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Advice for First Attempt at Whitney
#57773 07/23/20 04:39 PM
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Hey everyone,

My small group is dayhiking Mt. Whitney on August 27th and wanted to seek out some advice across a few areas.

First, some background on our ability. Unfortunately, we live in Chicago and are unable to train on proper mountains. However, we have a high level of fitness and are active runners. We completed the Salkantay Trek in Peru with no problems last summer, covering ~35 miles over 4 days and including a climb over a pass at 15,200ft. We also have a bit of experience on some class 3 scrambling, which from what I read is the level of the harder sections of the MR. Earlier in the week before we attempt Whitney we plan on visiting Yosemite and hiking there for a few days. Knowing that, we would really appreciate some advice on the following questions.

1. Would it be unwise to attempt the MR up and main trail down? We have memorized the MR and have photos/GPS versions of the map on our phones and feel comfortable with the exposure we will be faced with at times.

2. How long (ballpark) can we expect the round trip to take?

3. Any advice on supplies other than the obvious (lots of food, water purification, etc.) that we might overlook?

4. Any other advice??

The biggest things we are concerned about are routefinding before sunrise, the sustained steepness of MR the trail, and the sheer length of the hike (~17 mi.).

Thank you in advance, we really appreciate the help!

Last edited by Sparrow; 07/23/20 04:40 PM.
Re: Advice for First Attempt at Whitney
Sparrow #57774 07/23/20 05:46 PM
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Hi, Sparrow.

1. First, a threshold question--what kind of permit do you have? Dayhiking most commonly implies a permit to dayhike up and back via the main Mt. Whitney Trail. The MR requires a permit for the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek which, on its own, means descending via the MR, too. There is a separate permit or add-on for exiting via Trail Crest that you would need in order to descend via the main Mt. Whitney Trail. I know--it's complicated.

3. I will refrain from providing an estimate of the roundtrip because the range for people of average fitness is too broad to be meaningful.

3. Your appetite will collapse as you ascend. Take easy to digest carb heavy foods, energy gels, etc.

4. Coming from Chicago should not be a limiting factor, per se, especially since you sound like you are all pretty fit. But I would caution against speed--it is not your friend. Plan on an alpine (i.e. very early morning) start and take it slow and steady. Read up on AMS and memorize the symptoms. The MR is "sporty" and adrenaline will accelerate dehydration by a lot. If you are committed to the MR, the route finding is no joke, even at the beginning of the route as you ascend through the Ebersbacher Ledges (E-Ledges). One of the long-time frequent whitneyzone posters has some must-watch YouTube clips of ascending and descending the ledges here.. I personally would caution against the MR as a first ascent of Whitney.

Feel free to post more questions or message me directly through the site. Very happy to share information.

Have fun and good luck!

Goose

Re: Advice for First Attempt at Whitney
Goose #57775 07/23/20 06:33 PM
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The #1 info above is incorrect. Goose is referring to an overnight hike -- that requires both the North Fork and the Exit permits. But for a DAY hike, the permit states Day Use All Routes.

If you have "memorized" the route that is good. But if you start early, it would be smart to get to Whitney Portal by early afternoon the day before, and scout out the Ebersbacher Ledges. You shouldn't try them in the dark the first time. I hope you have checked these links.

You don't eat as much as you might think, as your appetite diminishes as you go up, due to the altitude. Eat a big breakfast, either before starting, or at least by Lower Boy Scout Lake. Snack a bunch every hour on your way up-- like a granola bar. Drink lots of water-- a pint an hour is a good estimate.

I used to run -- 10-12 miles/week, 7:00-7:30 pace. If you're in that kind of shape, 12 hours should be good -- as long as you stay on-route.

Water: I dip and drink every time I go, never had any problems. Trail camp pond: get the water from the inlet.

Yosemite: I hope you have a pass to get into Yosemite. No pass, no entry. You must enter on the day stated on the pass, but then you're good to come and go for 7 days.

Re: Advice for First Attempt at Whitney
Steve C #57776 07/23/20 07:06 PM
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Steve, thanks for the info and links. I have seen some of that content but the more the better. Do you know if it is possible to hike up to the E-ledges the day before during daylight if we don't have a permit for that day?

Also, we were able to secure a pass for Yosemite for our entry day which obviously is crucial now!

Re: Advice for First Attempt at Whitney
Sparrow #57777 07/23/20 07:31 PM
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So sorry! You are absolutely right, Steve. I was fixated on overnights. Thanks!

