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Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail
#4904 06/04/10 10:44 AM
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Steve C Offline OP
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This thread is designed to hold posts displaying pictures and describing the current conditions of the Main Mount Whitney Trail (MMWT).  I hope everyone will contribute.

Please feel free to post pictures of your own or from any source (please post a reference to the original location), so that everyone can come here and easily find/read/see the conditions.

Older posts will be moved as conditions change. (As a result, some posts may appear to answer comments that are no longer in the thread.)

Thanks for everyone's help. Your posting trip reports helps untold numbers of hikers following you.

Older posts moved here:   Whitney Main Trail Conditions 2020 (Old)

Note: Sometimes this thread spans a number of pages. You can click through all the pages, or click here to display all in one page.


Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail
Steve C #57416 06/24/20 10:27 AM
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Permit pickup instructions are different for summer 2020.
Look at this Inyo National Forest web page for information:   Permit Pick Up Instructions

Experiences reported in this thread: What on earth is going on with permit pickup?
Here are the main points:
1. Permits are only available through online reservations through Recreation.gov
2. Once you get a reservation, you need to visit the above Inyo N.F. web page, watch the "Leave No Trace" videos.
3. Call the Wilderness Permit Office or the Lone Pine Interagency Visitor Center and talk to a ranger, answer questions, and they will then mail you a permit to print and sign.

Read this post regarding calling in. 55inthefastlane posted that they called repeatedly (over 4 hours), and got through. Unfortunately, Inyo N.F. has limited phone facilities -- one line at each center, so you get a busy signal repeatedly. All you can do is hang up and redial.

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail
Steve C #57439 06/25/20 08:25 AM
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Regarding permits: I just called in (760 873 2483) and walked through the process to get my permit issued and emailed, and completed qualification. Very pleasant staff, took about 10 minutes. They did not have an update on trail conditions/accessibility yet in light of earthquake for my date (July 1) but I am prepared at least.

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail
Steve C #57464 06/26/20 12:16 PM
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I just called and spoke to somebody at the wilderness office (760) 873-2483 who said she could issue my 7/5 permit right now, but when I pressed her about whether that means the trail will be opened by then, she said she wasn't sure. As of right now, the trail is closed until further notice. I've seen several posts from people excited that their permits are being issued for the Whitney Trail in the upcoming week, but it seems to me that it's premature to celebrate having your permit issued if the trail is closed indefinitely. I'm hoping I'm missing something? Any insightful info? Thank you!

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail
Lauren_N #57472 06/26/20 05:00 PM
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The press release just issued by Forest Service/Sheriff says permits cancelled through July 2; so I won't be going on July 1. I hope it does open up soon! Here is the release: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/inyo/news-events/?cid=FSEPRD757444

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail
Steve C #57552 07/02/20 02:55 PM
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I just got through to the Interagency Visitors Center & my permit has been emailed to me. Here's what worked... I called 760-876-6200 during regular business hours on a weekday. The employee who answered the phone was very polite and helpful & physically works at the Interagency Visitor Center. He asked me about my hike plans, bear vault, wag bags and reminded me not to try sliding down the mountain as a shortcut (apparently they've had some recent fatalities from people doing this).

He said that if you are trying to get a Whitney Permit, please call the Interagency Visitor Center at 760-876-6222. Note that this is NOT the number I called, so I recommend trying this x6222 number first.

As of 7/2, I was told that microspikes and waterproof boots are a good idea given the current trail conditions. He also mentioned that it has been warm and the snow is melting pretty fast. I asked about ice axes & was told that those are probably not necessary for a typical summit hike up the main trail from Whitney Portal. I was also told that they are not issuing tags for each party member, so the leader is responsible for printing out the emailed permit, signing it and keeping in on them at all times. So there is no need to give copies to other members of the party. Wag bags are reportedly available at the trailhead and also at the Interagency Visitors Center.

Please note... this is from a guy who works at the Interagency Visitor Center, not first hand experience... but I'm using his advice to plan my round trip summit hike via Whitney Portal on 7/11 - 7/13.

Be safe & happy trails!

