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#45089 - 01/06/16 06:03 PM Trip Planning
RenoFrank Offline


Registered: 08/06/11
Posts: 437
Loc: Reno, NV
I'm hoping to share some of the various expertise out there:

I want to plan a backpack trip including the Whitney summit. I hope to go mid August 2016 and camp for 5 nights with a group of 5 to 7 people.. My original plan was to enter near Independence (Onion Valley?) and exit at Whitney Portal. However I think my chances of obtaining permits for this are slim.

What are some alternatives? If I have to exit other than Whitney Portal I think it may take more time to finish after summiting Mt Whitney so my entry point would have to be adjusted to make it a 5 night trip.

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#45090 - 01/06/16 11:42 PM Re: Trip Planning [Re: RenoFrank]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7908
Loc: Fresno, CA
Hi Frank,
If you can decide now on the exact dates that you want to hike, there are permits available! Most people wait, so the permits get taken. The permits you need, "Kearsarge Pass JM31" and "Mt. Whitney (Trail Crest Exit) JM35", can be reserved together, and 6 months in advance. Currently, the 6-month window ends at July 7, and you can check what is available. Here's the Rec.gov link for Inyo permits.

In "Looking For", select "Overnight Exiting Mt Whitney".
Entry Trail: Kearsarge.

I see that there are plenty of the Kearsarge entry permits -- there are 36 reservable slots per day on that trail. So you won't have trouble getting those. The more tricky ones are the exit permits. Only 15 are reservable, and while mid-week exits are available, the July 1-4 window are already reserved below the 7 you would need. (However, that is the only time they are scarce so far.)

The complicated part is that you can't reserve the Kearsarge permit separately from the exit permit, so you have to wait until the 6-month window makes the exit permits available before reserving the trip. Watch the site and the Kearsarge permit numbers closer to the date you want. Once that exit permit date comes available, reserve the trip. I think the next date becomes available at 7 AM.

Edit: (Note, on Jan 6 @11 PM, Jul 7 is available, so it might be 9 PM. Edit: Jan 7, 10 AM, Jul 7 is last available. Aha! Jul 8 slots became available at 9 PM sharp on Jan 7!) Once they become available, they can be reserved in 4 clicks: "Update Availability" on the exit permits, Click the newly opened date, scroll down and click "Book Permit". (You MUST first have (1) your group size set to the number you want, and (2) the Entry Date already selected --the selected date shows gold.) Practice this several times a couple of nights before your exit date actually opens. You can get all the way down to paying for the permit, then cancel it. I had all 15 exit slots tied up tonight for a while. :-)



Edited by Steve C (01/07/16 09:40 PM)

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#45092 - 01/07/16 08:42 AM Re: Trip Planning [Re: Steve C]
RenoFrank Offline


Registered: 08/06/11
Posts: 437
Loc: Reno, NV
Steve, thanks for the info. The time available for my group is about Aug 10-18. Do you think permits will be less available mid August compared to early July? I can get by with 5 permits so will certainly monitor openings as time progresses.

Are there any other nearby entry points that might be more available. Or one that might enable me to exit somewhere other than Whitney Portal after summiting Mt Whitney?

(edited) Or maybe I can lengthen my trip and still enter at Kearsarge but exit somewhere other than Whitney Portal.


Edited by RenoFrank (01/07/16 08:45 AM)

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#45093 - 01/07/16 10:19 AM Re: Trip Planning [Re: RenoFrank]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7908
Loc: Fresno, CA
The next exit point south is Horseshoe Meadows. I think that adds 2 or 3 days hiking from Crabtree, via the PCT, past Chicken Spring Lake, over Cottonwood Pass. Though I haven't been that way yet, it seems a bit less spectacular after all the fun stuff coming in from Kearsarge. It might be more enjoyable to go south to north if you include Cottonwood.

You would have the option of also exiting over Army Pass or New Army Pass -- slightly higher than Cottonwood Pass, but you get to see Cottonwood Lakes.

Exiting Cottonwood is easier than Trail Crest, though, since you won't need to haul your packs up and over such a high pass.

I have the feeling you will be able to get your permits to exit Whitney. If not, then get the Kearsarge entry without the exit permit, then (Plan B) try for some walk-in exit permits when you pick up the permit. Plan C would then be to extend the trip and exit at Horseshoe.

Plan D could be exiting via the MR and the "Easy Walk-off" route, but I don't think everyone in your group would enjoy that route, and it requires carrying the backpacks all the way to the Whitney summit.

