Mt Whitney Zone
Posted By: qdtran Mt Whitney Advice - 06/22/20 02:33 AM
Hello all,

I'm here on the forum to see if anyone can help me out. I have a day pass to climb Mt Whitney on June 29th and that's already a go. I plan to fly out from NC to CA June 27th and get to Lone Pine on the same day. I plan to acclimatize that day and the 28th. Come June 29th, I plan to leave Lone Pine roughly around 1-2AM to get a good early start. I'm planning to do the Mountaineer's Route (I do already have some mountaineering experience). Since the gates are open, could I park at the trailhead if I get there that early? I'm not sure how parking is by the trailhead and want to avoid parking any lower than necessary (I could even show up earlier if need be). Any help answering that main question would be greatly appreciated!

Side note. I have been hiking/training for the past 3 months on the east coast but there's not that much elevation here....unfortunately. The highest I've been is close to 5800 ft and that didn't feel too bad on the body in terms of oxygen.
Posted By: bruce Re: Mt Whitney Advice - 06/22/20 03:35 AM
There is about a dozen spots right at the trailhead, that usually fill up by around 2am (at least, when I go in early September). However there are many more within a minute or two walking, so not an issue.

Are you going to acclimate at the campground both nights?

Make sure to hike up slowly, within the limits of your conditioning. There is a high correlation between fitness and altitude sickness (since highly fit people need less oxygen at a given pace), but only if you stay within your limits. And that means keep your heart rate in a low zone.
Posted By: John Sims Re: Mt Whitney Advice - 06/22/20 04:15 AM
As Bruce mentioned, Parking is not likely to be a problem.

I highly recommend hiking the first couple miles the day prior (28th), to "scout out" the ledges, and creek crossings. If you do leave early (as indicated) you will be hiking this section in the dark, and there are ample opportunities to get off the trail, and possibly have difficulties with the ledges. Doing this the day prior, in day light, will be of significant value.

Perhaps you know this, but just in case you do not, the Mountaineer's route is not a trail, and can easily be lost.

Good luck, and write a trip report when you get back.
Posted By: Anton Re: Mt Whitney Advice - 06/22/20 04:17 AM
When the gates are open and the road is clear, fining a parking spot at the Portal (near the trailhead) is not a problem. I usually sleep at the Portal before heading up. That being said, you have a few other things to consider for MR, including route finding and snow conditions (even with low avalanche danger traveling on slushy slow can be a nightmare). I'd be particularly concerned about navigating E-ledges in the dark, both on the way up due to early start and and on the way down due to unexpected delays.

Edit to add: I left my reply unfinished to walk the dogs and didn't see John's post until after I got back and posted mine. His advice on scouting the ledges area a day before is very good. Also, make notes on how key landmarks look in the opposite direction in case you need to descend in the dark. On my first Whitney trip in 2008 (East Buttress c2c), my partner and I approached the route with two other climbers with good knowledge of the area who then parted with us to climb Mt. Russell. We followed them on E-ledges before sunrise and then struggled to find the correct path on the way back after sunset.
Posted By: Goose Re: Mt Whitney Advice - 06/22/20 04:37 AM
I agree with all of the very sound advice so far.

Consider sleeping at Horseshoe Meadows on the 27th. It is nice and high (10,000') and can really help you acclimatize. Depending on when you arrive, you could also manage a day hike toward or to the Cottonwood Lakes area.

Check out Gaia's app for you phone, if you won't be carrying a GPS unit.

And check out the three videos found on this channel (credit to Mr. Hicks, a frequent poster here). They provide clear views the route up Ebersbacher Ledges without any fish-eye effect, provide useful comments, and one of them is even of the descent, which should always be a Plan B.

Good luck and have a blast!

