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#54669 - 02/10/19 12:15 PM Bishop Pass to Mt. Whitney Exit - permit strategy?
Andy L Offline


Registered: 02/10/19
Posts: 9
Loc: Kansas City
Hi guys,

I'd love to do a section of the JMT this summer/fall and I'm looking at entering at Bishop Pass JM21 and then summit Whitney, leaving via Whitney Portal about 10 days later. So for example start on Aug 25 and exit on Sept 3.

It's Sunday afternoon right now and I'm just checking out the permit system on recreation.gov. Currently from Inyo there are ZERO Whitney exit permits available for any day so far posted for the whole year (today is Feb 10 so I see they are going out to Aug 10 - there's nothing available for any day whatsoever).

My understanding is that permits are available 6 months early. So does that mean I need to be at my computer on March 3 at 7 AM pacific time ready to snag a Overnight Exiting Whitney permit for my desired Sept 3 exit? If so, it seems highly unlikely I'll be able to get a JM21 entry permit because they will have been available for 10 days already while I waited for my exit to come available.

What's the strategy here? I don't want to have to leave via Cottonwood because that will add at least two more days to my trip and I'm already pushing it going 9 days of food with no opportunity to resupply.

I did the North Lake South Lake loop last year so I'm somewhat familiar with all this but the exit quota is throwing me for a loop.

Thanks!

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#54670 - 02/10/19 10:12 PM Re: Bishop Pass to Mt. Whitney Exit - permit strategy? [Re: Andy L]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7742
Loc: Fresno, CA
Hi Andy,
I've been told by Inyo N.F. staff that with the switch to a new reservation system last October, now this year people like you should be able to reserve both entry and exit permits on the 6-months-before entry date.

And that may be why you are seeing all the TC exit permits totally reserved already -- by people like you getting their entry permit, and also reserving the TC exit farther out than 6 months.

You should give it a try before Feb 25 and see how far you can get with the Entry + Exit pair of permits. You can always cancel the reservation before paying.

Good luck! ...and please report back how it works out.

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#54671 - 02/11/19 06:22 AM Re: Bishop Pass to Mt. Whitney Exit - permit strategy? [Re: Andy L]
pcieluch Offline


Registered: 08/29/16
Posts: 54
Loc: duluth,mn
I did almost the same last summer but went in via Piute Pass. I had gotten the entry permit 6 months out but was unable to the Trail Crest exit at that time. I came into Lone Pine a day early and was able to get both a entry and TC exit permit at the ranger station in Lone Pine. I believe you cant get a TC addon to your original permit. You must start over getting a new permit if the exit is available at that time. From the beta I have gathered mid week is the best time.


Edited by pcieluch (02/11/19 10:59 AM)

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#54676 - 02/11/19 01:52 PM Re: Bishop Pass to Mt. Whitney Exit - permit strategy? [Re: pcieluch]
Andy L Offline


Registered: 02/10/19
Posts: 9
Loc: Kansas City
Originally Posted By: pcieluch
I did almost the same last summer but went in via Piute Pass. I had gotten the entry permit 6 months out but was unable to the Trail Crest exit at that time. I came into Lone Pine a day early and was able to get both a entry and TC exit permit at the ranger station in Lone Pine. I believe you cant get a TC addon to your original permit. You must start over getting a new permit if the exit is available at that time. From the beta I have gathered mid week is the best time.


Hi PCI,

So you are saying you reserved JUST the entry permit for Piute Pass but didn't have a Whitney exit... then when you went to Bishiop to get the permit, you were at the office early, during the middle of the week, and asked for a Whitney exit and they gave it to you?

On the application for the Piute pass, what did you put as your exit point? Cottonwood?

Andy

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#54677 - 02/11/19 01:56 PM Re: Bishop Pass to Mt. Whitney Exit - permit strategy? [Re: Steve C]
Andy L Offline


Registered: 02/10/19
Posts: 9
Loc: Kansas City
Originally Posted By: Steve C
Hi Andy,
I've been told by Inyo N.F. staff that with the switch to a new reservation system last October, now this year people like you should be able to reserve both entry and exit permits on the 6-months-before entry date.

And that may be why you are seeing all the TC exit permits totally reserved already -- by people like you getting their entry permit, and also reserving the TC exit farther out than 6 months.

