The day before the hike, I stopped by the Visitor Center to pick up my permit and the complimentary/obligatory wag bag. I drove up to Whitney Portal (my first time) and took in the scenery. It's always so different seeing it in real life as compared to the numerous YouTube video clips. I parked my car and put my small ice chest into one of the many bear lockers around the parking lot. I walked about 75 feet to the famous Whitney Portal store and bought two mugs and 4 stickers. I was tempted to put one of the stickers on my car, but I figured I should wait until I actually summit! It was still only 9am, so I decided walk along the creek down to my campsite. There are these beautiful cabins that I assume could be rented. They would make awesome basecamps. When I walked back uphill to the Portal Store, I had their eggs, sausage, hash, and toast. Delicious and a huge serving.
My campsite wasn't that good. From my parking spot, I would have to walk down 40 feet to my actual site. Not a big deal, because I wasn't going to use the bench or the fire pit, but the bear locker was also down there. I set up my tent right behind my car on the parking pad and used the absent neighbor's bear box which was actually next to car. I was concerned about how long it would take to tear down and start hiking in the morning, so I ended up tearing down the tent and slept diagonally in the back of my Subaru Crosstrek (not much room, my feet touched).
I got up at 3:30am after a restless night. I drove back up to the main parking lot next to the Portal Store, put my ice chest back into a bear locker, and was able to start hiking and passed through the wooden "gate" at 4:15am.
The weather was cool and breezy starting out, but it ended up being very had to regulate my body temps with the fluctuating winds that day. Starting out, It must have been between 35-40 degrees with about 5-10 mph wind. I was wearing full baselayers including a thin balaclava, softshell pants and softshell jacket. I topped it off with a thin beanie. I was also wearing pretty warm gloves (containing 40g Thinsulate). After about 1 mile, I had to take off my beanie and softshell jacket. I used a 30L Deuter backpack and carried 3 liters of fluids (coconut water, to be specific).
As I got to to the first set of switchbacks leading up to Mirror Lake, it got pretty windy, so I had to put back on my softshell jacket and added my puffy down jacket as well. I reached the "cables" and there was just a little bit of ice on the sides along the wall. You can totally avoid stepping on any ice.
The hike was still quite uneventful going up the 97 switchbacks. As I made it over Trail Crest and started hiking the "backside" of the mountain, it got super windy and was extra cold because it starts out in the shade. Puffy jacket back on. I found this part of the hike to be the hardest despite having very little elevation gain. The reason is that the terrain is very rocky, which is a huge energy drain. I started to see the shed at the summit and got excited, though it felt as though it never got closer! I must have been hallucinating at the point because I started to smell BBQ. I just buried my head and kept putting one foot in front of the other, and before I knew it, it was right in front of me.
It was really windy at the summit, so I took out my phone and snapped a bunch of pictures real quick. My fingers were freezing from taking off one of the gloves. Some nice people took my picture next to the summit sign. (I hiked solo). I signed the summit register, and turned back down. I probably spent only 30 minutes at the summit.
On the way down, with the group of 3 people who took my picture at the summit, we ran into a guy going up who just started puking on the trail. The group and I was with was like "you need to turn around". One of the women gave him a Dramamine, and we continued trying to tell him to turn back. He appeared "out of it" but refused to turn back. We were at 14,000 feet even. I could tell this solo hiker was new to hiking. Being a former REI employee, I could easily see that all of his "gear" was not hiking gear. While I commend him for getting as far as he did, it seems to me that "name brand" places like Mt. Whitney attract a lot of idealistic types of who want to say they accomplished some amazing feat in their life. That's fine, but they should still take the time to train and prepare for it.
Anyway, on the way down to trail camp, I had to stop and filter a liter of water. Up to that point I had only consumed the 3 liters of coconut water. I did not eat anything since breakfast which was a banana and protein shake mixed with instant coffee. It's strange because I don't need much water when it's cooler regardless of how strenuous the hike is. A short hike in warm weather has me chugging like crazy. My urine was relatively clear (and I was going regularly) and my mouth wasn't dry, so I know I wasn't dehydrated. I also had no headache/nausea. I trick I do is to pop some Exedrine on the way up as I pass about 13,000 feet.
It took me 13 hours start to finish starting at the wooden gate.
I was going over 3 MPH on the last few miles because I wanted to get food at the Portal Store, which closes at 5:30 and stops taking orders at 5:15pm. I made it just in time, but changed my mind and got mexican food in Lone Pine. All in all, it was a great experience. It wasn't as daunting as it is made out to be in people's dramatic accounts and epic YouTube videos. Mt. Whitney is not some far off exotic place. It's very accessible and surmountable if you are in good shape.
You can find my recording on AllTrails here:https://www.alltrails.com/explore/recording/mount-whitney-via-mount-whitney-trail--4393