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Jul 29th, 2019
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Better time to summit Whitney - mid July or late August?
#55617 07/02/19 09:21 PM
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I somehow lucked out and have the choice of joining either one of two groups for a weekday Whitney hike (due to vacation-time restrictions, I can't go with both). One group has a day-use permit for mid-July; the other has a day-use permit for late August.

We're all extremely fit marathoners and trail runners, but none of us have any experience climbing anything technical. We've never used crampons or even microspikes before, and this will be our first time up Mt. Whitney. We're planning on taking the main trail and not the mountaineer's route.

With that said, which of those dates would non-technical hikers have a greater chance of reaching the summit? How much skill and equipment is required to get across the snow/ice areas in mid-July, and how much of a problem are thunderstorms in late August?

Re: Better time to summit Whitney - mid July or late August?
Big Pine #55623 07/03/19 06:03 AM
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Late August thunderstorms usually hit in the afternoons. If you start at midnight and make reasonable time, you can summit and be well on your way down by noon. Check the weather links on this site. The probability of storms is fairly accurately forecast a few days in advance.

I will let others comment on what ice and snow may remain in two weeks and what equipment would be needed to deal with them. I don't do winter hiking.

Mountains can have any kind of weather any time of the year without much warning. Bring layers and a waterproof, windproof outer shell.

Re: Better time to summit Whitney - mid July or late August?
Big Pine #55630 07/03/19 04:16 PM
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There is a reason why speed hikers and FKT-ers prefer to hit the high Sierra trails in late August or early September - consistent weather and perfect trail conditions. You will definitely encounter lots of snow in mid July (this winter was unusually snowy). That said, both options are perfectly doable (but expect it to take a bit longer in mid July).

Re: Better time to summit Whitney - mid July or late August?
RichardK #55659 07/06/19 01:24 PM
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Originally Posted By: RichardK
Late August thunderstorms usually hit in the afternoons. If you start at midnight and make reasonable time, you can summit and be well on your way down by noon. Check the weather links on this site. The probability of storms is fairly accurately forecast a few days in advance.

I will let others comment on what ice and snow may remain in two weeks and what equipment would be needed to deal with them. I don't do winter hiking.

Mountains can have any kind of weather any time of the year without much warning. Bring layers and a waterproof, windproof outer shell.


I can second that. I did Whitney last year in August and the thunderstorms would roll in around noon almost like clock-work the 3 days we were there. It is NOT fun to get caught in a hail-storm close to the summit. We ended up start the hike on summit day at 1:30 am. Summited by 11am and just about missed the thunderstorm at the top. Still got hit by crazy hail on the switchbacks on the way down.

Last edited by Avi; 07/06/19 01:24 PM.
Re: Better time to summit Whitney - mid July or late August?
Avi #55670 07/06/19 09:46 PM
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Late August is probably the best time of the year to hike Whitney. Snow is gone by then and too early for new snow. I've always started by 2:00 am for many years (usually early September) and thunderstorms have never been an issue. Always at the summit by 10am. A couple of times got rain on the way down and a few thunderstorms, but the summit's in the bag and we're well out of the danger zone.

Re: Better time to summit Whitney - mid July or late August?
bruce #55675 07/07/19 05:47 PM
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In agreement with the above responses. Late August to early September is ideal. Weather changes quickly just as the short season comes and goes. Also, little to no bugs (and people) later in the season. Here's my experience:

11 Sept 2016
Guitar Lake to Mt. Whitney (JMT thru-hike)
Day prior missed the heavy rains by approximately 1 mile distance. Began at 2:00 am, cold but bearable, clear skies, summit before sunrise, clear skies all morning, no wind, no significant snow on trail, cloud coverage by mid-day, dry trail to Whitney Portal, moderate rain at Whitney Portal by 3:00 pm. Not too crowded.

1 Oct 2017
Guitar Lake to Mt. Whitney (Horseshoe Meadows)
Day prior dry and cold. Began at 2:00 am, very cold and unbearable, summit before sunrise, clear skies all morning, windy, no significant snow on trail, partly cloudy by mid-day, dry trail to Whitney Portal, warm and dry at Whitney Portal by 2:00 pm. Very little crowds.

21 Jul 2018
Guitar Lake to Mt. Whitney (JMT thru-hike)
Day prior pounded by heavy rains, hail, and lightning storm. Began at 2:00 am, cold but bearable, clear skies, summit before sunrise, clear skies all morning, calm wind, no significant snow on trail, cloud coverage by mid-day, trail to Whitney Portal flooded at several locations, difficult to pass, partly cloudy with chance of rain at Whitney Portal by 3:00 pm. Very crowded.

Re: Better time to summit Whitney - mid July or late August?
MtWhitney2017 #55676 07/07/19 05:52 PM
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I have only done August and Sept, and have never needed bug repellent. Doing End of July now. Worth having some deet I guess?

Re: Better time to summit Whitney - mid July or late August?
Wiff #55678 07/07/19 07:23 PM
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Bugs got me good in July, some areas worse than others. More bugs north of Forester Pass. During August, September and October no problem with bugs. Note, also a drier year in 2016.

Re: Better time to summit Whitney - mid July or late August?
MtWhitney2017 #55679 07/07/19 08:10 PM
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Thanks.

Re: Better time to summit Whitney - mid July or late August?
Wiff #55717 07/13/19 08:56 AM
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Thanks for the feedback, everyone!

I've decided to go in late August and not in mid July. If you're looking for a last minute permit for next Monday, there should be one opening up in the next 24 hours.


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