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Midnight Entry to Whitney Zone?
#59657 06/14/22 11:18 AM
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I have been visiting Mt Whitney most summers since 2013, but this is the first year I have a permit and intend to continue to the west after summiting and heading to Guitar Lake and eventually on to Onion Valley. I have a shuttle from Onion Valley scheduled for the evening before my permit starts. Ideally, I would like to arrive at the portal in time to grab a burger and then head up to the Lone Pine Lake area around sunset. The plan would be to hang out there until I can continue my hike and legally enter the Whitney Zone at midnight with the hope of being on or near the summit by sunrise.

This all makes sense to me, but I've never done it before and I want to make sure I'm not going to be in violation of any regulations to hang out at LPL for an hour or two waiting for midnight, should I get there early. I won't be camping for sure (not setting up a tent, etc), but if I'm supposed to wait at the Portal until midnight before hiking, then I would want to adhere to that requirement.

Re: Midnight Entry to Whitney Zone?
Jammer #59658 06/14/22 07:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Jammer
I have a shuttle from Onion Valley scheduled for the evening before my permit starts.

is that a typo? Getting a shuttle to Onion Valley would make starting from the Portal very hard.

Re: Midnight Entry to Whitney Zone?
WanderingJim #59659 06/15/22 07:28 AM
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I had a conversation with a ranger about start times some years ago. He maintained that you must start from the Portal at midnight. It was because permits begin at the Portal not at Lone Pine Lake.

Who knows what kind of answer you might get today? To be certain, you should contact the ranger station for current policy.

That said, we left the Portal at 10PM twice in separate years. It is unlikely that there will be rangers checking for early starting scofflaws.

Last edited by RichardK; 06/15/22 07:29 AM.
Re: Midnight Entry to Whitney Zone?
WanderingJim #59660 06/15/22 10:06 AM
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Originally Posted by WanderingJim
Originally Posted by Jammer
I have a shuttle from Onion Valley scheduled for the evening before my permit starts.

is that a typo? Getting a shuttle to Onion Valley would make starting from the Portal very hard.

Sorry, my wording was probably a little awkward. What I was trying to say is that I'm going to drop my own car at Onion Valley the evening before my permit date. I have a shuttle from there back to the portal for that evening to start my hike. So, then my question is about whether I could grab a burger and then start working my way up the trail a bit as long as I didn't enter the Whitney Zone before midnight.

From the other reply, it sounds like the later I start the better and maybe should err on the side of starting at midnight, if I want to be technically within policy. That's what I was looking for. I'm flexible...once that car is dropped at Onion Valley, I've got nothing but time and a nice trail. smile

Re: Midnight Entry to Whitney Zone?
Jammer #59661 06/15/22 11:02 AM
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All threads that I have read in the past interpret the permit as access to the "wilderness area", not to the portal. In fact, no permit is needed to hike up to Lone Pine Lake (or further), so cannot see how that could be enforced.

On a separate note, to achieve your goal, you will have to be making very good time (particularly with a full pack). Less than 6 hours from the portal to the top, in the dark, comes with some risk. Several people have died on this trail, by going off trail without realizing it (usually coming down). The area above Mirror Lake comes to mind as one spot where others have become lost. You did not mention your dates. Will you have a full moon? That would improve you chances of a problem free assent.

Good luck!

Last edited by John Sims; 06/15/22 11:03 AM.
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Re: Midnight Entry to Whitney Zone?
John Sims #59662 06/16/22 04:35 PM
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Lone Pine Lake is not in the Whitney Zone. You would be fine hanging out there and starting. I really doubt anyone will be checking your permit between 7pm and midnight anyway. Try to enjoy yourself and don't sweat the permit nonsense.

Re: Midnight Entry to Whitney Zone?
John Sims #59668 06/22/22 01:32 PM
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Originally Posted by John Sims
All threads that I have read in the past interpret the permit as access to the "wilderness area", not to the portal. In fact, no permit is needed to hike up to Lone Pine Lake (or further), so cannot see how that could be enforced.

On a separate note, to achieve your goal, you will have to be making very good time (particularly with a full pack). Less than 6 hours from the portal to the top, in the dark, comes with some risk. Several people have died on this trail, by going off trail without realizing it (usually coming down). The area above Mirror Lake comes to mind as one spot where others have become lost. You did not mention your dates. Will you have a full moon? That would improve you chances of a problem free assent.

Good luck!

Thanks for the input everyone and I appreciate the comments, John, regarding safety when hiking in the dark, especially in that area above Mirror Lake. The good news is that I've been on the Whitney Main trail almost every summer for the last 10 years, so I am aware of those risks and issues. Having said that, this thread has helped me think through the scenario a bit. Regardless of my experience, I'm leaning toward adding an extra day and starting at a more normal time. I CAN do that 16 or so miles from WP to the summit and over to Guitar Lake/Crabtree in one long day with a full pack, but why take that extra punishment if I can simply add a day and break it up? Sometimes my goal oriented mind gets ahead of my 57 year old body. smile

My entry date is actually July 18th and it appears I may have an extra permit. If anyone is interested and available to hike that day, let me know. If it ends up unused as I now expect, you are welcome to join me. No need to commit to the full hike to Onion Valley. smile Otherwise, I will cancel the extra slot and make it available for others to find on Recreation.gov.

Re: Midnight Entry to Whitney Zone?
Jammer #59682 07/09/22 03:49 PM
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Interested to hear how this goes; keep us updated and stay safe out there.

Re: Midnight Entry to Whitney Zone?
NVG #59684 07/10/22 12:43 PM
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I will definitely post a trip report, though I'm contemplating changing my plans for the Whitney Zone.

A week after my Whitney entry date I have a permit to do the JMT section from Devil's Postpile to Sunset Lakes trailhead. That's another segment of the JMT I still haven't completed and I scored the permit back at the six month window. After considering the advice here and also thinking about that additional trip, I think I am going to change up and just spend a good 3 days or so on Whitney instead of going over Trail Crest with a full pack and on to Onion Valley via Forester Pass. As much as I've hiked the area over the last 10 years including multiple times over Trail Crest, I haven't actually been on the summit since 2013. So, I'm leaning toward a more relaxing visit, focus on getting back to the summit, and maximize my photography time in one of my favorite areas without lugging 35 lbs up over Trail Crest.

Hopefully, that will leave some gas in the tank for the hike from Red's Meadow to Yosemite. Will definitely report in when this trip is complete in early August.

Re: Midnight Entry to Whitney Zone?
Jammer #59689 07/11/22 01:04 PM
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> the JMT section from Devil's Postpile to Sunset Lakes trailhead. ... ...the hike from Red's Meadow to Yosemite

You had me wondering if I had missed a trailhead somewhere. I'm pretty sure you mean Sunrise Lakes. ;-)

Re: Midnight Entry to Whitney Zone?
Steve C #59690 07/11/22 06:32 PM
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Yes, indeed. Despite my body still holding up on the trail pretty well, my brain isn't has young as it used to be. smile


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