I’ve been lurking on this forum for months, and now that I’ve had a successful Whitney summit I guess it’s about time I post! Reading other people's trip reports and advice really helped plan our summit attempt so hopefully this trip report can help someone else as well.
Some background: my (now) fiancé and I are both in our mid-20's and in relatively good shape. He’s an avid runner while I’m more of a reluctant runner. We live basically at sea level on the east coast and I was very concerned about the altitude since I experienced mild AMS symptoms on a 12,000ft hike in CO last summer. We did a couple training hikes up Mt Mitchell in NC since it’s the highest mountain on the east coast. That hike was still very challenging for various reasons (including pouring rain on us both times!), but it ends up being only about half the length and half the elevation gain of Whitney and at 6,600ft it’s not quite high enough to feel the effects of altitude. Whitney would be the first 14er for either of us, so this was about the best we could do for training other than spending hours on a stair machine.
We began our trip on 9/7 in Flagstaff. We ended up spending a couple days there at about 7,000ft prior to heading to Lone Pine. While we were there we did Humphrey’s Peak on 9/8 (~12,000ft) as an acclimatization hike. I started the hike with a bit of a headache and by the sign at 11,400ft I was pretty out of breath. We made the summit and spent about 30 minutes there before heading down. My headache actually got worse on the way down and I started feeling a bit of nausea. I took an Advil when we hit the saddle and my symptoms were gone by the time we passed the 11,400ft sign again. My fiancé didn't have any symptoms here.
We arrived in Lone Pine the next day on Sunday 9/9 and headed straight for the visitor center to try to get a walk up permit for the next day. There were probably about 10 groups (each 2-3 people with a few singles thrown in) trying to do the same thing. I drew #7 at the lottery and was feeling a bit nervous, but it turned out no one drew 1, 2, or 4, so that placed us at #4 essentially! We successfully got a day hike permit for Monday the 10th and asked out of curiosity and were told there were “20-something” permits available at that time. We didn’t stick around to see if everyone who was waiting got one though.
We didn’t have any sort of hotel or campsite reservation for that night so we headed straight up to the portal with the intent of staying at the Ravine campground. The main campground still had some walk in sites available so we ended up snagging one of those instead for the convenience of being able to pull the car in. We quickly set up camp, grabbed a couple hotdogs from the portal store, packed our day packs, and went to bed around 7pm.
We woke up the next morning at 2am and packed up our campsite. We transferred all our food and toiletries to a bear box at the parking lot by the trailhead. Most bear boxes were already about half full around this time and I'd imagine the later you start will give you less chance of finding a bear box with room here if you're not leaving your gear at a campsite that has one. We were on the trail by 3am. We set a 2-3 mph pace to start with the intention of slowing down to about 1mph after trail camp. This worked pretty well and we made it above the tree line without incident. I started to get a bit winded in the last mile or so before trail camp and had to slow down earlier than we’d planned, but I wasn’t feeling any other altitude symptoms.
We arrived at trail camp around sunrise and took a 20-30 minute rest/snack break before starting on the switchbacks.
The altitude continued to be draining but still no headache or nausea for either of us. We kept around a 1mph pace as planned and that seemed to work pretty well for us. It probably took us 1 1/2 hours to make it up the switchbacks and we took a 15 minute or so break once we hit trail crest. A note here: there were still some trickles of water on the switchbacks but they were frozen when we passed them just after dawn, so I wouldn't count on them as a water source going up at least. They had thawed and were flowing by the time we came down that afternoon. Still no altitude symptoms but we were both starting to get pretty tired. We made the summit shortly after 11am and ended up spending over an hour there. My (now) fiancé proposed to me here as we were admiring the view and of course I said yes! We also had great reception on the summit with Verizon so we each made several calls with the news.
We started heading down around 12pm. My fiancé, who previously hadn’t had any AMS symptoms on any of our hikes, started to get a headache on the summit. We booked it down to trail crest and the switchbacks and took another break at trail camp, where he said he felt a little better. We were both getting super sore at this point and I 100% credit my trekking poles for getting me off this mountain, because I was really starting to get some pain in my knees.
We kept a quick pace the rest of the way down, stopping probably every mile or so for a quick break. We made it back just in time for a burger at the portal store before heading down to Lone Pine to get a hotel room for the night.
All in all it was an amazing trip! Perfect weather, not a cloud in the sky. 50-60 degrees for most of the hike, a little cold when the wind picked up but for the most part we didn't experience much wind on this hike, even on the summit. Whitney was absolutely beautiful and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Next time I’d definitely like to do an overnight hike so we can take our time and enjoy the scenery a little more.