You should give it a try before Feb 25 and see how far you can get with the Entry + Exit pair of permits. You can always cancel the reservation before paying.

Good luck! ...and please report back how it works out.


Hi Steve,

I just went on to recreation.gov and I can reserve a permit to enter on 8/11/19 (6 months out) and then I can choose an Whitney exit as far as out as 8/17/19, but that won't be enough time. I would need 10 days between enter and exit.

One strategy is to just snag the South Lake JM21 entry on the correct entry day, choose Cottonwood as the exit, and then when I pick up the permit in Bishop get there way early and try to change my exit to Whitney. But if I don't get it, there's no way I can carry enough food to get to Cottonwood so that sounds like a really risky thing to try.

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#54679 - 02/11/19 02:49 PM Re: Bishop Pass to Mt. Whitney Exit - permit strategy? [Re: Andy L]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7742
Loc: Fresno, CA
Andy,
I would reserve on the entry date, and also the exit permit as far out as possible. You will have that in the bag.

If you have the entry permit and the (too early) exit permit, you might try changing the exit permit date online on progressively later dates, to see if the online system allows that.

Also understand this: The TC exit quota is 25 per day, but only 15 are reservable online. The other 10 are available for walk-in people and adjustments for people like you. With your exit date so far out, most of the 10 should still be available for you.

However, I would also call the Wilderness Permit Office number, 760-873-2483. Cindy or John may have better suggestions. You should call them now and explore your options. If you can't move your exit date farther ahead online, I think they could probably do it for you.

If all else fails, carrying that permit, I am pretty sure if you explained to the ranger on the trail what your predicament was, there wouldn't be a problem. They are most interested in the fact that you do have an exit permit, and understand that trips don't always take exactly the number of days initially planned.

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#54681 - 02/11/19 04:10 PM Re: Bishop Pass to Mt. Whitney Exit - permit strategy? [Re: Steve C]
Andy L Offline


Registered: 02/10/19
Posts: 9
Loc: Kansas City
Hi Steve,

Totally appreciate the good advice! I'm going to do some "trial runs" here over the next few days and see how I might be able to swing it as you said.

Andy

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#54682 - 02/12/19 06:18 AM Re: Bishop Pass to Mt. Whitney Exit - permit strategy? [Re: Andy L]
pcieluch Offline


Registered: 08/29/16
Posts: 54
Loc: duluth,mn
Originally the exit was Cottonwood. I flew in on a Wednesday into Vegas and rented a car. Arrived at Lone Pine around 3:00 PM. Went to the ranger station and got a new permit which included a Whitney exit permit that afternoon for the next day. The Ranger even listed the camp sites for me on the application. All I did was wait for him to put it in. Like I said they just cant addon to the original permit. So you need to get a new one as a walkup.

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#54691 - 02/14/19 08:36 AM Re: Bishop Pass to Mt. Whitney Exit - permit strategy? [Re: pcieluch]
Andy L Offline


Registered: 02/10/19
Posts: 9
Loc: Kansas City
Hey everyone,

So this morning I went on recreation.gov and saw there were 10 Whitney exits available at the farthest date out AND a South Lake entry for 7 days prior. This is Aug 14 to Aug 20, which would be 7 days of hiking. I took the pass and have the confirmation, so at least I have SOMETHING reserved now.

I don't think I can do 100 miles including Whitney summit in 7 days, I would rather take 10 days. What are my options to modify this pass with a later exit? I will keep watching for a more ideal setup with a 10 day window and then cancel this 7 day reservation, but if that doesn't happen, is my only hope a walk-up?

Edit: I see now I can edit my reservation but I can only edit the start day, not the end day. So maybe if I keep watching I'll find South Lake open up again on Aug 11 which would be ideal.



Edited by Andy L (02/14/19 08:40 AM)

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#54694 - 02/14/19 10:20 AM Re: Bishop Pass to Mt. Whitney Exit - permit strategy? [Re: Andy L]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7742
Loc: Fresno, CA
For your questions, call the WP number I gave earlier. They will be the best ones to answer you with your specialized situation.

