I have been to the top of Whitney 3 times over the years. The first time was in 1999 as a day trip out
of Whitney Portal. This was the least enjoyable of the trips. It is hard to go high elevation in a single day
and not feel some of the ill effects. Our trip was from about 4AM until 8:30PM and only 4 out of six in
our group made it all the way. I was sucking air and feeling hammered from Trail Crest on to the top.
My wife and one other friend retreated from Trail Crest back to the lake below the switchbacks.
Here are my pictures from that trip. Whitney Day Hike 1999
In 2008 my wife and I did a northbound John Muir Trail hike but didn't want to hike out of Whitney Portal
with 10 days of food. We decided to start at Horseshoe Meadows and go over Cottonwood Pass. The advantages
were significant. I knew my wife was worried about the elevation at the top of Whitney from her experience in
1999. I thought that sleeping above 10,000 for two days would take care of the altitude adjustments. It was
very easy getting a permit for Cottonwood pass on a few weeks notice. We could do Whitney as a day hike
from Crabtree Meadows and leave the bulk of our food and gear at camp for two nights in a row. My wife
only had time for the first half of the JMT trip so we carried enough food to go from Horseshoe Meadows
to North Lake via Lamarc Col. We packed 1.25 pounds x 12 days for each of us. We ended up doing this
section in 10 days without any problems. We did a bear can laundry wash the at camp the morning before
heading up for top of Whitney. We figured the clothes would be dry by the time we got back. My wife was a
bit nervous the day of the Whitney hike but was quite pleased when I told her we reached Trail Crest. She had
no problems with headache or nausea. We reached the top of Whitney at about 2:30 and stayed up on top
eating lunch and enjoying the view and warm sunshine until 4PM. We returned to camp at Crabtree Meadows
about an hour before sunset. Here is a longer trip report with a lot of pictures covering our 2008 JMT trip. JMT/Whitney Trip 2008
My oldest son, brother and nephew joined my wife and I for a 5 day Horseshoe Meadows to Onion Valley
trip in 2009. They wanted to go to the top of Whitney and we thought this would be the most enjoyable
way to include Whitney in a moderate length trip. My son and I spent 10 days doing the complete Tahoe
Rim Trail about 3 weeks before the Whitney trip so we were in excellent shape. I was concerned about my
brother and nephews conditioning and the fact that they live in low altitude Michigan and Indiana. We decided
to add one additional night of sleeping at elevation by camping at the Horseshoe Meadows campground the
night before starting the hike. We drove down from Reno on a Saturday and left a car at the Onion Valley trailhead
before continuing down to Lone Pine. We bought dinner at Quiznos to take with us to eat a camp at Horseshoe
Meadows. The campground was busy on a Saturday night but we didn't have a problem getting a campsite for
the 5 of us. It was a bit noisier then we were used to since there were many car camping people who drank a bit
much. Ear plugs are useful in these situations.
Sunday morning we changed into our backpacking clothes and packed up and left our street clothes in the car.
We made use of the taps to fill up our water containers for the last easy water refill for the trip. We had excellent
warm weather going up over Cottonwood pass. We pumped water at the creek below Chicken Springs lake. My brother
ended up with a migraine headache and vomited about 1 mile before reaching Sequoia NP boundary. We ended up
taking a 2 hour break waiting for him to recover. We camped at Rock Creek for the first backpacking night. Monday
we had a good hike up to Crabtree Meadows and enjoyed a bear can body wash and did laundry at camp. It was
very sunny and enjoyably warm.
Tuesday we got up at 5:30 and hit the trail for the top of Whitney by 6. We left the bulk of our gear and food in camp.
We started to get warm and took a break at the stream near Guitar lake were we pumped water and packed up our warmer
clothing. The wind started to pick up by the time we reached the switchbacks below Trail Crest. By Trail Crest we had put
back on all our warm clothing and wished we brought more warm gear. The wind was screaming all the way along the traverse
to the top of Whitney. We only spent about 15 minutes at the top because of the strong winds and cold temperatures. We hiked
back down to the stream by Guitar lake for another water refill. My brother had another migraine and I had my wife, son and
nephew go back to camp to prep for dinner while my brother recovered. Fortunately he had no pack to carry and was able
to move again after an hour.
Wednesday we hiked north towards Diamond Mesa lakes. We took a long early dinner break at Tyndall Creek. This ended up
being a great idea because the weather turned very cold as we approached Diamond Mesa lakes. We started talking with
people heading south who told us about a cold storm front with predictions of snow. When we camped at Diamond Mesa lakes
we had to tuck our TarpTent Squal2 tents in behind large rocks to cut down the wind.
Thursday morning we got up at 7:30 to frozen water bottles. It got down into the mid 20s overnight. We packed up quickly and
started up over Forester pass wearing all our warm clothes. This included down liner jackets. My wife had socks on over her
gloves. The winds abated a bit and were not too extreme at the top of Forester. We decided to try to reach Onion Valley that
night instead of camping one more night. The NP work crew told us about possible snow and we didn't want to be stuck in it.
The wind and temperatures improved as we went down lower and we took a lunch break the lower elevations near the river.
We started back uphill towards Kearsarge pass. When we got to the top of Kearsarge at about 6:30PM the winds were in the
70-80 mph range and we had trouble keeping upright. We were happy once we got to the car.
We shoehorned the 5 of us with gear into a Honda Civic and drove down to Lone Pine. We had no luck finding a motel with rooms
so we decided to go back to Reno that night. I dropped my brother and nephew off at a pizza place and 3 of us drove back up
to Horseshoe Meadows to get the 2nd car. We got back to Reno at about 4AM a day or so ahead of schedule. This was the first
time in 16 years of Sierra Nevada summer hiking that I had experienced such extreme winds and cold. We still had a great time
and my brother survived a very long last day of hiking. My trip pictures are here. Horseshoe Meadows- Onion Valley Whitney Trip 2009