I drove up from LA and arrived in Whitney Portal at about 7:00 PM. Goal was to stay in the Portal for two nights before summit attempt on Friday.
Woke up early and drove back into Lone Pine to pick up my permits and do one last weather check. As a note, I had cell service (AT&T) about 3 minutes outside of Whitney Portal, just not directly in Whitney Portal or on the mountain. Permit pick up was easy, the staff walked me through the papers, had me sign in a few spots acknowledging that I wouldn't litter, have a fire, etc. then they gave me my permit and wag bag.
Drove back up to the Portal, got my backpack ready for the next day, and decided to take a short hike up to the trail head to help my body acclimate. Ended up hiking through the first few switchbacks of the trail, basically to the first water crossing then turned back and headed back to camp.
Weather was supposed to be very windy on Thursday night and Friday morning, final NOAA report had 70-80mph gusts with sustained winds in the 30+ mph. I decided to pack up my hammock and sleep in my car that night to avoid falling debris and to hopefully get a better night sleep. Day ended with a Mountain House dinner of Chicken and Dumplings and was in bed by 6:00 PM.
Friday 10/20 (Summit)
Woke up at about 2:00 AM to get all my clothes on, breakfast made, and drive up to the parking lot with the goal of starting at 3:00 AM. Ended up starting about 3:15 AM. Weighed my pack at the trail head scale it was 27lbs including 4L of water.
Weather report was just about spot on with the sustained winds. Those kept up the entire morning and didn't fade out until around lunch time when more normal summit winds continued.
Water sources along the trail were very active. If someone was trying to go light on water, they'd have an easy time filtering water essentially all the way up until Trail Camp. I don't necessarily trust the Trail Camp pond water, but if you walk off trail a hair above the pond, water seemed to still be flowing alright.
The hike up to the switch backs was pretty easy, nothing crazy, just plodding along. Even on the switchbacks it wasn't difficult once I found a sustainable pace. Towards the top the winds were getting strong enough that some of the gusts would have blown me off the side of the switch backs had I not had a trekking pole planted downwind. The trail was in great condition though and the one icy spot near the cables was trivial to bypass. It was more cool to see than anything.
I started the switchbacks with about 2.5 liters of water. 1.5 in a camelback and 1 in a Nalgene. From the start of the switchbacks I had to nurse the camelback because the hose kept freezing and continued to do so more frequently as I approached the summit. Eventually about a mile from the summit, I forgot about it for 5 minutes and it was frozen solid. If a camelback is your only source of water to the summit, watch this carefully, otherwise you may lose your water source.
From Trail Crest on I slowly made my way to the summit, altitude becoming a large factor taxing my effort. The main gusty winds had simmered down a little bit at this point but coming around the bend at Trail Crest and through each of the windows, I had to watch my step because the winds were so strong.
Summited in 9.5 hours (approx 12:45 PM), very slow, probably could have done it in 7-8 hours had I not stopped so many times along the way. Summit weather was clear, cold, and beautiful. Stayed on the top for about 30-45 minutes to enjoy the view and eat.
I desummited much quicker but still got back after dark with a total time of 16.5 hours. I feel comfortable that I could have done it in closer to 13-14 but for sticking with other groups on the way up and down.
Time: 16.5 Hours
Trail Conditions: Clear and Clean
Water Consumption: 4L
Weather: Clear, Cold, and Windy
- The two nights in Whitney Portal helped LOADS with acclimation. If you have the time, I highly recommend it.
- I was able to finish the hike with 4L of water but still brought my water filter with me.
- I took ibuprofen all day to manage not only the small aches and pains but also to help with altitude sickness. Not sure how much of a role it played with altitude sickness prevention but I didn't have any issues all the way up. However, I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that it made the descent much more comfortable with regards to the aches and pains.
- Heavier/fattier foods should be eaten earlier in the morning when at lower altitudes. Your body has a difficult time processing those foods at altitude. Switch to simple sugars like fruits and snickers as you approach the summit. It's amazing what a little bit of food in your stomach will do for how you feel.
Hope this helps anyone looking to head up there!