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#54696 - 02/14/19 04:20 PM Re: Bishop Pass to Mt. Whitney Exit - permit strategy? [Re: Steve C]
Hobbes Online


Registered: 03/28/14
Posts: 137
Loc: The OC
Seems like OP is really over thinking this process. First, only 60% of exit permits are reservable (15 out of 25); the other 10 are walk-in.

[Note this is exit - all WZ permits entering from/returning to WP are reservation only ie lottery.]

Secondly, having personally done MW from every possible direction/style, I've met more than a few people suffering from some kind of ailment, sickness, etc.

What do they do? Abort their plans and head down of course. (Including one guy who had to be airlifted out of Crabtree meadows.) That includes trips that were planned for exiting via other THs after summiting from the west.

So, take the hint. Not that you'll need it - I have never been shut out walking in trying to get an exit. Also, be flexible on exit dates. No one says you have to stay in the mountains if you happen to arrive a day or two early.


Edited by Hobbes (02/14/19 04:22 PM)

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#54697 - 02/14/19 05:05 PM Re: Bishop Pass to Mt. Whitney Exit - permit strategy? [Re: Hobbes]
Andy L Offline


Registered: 02/10/19
Posts: 9
Loc: Kansas City
Hobbes,

I get what you're saying, but people like me have to plan this kind of trip months in advance, take time off of work, prepare and repackage food, rent a bear can, get a flight, rent a car, arrange shuttle ride, etc etc... I LOVE the SEKI area and this whole ordeal is much more manageable when we can say we have our permit figured out 100% before flying to California.

Most of the options I find here, because of the limited quota system, is to go in person and pray to your God that you can get your desired entry/exit or get a less-than-perfect permit modified in person. It's literally not possible to get what I want by waiting until Whitney Exit is open because by then, South Lake permits are already reserved.

It's very disconcerting, to say the least, knowing that I need to spend a lot of time and money preparing for a vacation when it could be completely wrecked by insufficient permits remaining, a missed flight that causes me to miss getting to the ranger station at open, etc.

I'm doing my best to get a game plan so that I don't get my whole world turned upside down at the ranger station.

Anyway... super excited to get out there again and I'm hoping it all works out!

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#54699 - 02/15/19 09:18 AM Re: Bishop Pass to Mt. Whitney Exit - permit strategy? [Re: Andy L]
Hobbes Online


Registered: 03/28/14
Posts: 137
Loc: The OC
Your most important task is to get the entry permit from the TH you want when you want.

The rest will come - by hell or high water. Once you're actually *in the mountains* with a valid entry permit, then it's much more flexible. That is, rangers aren't up there to force people to stay in the mountains if they aren't feeling well, have an injury, etc. There's multiple exit routes, including the MMWT, to get out of the back country.

Secondly, if you really want some assurance, then simply reserve an exit at Cottonwood. If for some reason you cannot make a permit change and get a walk-in MW exit, then take an extra day of food or so and just hike another day or two to Cottonwood. If you don't have the time/desire to hike to Cottonwood from Bishop (S Lake), then change the entry further south to Kearsarge with an exit to Cottonwood.

Any section of the JMT/PCT is world class, so it's easy to mix/match around specific targets. In this case, Whitney. I get that you're stressing, but I'm trying to assure you that it all shakes out in the end. The number of people who flake/bail for whatever reasons on any given day is around 50% by my guess.

Steve has stats that show the number of walk-ins for *lottery* reservations that become available once lapsed. Day to day, it seems to average around 50%. The only dates I recall seeing every permit picked up was like the 4th of July in a low snow year.

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#54702 - 02/15/19 01:57 PM Re: Bishop Pass to Mt. Whitney Exit - permit strategy? [Re: Hobbes]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7742
Loc: Fresno, CA
Well Andy, I just couldn't help myself, and I called the WP number myself. I learned...

1. They can't adjust your dates online, same as you.

2. Your best option is to hope for a walk-in TC Exit permit for your target exit date when you go in to pick up the permit. As Hobbes points out, there are 10 walk-in exit permits available starting out, and your target date could only be reserved by people picking up their permit the days before you do -- those entering on a trail head farther north than yours. You have a very good chance of picking up your desired exit.

3. Another option: Since you are coming for so long a trip, you could possibly exit at Kearsarge Pass/Onion Valley/Independence for a resupply, and then start a New trip on that trail, and pick up the exit permit for that trip, since that part only takes 3-5 days.