BTW, before you actually get to the time when you want to reserve your actual permit, you NEED to get online at recreation.gov and practice entering a trip. It gives you a 15-minute window to setup the trip, and that includes specifying overnight locations each night of the trip. You can put in bogus camp locations and change them later, but you cannot change the entry date and exit permit date at all, so get the important part done and pay first. On your actual trip, the overnight locations are not something you MUST adhere to. They are only for statistical info and starting points if a SAR is necessary.
    Practice link

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#45095 - 01/08/16 09:04 AM Re: Trip Planning [Re: Steve C]
RenoFrank Offline


Registered: 08/06/11
Posts: 437
Loc: Reno, NV
Thanks again, Steve. A couple more questions

What day is my exit permit? If I camp at Guitar Lake then summit Whitney then camp at Trail Camp or Outpost which day is my "exit"? The day I am at Trail Crest or the day I am at Whitney Portal?

Can you suggest an out and back backpack to Mt Whitney in case I am not successful obtaining the permits I want?

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#45096 - 01/08/16 09:53 AM Re: Trip Planning [Re: Steve C]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7908
Loc: Fresno, CA
For the exit permit, it is the day you start descending from Trail Crest, as if Trail Crest were the trail head. Though we have heard rangers are flexible on this -- day before/after is ok, just HAVE the exit permits.

The out-and-back would be to enter at Horseshoe Meadows, and use the PCT, maybe return over Army Pass. I am pretty sure you are going to get all the permits you need, though. See the following...

Last night I played on recreation.gov and found that the exit permits available in the 6 month window move to the next day at 9 PM sharp. (That's midnight Eastern time, where the Rec.gov website "lives".) So if you want to be sure and grab the permits you need, you can practice the process before the night when the ones you actually want become available. Practice makes perfect, and if you do that, you can grab the permits maybe 5 seconds after they pop up.

You can set up the screen (here's the Aug 5-18 window) ...but practice using a current window that shows several "X=not available" dates on the right, with mostly available dates across the 14-day span.

At 8:59 PM... Make sure you are signed-in, set your group size correctly, and have the entry date for Kearsarge already set. (Note that if you select your Kearsarge date, it turns gold, then if you Update Availability on that section, the selected date shifts to the left side of the 2-week range.)

Practice repeatedly clicking the "Update Availability" on the exit permit section, so you catch the event of the next date opening.

By repeatedly clicking "Update Availability" on the Exit Permits, you can catch it as soon as the date opens. Once it does, quickly click the "A" to select that date, scroll to the bottom, and click the Book Permit button. The time it takes you to click, scroll down, and click is all you need to grab your permits. You then have 15 minutes to complete and pay for the permits. Nobody else can get the permits during that 15 minutes.

In that 15 minutes, you have to fill in the overnight spots and pay. The overnight spots can be anything in their list--you can change them later, just select anything. "Other/Don't Know" works for all but the first night. Don't forget to enter "Foot" in the Travel Method, and check the "Yes I have read..." box at the bottom. You can go all the way to "Complete this purchase" in your practice session, to make sure you understand all the steps.

Practice this several times a couple of nights before your exit date actually opens. ...I had all 15 exit slots tied up last night for a while. :-)

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#45106 - 01/10/16 11:01 PM Re: Trip Planning [Re: Steve C]
RenoFrank Offline


Registered: 08/06/11
Posts: 437
Loc: Reno, NV
Thanks. I've done the practice.

Maybe I should try to book some permits with the exit at Trail Crest one day ahead of my plan. If successful maybe I could get by with that permit actually exiting a day later than the permit says. Or if successful I could try again the next night for the correct date. I'm not sure if I could use my account for a second group of permits or if I could use my wife's account. And would the system note that my name showed up as an alternate leader on my wife's account and vice versa?

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#45107 - 01/10/16 11:11 PM Re: Trip Planning [Re: RenoFrank]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7908
Loc: Fresno, CA
I don't know if the system would try to prevent you. But I doubt it. If you have money to play with, you could experiment with booking one trip and try booking another that conflicts with the first. You would only need to pay for the first one. And don't use Whitney, because those include the $15 per hiker Whitney Zone fee.

As for booking the day before... If you are watching the several nights before the actual, you should be able to get a sense of the demand pressure, and base your decision on that.

I wouldn't book two trips -- with your group size, you are talking $120 per trip!

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#45108 - 01/11/16 05:12 AM Re: Trip Planning [Re: Steve C]
Harvey Lankford Offline


Registered: 11/10/09
Posts: 1025
Loc: Richmond, Virginia
Rangers have been known to "borrow" an exit day from before or after your requested exit day, so that, for example, a 6 person group can exit together even though there are only 5 slots open for that day. Call the permit office. They can still do things for you the old fashioned way.

And yes, as Steve says, they will not hold you to the exact day you pick. Try to do that, yes, but they realize you may be a day or two early or late depending on backpack travel on the trail.
(obviously this is not true for a dayhike). It also means that instead of trying to grab one particular day for an exit permit, you actually could use one from any of three days.