Jason

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail
JasonDeFay #57553 07/02/20 03:10 PM
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Steve C Offline OP
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Originally Posted by JasonDeFay
I was also told that they are not issuing tags for each party member, so the leader is responsible for printing out the emailed permit, signing it and keeping in on them at all times. So there is no need to give copies to other members of the party.
Well, what if the party splits up? Leaders should make copies of their signed permit, and give each person in the group a copy!

By the way, it is NOT a good idea for groups to split up, especially if that means leaving a slower member behind. Many emergencies and rescues start out that way.

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail
Steve C #57576 07/04/20 09:12 AM
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I received my permit for my July 7th hike yesterday via email. I didn’t have to do anything to receive it, in fact the day prior I almost canceled since everything was telling me the trail was closed, and was presumed damaged from the avalanche. Glad I didn’t cancel.

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail
Jediforce73 #57578 07/04/20 11:35 AM
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They just emailed it to you without you having to call in? Also, any word on bear can rentals?

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail
Deke #57585 07/04/20 09:14 PM
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Yeah, I hadn’t contacted anyone at all and received an email from Bishop FS with my permit attached as a pdf and all info needed for the hike. I already have a bear canister so haven’t looked into rentals for those, sorry

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail
Steve C #57646 07/07/20 04:35 PM
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We summitted yesterday (6 July 2020) coming up from Guitar Lake and then hiking down the switchbacks to the Portal Store (amazing cheeseburgers and fries again!). On the western side (coming up from Guitar Lake), there is no snow at all on the switchbacks to Trail Crest. On the ridge crest trail to the summit, there were three very short patches of 10-20 feet. One was somewhere in the first mile from Trail Crest to the summit--the snow comes over the path but still leaves more than enough space for you to walk on the trail without touching the snow. It is melting rapidly and likely won't be there long if the weather holds. The other two patches are found as you begin to loop around the summit base, around 1.5 mi from Trail Crest--one is only a few feet, the other is about 20 ft. or so. It was easily passable simply by walking in the footsteps from previous hikers, no microspikes required.

On the switchbacks, it was very similar. Around the 55th switchback (same location as shown in the picture above) coming down from Trail Crest there is a wall of snow, but there is now enough snow-free path to easily hike up/down without any issues.

The entire trail, west up to Trail Crest, to the summit, and back down the switchbacks all the way to the Portal Store is also free of any kind of damage that would obstruct your progress for anybody wondering about any issues relating to earthquake.

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail
Steve C #57673 07/08/20 11:38 PM
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Found this picture (from July 7) posted on FB in the High Sierra Trail group, posted by Nate W. It shows a snow patch just before the Whitney summit.

Regarding descending the switchbacks, he reported "The trail here is very icy in many, many places so be extremely careful if you’re in this section while it's still early in the day."


[Linked Image]

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail
Steve C #57682 07/09/20 10:14 PM
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BP posted the following in another thread:
Originally Posted by Big Pine
I did a stroll to trail camp on July 6 and noticed the following:

- Not as many people as usual, but it's still much more crowded than most trails in the Sierras. There were a few people at Lone Pine Lake, one tent at Outpost Camp, and several tents at Trail Camp.
- Very minor trail damage from the earthquake. There were some sections that were blocked by rocks or downed trees, but they're all very easy to go around.
- One unstable boulder slid a couple hundred feet down a slope in the afternoon. You could see and hear the slide from Trailside Meadow, but the slide was nowhere near the main trail.
- No issues with getting your feet wet at any of the stream crossings.
- The Portal Store is open, and parking isn't a problem.
- No snow on the trail until at least Trail Camp. Some people told me that the only snow on the trail is at the cables (easily bypassed) and isolated patches near the summit (no microspikes needed), but I was unable to verify.
- I saw discarded food wrappings and even a hat on the trail. But thankfully, the only WAG bags I saw were at the trailhead.
- Bugs aren't a problem except below Lone Pine Lake in the evening.
- There are some flowers on the trail but not as many as last July.
- Reports on the summit register are mixed. Some said it's missing, others said it's been moved inside the hut.

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Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail
Steve C #57716 07/15/20 02:34 PM
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Pictures from Chetan B, July 11, 2020.

The cables
[Linked Image]


The only snow left, near the summit
[Linked Image]


Near the summit, looking back at the Needles.
[Linked Image]


The NEOWISE comment from Trail Camp
[Linked Image]

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Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail
Steve C #57741 07/19/20 10:39 AM
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Just checking to see if anyone knows if there is still much or any snow on the trail. Many thanks!