4. Also as Hobbes pointed out: plan your trip for a Cottonwood Pass/Horseshoe Meadows exit (carrying 1-2 days extra food), and then when you pick up the permit, see if the Exit date you want is available. Actually, to use this option, you don't even need to revise your existing Aug 14-20 permit, since the entry date is the only hard-and-fast rule. Exits can be anywhere and any date (except for the Trail Crest option.) They just want you to give your best estimates of camping locations and exit when you pick-up the permit.

5. And a last option, that Hobbes or I could take: Exit off the Whitney summit via the Easy Walk-off (only easy in summer, deadly with snow/ice), down the Mountaineers Route and the North Fork Lone Pine Creek. No exit permit required. If you are experienced with off-trail travel, we can help you navigate this.

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#54703 - 02/16/19 07:24 AM Re: Bishop Pass to Mt. Whitney Exit - permit strategy? [Re: Steve C]
Andy L Offline


Registered: 02/10/19
Posts: 9
Loc: Kansas City
Thanks a lot Hobbes and Steve!

I did try calling White Mountain two or three times this week and each time no one answered with no opportunity to leave a VM. I'm going to keep watching recreation.gov to try to get the perfect permit. I'm actually pretty flexible with any 10-day window from August to mid/late September. If that doesn't work, I'll just plan my trip for the dates I have, assuming I'll have 10 days, and get to the station at open the day before my entry (confirmed at South Lake at this point), with the hope that they can modify my exit date at WP.

I'm also going to look up the Mountineering route. I saw it on Caltopo but I don't know much about it otherwise. Any good resources you can recommend?

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#54704 - 02/16/19 10:32 AM Re: Bishop Pass to Mt. Whitney Exit - permit strategy? [Re: Andy L]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7742
Loc: Fresno, CA
Andy, the Wilderness Permit Office number within Inyo National Forest rings in the White Mountain ranger station in Bishop, but it's not their direct line number. It's shown at the bottom of this web page: Wilderness Permits - Planning Your Trip:
Quote:
Still have questions about wilderness permits?
Call Inyo National Forest for wilderness and permit information(760) 873-2483 Open 8am to 4:30.
Winter season: closed on weekends and holidays.
May 15 through Oct 15: open every day.


For Mountaineers Route info:  some of the links on this page are aged or missing, but there are quite a few that still good. It's the top of the "important Link", top of the Reference forum: Mountaneers Route info and links


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#54708 - 02/17/19 07:45 AM Re: Bishop Pass to Mt. Whitney Exit - permit strategy? [Re: Steve C]
Anton Offline


Registered: 08/02/17
Posts: 24
Loc: San Diego
Originally Posted By: Steve C
Well Andy, I just couldn't help myself, and I called the WP number myself. I learned...

1. They can't adjust your dates online, same as you.

2. Your best option is to hope for a walk-in TC Exit permit for your target exit date when you go in to pick up the permit. As Hobbes points out, there are 10 walk-in exit permits available starting out, and your target date could only be reserved by people picking up their permit the days before you do -- those entering on a trail head farther north than yours. You have a very good chance of picking up your desired exit.

3. Another option: Since you are coming for so long a trip, you could possibly exit at Kearsarge Pass/Onion Valley/Independence for a resupply, and then start a New trip on that trail, and pick up the exit permit for that trip, since that part only takes 3-5 days.

4. Also as Hobbes pointed out: plan your trip for a Cottonwood Pass/Horseshoe Meadows exit (carrying 1-2 days extra food), and then when you pick up the permit, see if the Exit date you want is available. Actually, to use this option, you don't even need to revise your existing Aug 14-20 permit, since the entry date is the only hard-and-fast rule. Exits can be anywhere and any date (except for the Trail Crest option.) They just want you to give your best estimates of camping locations and exit when you pick-up the permit.

5. And a last option, that Hobbes or I could take: Exit off the Whitney summit via the Easy Walk-off (only easy in summer, deadly with snow/ice), down the Mountaineers Route and the North Fork Lone Pine Creek. No exit permit required. If you are experienced with off-trail travel, we can help you navigate this.