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#45110 - 01/11/16 09:20 PM Re: Trip Planning [Re: Steve C]
RenoFrank Offline


Registered: 08/06/11
Posts: 437
Loc: Reno, NV
The Rec.gov site says "Your exit date is the day you descend to Whitney Portal Road."

If I camp at Guitar Lake on Sunday, August 15, summit Mt Whitney and camp at Trail Camp or Outpost on Monday, August 16, then descend to Whitney Portal on Tuesday August 17, my exit date would be August 17, correct?

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#45111 - 01/11/16 09:47 PM Re: Trip Planning [Re: RenoFrank]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7908
Loc: Fresno, CA
Yes, August 17. Since you found that on the website, that would be the final authority.

I don't think a ranger is going to give you any trouble, though, if your group gets Whitney Portal fever and decides on the 16th that they are tired of camping. grin

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#45113 - 01/12/16 06:58 PM Re: Trip Planning [Re: Steve C]
RenoFrank Offline


Registered: 08/06/11
Posts: 437
Loc: Reno, NV
FYI

As an experiment I booked a trip for 2 entering Kearsarge Pass JM31 and exiting Mount Whitney (Trail Crest) JM35. The next day I cancelled that resy. I was refunded the $30 use fee and not refunded the $6 resy fee.


Edited by RenoFrank (01/12/16 06:58 PM)

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#45115 - 01/12/16 09:24 PM Re: Trip Planning [Re: RenoFrank]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7908
Loc: Fresno, CA
like!

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#45144 - 01/19/16 10:04 PM Re: Trip Planning [Re: Steve C]
RenoFrank Offline


Registered: 08/06/11
Posts: 437
Loc: Reno, NV
Hey Steve, maybe you can figure something out for me.

I've been experimenting on the reservations site for my planned trip. After 9PM tonight entrance permits for Kearsarge Pass for July 20 (6 months from tomorrow) became available as expected.

However the 15 exit permits at Trail Crest Exit did not. The 13 days before July 20 show "R" (all reserved. For July 20 through Nov 1 all it shows is "X" (Not Available) with no number. The future entrance permits for Kearsarge Pass show the "X" and the number "36". Starting Nov 2 the Trail Crest exit permits shoe the "X" and the number "100"

Any thoughts on this?

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#45145 - 01/19/16 10:34 PM Re: Trip Planning [Re: RenoFrank]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7908
Loc: Fresno, CA
Looks like they changed the time those permits become available. At 10:30 PM they still are not available (X). Or it's a software glitch. Let's keep an eye on it.

After Nov 2, all permits are available via walk-in. The demand for permits is nil, so they aren't available online.

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#45147 - 01/20/16 12:29 AM Re: Trip Planning [Re: Steve C]
britonwhit(ney) Offline


Registered: 03/06/14
Posts: 79
Loc: UK
Around this time in 2014, the exit permits switched from midnight eastern to ?10am? eastern. It was 3pm in Europe at the time IIRC.

Assuming its the same this year, by the time you wake up we'll know the answer...!

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#45149 - 01/20/16 07:45 AM Re: Trip Planning [Re: britonwhit(ney)]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7908
Loc: Fresno, CA
Checking at 7:45 AM Pacific, only 1 left for July 20. I think britonwhit is on to something.

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#45159 - 01/21/16 07:07 AM Re: Trip Planning [Re: Steve C]
RenoFrank Offline


Registered: 08/06/11
Posts: 437
Loc: Reno, NV
Yes, the day's permits become available at 7 AM here now. I tried this morning and was unsuccessful. It showed the 15 available but when I clicked "Book It" I got the message "Inventory is not available for the entire stay period". The entrance cannot be booked. " The refreshed screen showed zero available.

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#45160 - 01/21/16 07:53 AM Re: Trip Planning [Re: RenoFrank]
Glenn Offline


Registered: 09/16/11
Posts: 105
Loc: Oklahoma
Hey RenoFrank,
Another option to consider is to enter on the west side, such as at Roads End, instead of Onion Valley. That is, if you don't mind the more complicated vehicle shuttling. Unless things have changed in the last year or two, exiting at Trail Crest is only subject to the quota for trips originating in Inyo National Forest.

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#45161 - 01/21/16 02:41 PM Re: Trip Planning [Re: Glenn]
RenoFrank Offline


Registered: 08/06/11
Posts: 437
Loc: Reno, NV
Glenn, thanks.

I don't mind a complicated vehicle shuttle but I don't know my way around in that area.I even considered exiting at Horseshoe Meadows but I want to summit Mt Whitney and only camp 5 nights. I don't know of any entry points that would work (Like I said, I'm not familiar with that area.) I would like to hike over Forester Pass.

Someone suggested an out and back to Whitney from ? I figured I'd look into that if unable to get my permits.

I do appreciate all the help. Some are probably wondering why don't I just look at a map. I will. So far this thread has helped me immensely.

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