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail
MarkM #57744 07/19/20 01:47 PM
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Steve C Offline OP
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Originally Posted by MarkM
Just checking to see if anyone knows if there is still much or any snow on the trail. Many thanks!
The pictures you can see above are the total snow you will find on the trail.

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail
Steve C #57746 07/19/20 08:28 PM
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Does the patchy snow photos mean that there's any water streaming/pooling available above Trail Crest?
thanks!

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail
che #57748 07/19/20 10:48 PM
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Originally Posted by che
Does the patchy snow photos mean that there's any water streaming/pooling available above Trail Crest?
thanks!
No. Last water is at switchback 25 above Trail Camp, where a tiny stream trickles across the trail. Best to take 3 liters from the inlet to the Trail Camp pond.

Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail
Steve C #57763 07/22/20 12:37 PM
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I made it up to the top on July 20. Some highlights:

- No snow or ice on the trail (this applies to the Main Trail; there may or may not be some snow and/or ice on the Mountaineer's Route)
- No issues with getting your feet wet at any of the stream crossings despite some recent afternoon rain showers
- There's plenty of water flowing on the lower switchbacks. Last water source is about halfway between Trail Camp and the cables.
- There were a ton of WAG bags on the trail this time. Ugh!
- I saw a ranger at Trail Camp at around 1 PM who picked up the trash and the WAG bags I saw earlier that morning. He didn't ask for my permit but may have checked others.
- Traffic (number of hikers on the trail, number of tents at Outpost and Trail Camps, and number of cars in the parking lot) seems to have returned to normal.
- There are 3-4 boulders on the trail, probably from the earthquake, but they're all very easy to go around. There were no rockslides that day.
- There are plenty of WAG bags available at the trailhead.
- Bugs are present but are barely noticeable. No need for headnets or insect repellent.
- The sky pilots in the higher elevations (over 13,200' ish) are blooming, but those in the lower elevations (~12.5K - 13.2K feet?) seem to have wilted. There are still some nice purple flowers in Trailside Meadow.
- I didn't take Diamox and didn't have any problems with the altitude. For acclimatization, I drove from sea level to Mammoth Lakes (8000') on Friday afternoon (7/17), did a short one-mile hike from 9000' - 9300' on Saturday afternoon (7/18), drove from Mammoth to Whitney Portal Sunday afternoon/evening (7/19), and started hiking the Whitney Trail early Monday morning (7/20) just after midnight. I found that a similar acclimatization schedule has worked for me in the past, but I do get AMS symptoms if I go from sea level to 11000' without spending at least one night at 7000' or higher.
- The summit register is back in its original location. Based on the number of entries in the register and the number of people I saw on the upper portion of the trail, I'd estimate that 30-40 people made it to the top that day.

Approximate weather & sunrise timeline:
4:30 AM: Skies are no longer pitch-black. You can tell that it's slightly brighter in the east than it is in the west.
5:25 AM: No need for headlamps
5:44 AM: Sun appears above the horizon
6 AM - 9 AM: Almost completely clear skies
8:55 AM: First small cloud appears in the west
11:30 AM: Skies in the west are almost completely overcast, can't believe that some people are still heading up even though they're 2 miles from the summit
12:30 - 1 PM: Got rained on at the lower switchbacks. It's more like a drizzle than a downpour.
3 PM: Got rained on again between Mirror Lake and Trailside Meadow, but the rain isn't heavy or long. Heard some thunder in the distance.
4 PM - 5 PM: No rain, but cloudy and breezy
6 PM: Mostly clear skies and calm winds again

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Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail
Big Pine #57805 07/27/20 12:47 PM
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I was hiking on that same day. I made it to the summit at 11:30 ish. I didn’t spend much time up there other than pictures and signing the book. On the way back down it started to snow. By the time I hit the switchbacks it was just a light sprinkle. I couldn’t believe how many people were still ascending the switchbacks in attempt to summit with the weather being like it was. When I got back to Trail camp some campers told me the we’re hearing thunder but while hiking I never heard anything. Also we had a bear steal some food from my group while getting ready at the portal @1:30am.


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