All good advice except for #5. The MR descent is class III with non-trivial navigation and serious hazards in several places, such as rock fall and exposed sections with a possibility of a deadly fall. Not for hikers w/o proven mountaineering experience.

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#54709 - 02/17/19 08:08 AM Re: Bishop Pass to Mt. Whitney Exit - permit strategy? [Re: Anton]
Hobbes Online


Registered: 03/28/14
Posts: 137
Loc: The OC
Um, yeah, there's that too:   Fatal: Hiker fell on Whitney

I think what Steve was suggesting was that by late Aug - early Sept, the walk-off should be clear & dry.

Still, OP is coming from mid-west + what happens if there's a monsoon or just afternoon showers?

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#54750 - 03/03/19 09:34 AM Re: Bishop Pass to Mt. Whitney Exit - permit strategy? [Re: Andy L]
Jonathan C Offline


Registered: 03/03/19
Posts: 19
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
Hi all. Just signed up for this board as I was trying to reserve a Trail Crest exit permit as well and found this thread while searching online for more info.

Walk-ups aside, it seems like the current TC exit permit reservation system is less than ideal. The exit permits free up a week ahead of the entry permits (meaning that six nights minimum of camping are required), and for the most part all the reservable spots disappear within 24 hours or much less. But as the original post in this thread describes, all the major trailhead reservations disappear within 24 hours as well. The problem is that none of the major Inyo trailheads are a six night camp from TC exit, for most people. Cottonwood and Kearsarge are less, and South Lake and beyond are more.

I have a feeling most people are reserving TC exit permits on a six night itinerary with a faint hope of being able to change them or "work something out", but will not end up using them as neither of those things are possible. The only thing you can do with an "Overnight Exiting Whitney" permit is cancel it completely.

I think a better system would be something like an ongoing windowed lottery that you enter when you secure an entry permit. Something that would make it possible to reserve a 3-4 night trip or a 10+ day trip with equal probability of getting a TC exit timed to your entry.

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#54761 - 03/07/19 01:31 AM Re: Bishop Pass to Mt. Whitney Exit - permit strategy? [Re: Jonathan C]
Andy L Offline


Registered: 02/10/19
Posts: 9
Loc: Kansas City
Hi Jonathan,

You're exactly right and I've continued to watch Recreation.gov to see if my preferred Whitney Exit and start date open up, however they have not.

Incidentally, yesterday early morning I was on (jet lag from international trip...) and there were LOTS of permits for a South Lake - Whitney 10 day run from Sept 3 to Sept 12 available. I immediately reserved a permit for that date range so now I have a complete permit in hand.

I'm trying to decide if I should keep the earlier one in August and hope to modify it (maybe catch some better greenery) or cancel it and just do the early Sept one. With all the snow up there this winter the Sept could be better for the mosquitoes problem too.

I guess I'm saying that the online reservation system makes it difficult to get our unicorn but if your dates are flexible, keep checking it might work out. Otherwise I was feeling OK with going to the station and getting it modified two days out.


Edited by Andy L (03/07/19 01:33 AM)

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#54775 - 03/09/19 07:44 AM Re: Bishop Pass to Mt. Whitney Exit - permit strategy? [Re: Andy L]
Jonathan C Offline


Registered: 03/03/19
Posts: 19
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
"Otherwise I was feeling OK with going to the station and getting it modified two days out."

That's great, but then your initial reservation ought to have been a regular permit, no TC exit. Having that wrong TC exit gives you no advantage for getting the right one as a walk-up, since that decision will be based only on whether there are available walk-ups and meanwhile your reserved exit will have gone to waste. It *might* give you an advantage the other way around, if you tried to get a walk-up for Bishop Pass 4 days earlier than your entry. In that case they might honor your TC exit date and allow it to be transferred to the walk-up Bishop entry, but I'm not sure if that's what they would actually do.

Not faulting you. I'm just saying that everyone loses with the current system since this is what nearly everyone does, I suspect.

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#54777 - 03/10/19 01:53 PM Re: Bishop Pass to Mt. Whitney Exit - permit strategy? [Re: Jonathan C]
Andy L Offline


Registered: 02/10/19
Posts: 9
Loc: Kansas City
Well, I also suspect that having a valid WP exit also gives rangers who have a bit of latitude to let me carry on my way in case I end up having to walk out of the park three days late.

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