P.S. Ibuprofen helps a lot of people with the altitude, even taken preventatively.
Posted By: StorminMatt Re: Mt Whitney Advice - 06/22/20 09:54 AM
I second camping at Horseshoe Meadows on the night of the 27th. It would probably even be a good idea to spend some time walking around a little in the area on the 28th in order to better acclimate. Don’t do too much, as you don’t want to exhaust yourself for your climb up Whitney. The key is to spend some time up at around 10000+ feet to get acclimated. Then, on the night of the 28th, stay at Whitney Portal so that you will be able to get right to things when you get up. The altitude here is not as high as Horseshoe Meadows (around 8000ft). But it is still decently high to get you SOME acclimation.

On the other hand, staying in Lone Pine before your hike is NOT the greatest idea. The elevation here is only 4000ft, which is not going to acclimate you for anything. If you wish to stay in a motel room in Lone Pine, save it for after your hike.
Posted By: bobpickering Re: Mt Whitney Advice - 06/22/20 03:46 PM
I can’t resist weighing in when the subject involves acclimatization. You said, “I plan to leave Lone Pine roughly around 1-2AM to get a good early start.” Don’t sleep in Lone Pine the night before. You should spend the night at Whitney Portal or higher. I’ve posted this dozens of times, but the correct sleeping altitude is the highest altitude at which you don’t get sick.

Great fitness helps you perform at altitude, but it doesn’t protect you from getting sick. Some people simply tolerate altitude better than others. I’m one of the lucky ones. People who are clearly fitter than I am eat my dust above 12,000’ and then kick my butt the last few miles before the parking lot. Only experience can tell you how you will feel up high.

Pace yourself, and try to keep moving. If you can’t go 10-20 minutes without stopping to catch your breath, you’re going too fast. Slow down, but keep moving. If you need food, water, a warmer jacket, or a break to answer the call of nature, stop and take care of that need. Otherwise, keep moving.

The first time I went up the North Fork, I was climbing Russell. I went up the day before and thrashed around for a long time before I found my way to Lower Boy Scout Lake (LBSL). The trail is much easier to follow now than it was in 1989. But if you’re going to take an acclimatization hike the day before, you might as well explore the route to LBSL.

Be sure you have good information on your route. If you navigate with your phone, send me a PM with your email address, and I’ll send you a .GPX for that area.
Posted By: qdtran Re: Mt Whitney Advice - 06/22/20 04:23 PM
Thank you everyone for your helpful replies and insights! Does parking at or close to the trail head have a maximum time of leaving your car there? I might sleep at Horseshoe Meadows on the 27th and then hike up as high as I can on the 28th and go back down to sleep at the Whitney Portal (Climb high, sleep low). I've done a dozen or so 14ners in CO so elevation that high isn't a new experience but acclimatizing in roughly 3 days is a new one so very thankful for everyone's help here in the forum! Side question. Are bears really an issue in the area or is it a "national forest" disclaimer when it comes with bear containers and food? Not trying to be ignorant but just asking.
Posted By: bobpickering Re: Mt Whitney Advice - 06/22/20 04:35 PM
There are a dozen or so parking spaces right at the trailhead. There is a parking lot maybe 50 yards away and a larger “overflow” lot a few minutes further than that. You can park as long as you like. There is a clearly-marked “day use only” parking area past the trailhead. Don’t park there. Bears can be a real problem around Whitney Portal. Take all the warnings seriously.
Posted By: LikeToHike Re: Mt Whitney Advice - 06/22/20 04:53 PM
Originally Posted by StorminMatt
I second camping at Horseshoe Meadows on the night of the 27th.

Horseshoe Meadows is currently closed. Does anyone have a suggestion for a good acclimatization campsite if it remains closed?
Posted By: Big Pine Re: Mt Whitney Advice - 06/22/20 05:18 PM
Originally Posted by LikeToHike
Horseshoe Meadows is currently closed. Does anyone have a suggestion for a good acclimatization campsite if it remains closed?
I'd suggest Onion Valley. You still get significant elevation (~9200'), and it's not too far from Whitney.
Posted By: bruce Re: Mt Whitney Advice - 06/22/20 07:37 PM
After a cross country flight I think that trying to sleep at Horseshoe Meadow at 10000 feet would mean very little sleep. You want to get a good night's sleep the second night before the hike.

