky.) One of the highest lightning strike areas in the world and also one that I keep in touch with over the years for other reasons., and I recalled reading about it at the time, partly because I keep in touch and partly because I was looking at the Whitney incident about the same time,so your post rang several bells.
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#20297 - 12/20/11 01:52 PM Re: Is the Mt. Whitney Shelter usually open [Re: saltydog]
Charles Curry Offline


Registered: 12/20/11
Posts: 3
Loc: Texas
Just as a quick note, in 1969 while camped at Guitar lake during an electrical storm a young man was in the shelter on Whitney and went into shock after the strike. He wasn't killed, but up until that time I wasn't aware that helicopters could make it to the top. Through the good fortune of a radio equipped ranger, a chopper was called in and we watched it land on the summit to pick up the boy.

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#20298 - 12/20/11 02:44 PM Re: Is the Mt. Whitney Shelter usually open [Re: Charles Curry]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7554
Loc: Fresno, CA
Charles, in 1990, a person was in the hut in a lightning strike and was killed. After that, the forest service installed some substantial lightning protection in the hut. It is debatable whether that renders it safe. Nobody is willing to be the guinea pig.

Here is a great thread discussing the hut:

Thunderstorms on Whitney?

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