Re: Advice for First Attempt at Whitney
Sparrow #57778 07/23/20 08:36 PM
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Steve's comments are right on target. Though looping up the MR and main trail is fun, it would be unwise to attempt the MR for the first time with an early start. Get there a day before and do a short day hike to LBSL to become familiar with the ledges. Even with this strategy, it is safer to do the ledges in daylight, unless you know the area well AND comfortable with scrambling the section where falling is fatal. Maps and YouTube videos are helpful but you can still get lost. A fit person can easily complete the loop in 10-12 hours (I think my best time for MR round trip was 7+). Considering that hiking down the main trail is generally safe in the dark, I would opt for leaving the trailhead 30 min to 1 hour before sunrise to have enough light by the time you get to the ledges. Also, keep in mind that your scrambling experience may not be sufficient since there are two sections with high exposure. Per food, just carb load the day before and go light. First timers tend to bring more food than they can eat even at the sea level.

Last edited by Anton; 07/23/20 09:57 PM.
Re: Advice for First Attempt at Whitney
Sparrow #57779 07/23/20 10:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Sparrow
Do you know if it is possible to hike up to the E-ledges the day before during daylight if we don't have a permit for that day?
No pass required until you pass Lower Boy Scout Lake.

It is light enough to see half an hour before sunrise, and it would take nearly an hour to get to the Ebersbacher Ledges.

Re: Advice for First Attempt at Whitney
Anton #57791 07/25/20 12:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Anton
Steve's comments are right on target. Though looping up the MR and main trail is fun, it would be unwise to attempt the MR for the first time with an early start. Get there a day before and do a short day hike to LBSL to become familiar with the ledges. Even with this strategy, it is safer to do the ledges in daylight, unless you know the area well AND comfortable with scrambling the section where falling is fatal. Maps and YouTube videos are helpful but you can still get lost. A fit person can easily complete the loop in 10-12 hours (I think my best time for MR round trip was 7+). Considering that hiking down the main trail is generally safe in the dark, I would opt for leaving the trailhead 30 min to 1 hour before sunrise to have enough light by the time you get to the ledges. Also, keep in mind that your scrambling experience may not be sufficient since there are two sections with high exposure. Per food, just carb load the day before and go light. First timers tend to bring more food than they can eat even at the sea level.

That makes a lot of sense, we will definitely scout out the ledges the day before. Worst case if we feel too uncomforable on them, we can just do the main trail the next day. You also make a good point on starting late enough so that there is some light by the time we get to the ledges.

Re: Advice for First Attempt at Whitney
Sparrow #57792 07/25/20 12:25 PM
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One other question now that I think of it. What is the best source for weather info? I've been looking at https://www.mountain-forecast.com/peaks/Mount-Whitney/forecasts/4418 but not sure if you guys had a more preferred source. Definitely don't want to get up high only to realize its a stormy day.

Re: Advice for First Attempt at Whitney
Sparrow #57793 07/25/20 12:41 PM
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All the weather sites are pretty on-target if it's going to be stormy. But my go-to site is the NOAA site, first one on the Mt Whitney Weather page, link above on the left (if you're viewing on a desktop/laptop). Otherwise, not visible in a small device. So here's the link:
    Mt Whitney Weather

Re: Advice for First Attempt at Whitney
Sparrow #57794 07/25/20 12:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Sparrow
One other question now that I think of it. What is the best source for weather info? I've been looking at https://www.mountain-forecast.com/peaks/Mount-Whitney/forecasts/4418 but not sure if you guys had a more preferred source. Definitely don't want to get up high only to realize its a stormy day.
I also used the weather.gov site: https://forecast.weather.gov/MapCli...rine=0&unit=0&lg=en#.XxyKjZ5KjIU

and the various model runs at: https://weather.us/model-charts/standard
and: https://weather.us/model-charts/euro

You want to check the trend and consistency. If all of those sites forecast clear skies and 0% chance of precipitation for the day of your hike and the day before and after, you're good and can safely summit at any time of the day. If the forecasts conflict, consider an early start and turn around when you see clouds start to build. A few small isolated clouds can turn into rain and thunder in 2 hours or less.

FWIW, on my July 20 summit, Mountain Forecast predicted clear skies in the AM, some clouds in the PM, and calm winds. The actual weather was clear skies from 6-9 AM, cloudy by noon, light rain showers and some thunder in the afternoon (not intense or very near), breezy conditions from 4 - 5 PM, and clear skies and calm winds after 6 PM.

Also, Mountain Forecast usually underestimates high temps and overestimates low temps. The diurnal temperature variation is typically greater than what Mountain Forecast predicts.


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