What I've done to compromise, is to hang at Horseshoe Meadow as long as I can, then drive down to Lone Pine to sleep in the hotel you reserved. But now I stay at a Mammoth area hotel or condo, about 8500 feet, to take advantage of a nice bed while being at altitude. Kill two birds with one stone. Then I drive into Lone Pine in the morning, pick up the permit, shop in town for a bit, then head up to my campsite at the Portal.

I think the Portal area campgrounds at 8000 or 8400 feet are plenty high enough and you'll have a better chance of sleeping at that altitude.
Posted By: Steve C Re: Mt Whitney Advice - 06/22/20 07:52 PM
Bruce's idea of using Mammoth is ok, but it adds 1.5 hours to the drive from So. Cal. Two nights at Whitney Portal would be ok, but you are technically limited to one night for the walk-in sites. You would need to pack it all up during the day.

I'll often drive the 5+ hours from my residence all the way to Horseshoe Meadows, often arriving late at night. But I do take a half a 125 mg Diamox that morning and night to help with acclimatization. I'll also take a sleep aid (benadryl is my choice), because it's hard to sleep the first night camping anywhere.
Posted By: Bob West Re: Mt Whitney Advice - 06/22/20 08:11 PM
Ask your doctor about Diamox. It helps prevent altitude sickness symptoms. I used it when I was on Inyo SAR before we had to go quickly to high altitude on foot or in a helicopter, and it worked. It can only be prescribed by a doctor, who should talk to you about possible side-effects, including de-hydration, requiring higher than usual fluid intake.

Of course the best remedy is to retreat to lower altitude.
Posted By: StorminMatt Re: Mt Whitney Advice - 06/23/20 08:09 AM
Originally Posted by LikeToHike
Originally Posted by StorminMatt
I second camping at Horseshoe Meadows on the night of the 27th.

Horseshoe Meadows is currently closed. Does anyone have a suggestion for a good acclimatization campsite if it remains closed?

If you are coming from Northern California, you could always stay somewhere around Tioga Pass (ie Tioga Lake, Saddlebag Lake, or Ellery Lake) or maybe the Rock Creek area. But these campgrounds would be a long ways out of the way if you are coming from Southern California.

But probably the ultimate car camping spot for high altitude acclimation would be the Barcroft Gate area in the White Mountains. This area is at about 11700ft. And you could even get in a little easy hiking at over 12000ft. But for many flatlanders, sleeping at 11700ft your first night out may be a problem. Also, it’s a little out of the way, even if you are coming from Northern California.
Posted By: Paul Re: Mt Whitney Advice - 06/23/20 04:02 PM
Most people forget about the Ravine campground. Click on the link below and then click on the photos. I think this will satisfy your needs.

".....Sandwiched between Whitney Portal Family Campground and Whitney Trailhead Campground, this campground is often overlooked. It has a slightly odd setup, as campsites are lined up along a small access road that is closed to vehicle traffic. However, the campground provides everything hikers need for basic accommodation. Being so close to the other campgrounds, it shares the same toilet facilities with Whitney Trailhead Campground. There are drinking water supplies and bear-proof food storage containers within the campground.

The campground can be easily accessed from the Whitney Portal overflow parking area, and it is a great backup campsite when all the other campgrounds are full. Hidden between trees, the campsites can get a little cold, but this isn't so much of an issue if hiking is the priority. This spot is a perfect place to get some quiet time before heading out on your hike the next morning. Note that the campground closes in winter......"
Posted By: dbd Re: Mt Whitney Advice - 06/23/20 06:19 PM
Originally Posted by Paul
Most people forget about the Ravine campground. Click on the link below and then click on the photos. I think this will satisfy your needs.

That's a good description site but not an official status site. INF administers the ravine as part of the trailhead campground:

It is currently listed as no water, closed. It might be good to check ahead before you count on it this year. For the full INF campground list:

Dale B. Dalrymple
Posted By: Paul Re: Mt Whitney Advice - 06/23/20 08:36 PM
Good follow-up Dale.......

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