Whitney Permits - Pleasant Surprise

Posted by: Whitney Zone

Whitney Permits - Pleasant Surprise - 09/27/07 10:22 AM


Posted by LonePalm, 09-27-07
Like many new hikers/climbers I had some trepidation about traveling to Lone Pine without a permit to climb Mt. Whitney. Several of the veterans on this board have made reference to the ease of getting a permit as a walk-in (from cancellations and no-shows)... so I decided to go that route. What surprised me was the ease of obtaining a permit with no reservation. I showed up at the Interagency Visitor Center, and permits were available for both overnight and day hikes on the current day and the following day. Actually, lots of permits were available. The process couldn't be easier, just show up and ask for what you need.

One detail that the Inyo National Forest web site was not clear about was that an overnight permit is good for 14 days. That's right, get an overnight permit and you can spend up to two weeks on the main Whitney trail. The Ranger offered me an overnight permit for the current day (it was 11:00 AM) with the logic that a simple backpack to Lone Pine Lake will fulfill the overnight requirement; then I could do anything I wanted (such as day-hike the summit from the lake or move up to Outpost or Trail Camp). I opted for an overnight permit for the following day and spent two nights at Trail Camp, basically dividing the mountain in thirds, with each day becoming easier.

From the board, I see many new climbers planning their summit attempt around their reserved permit day. I suggest that arriving without a permit is a very low risk strategy. Check out Steve C's Unused Whitney Permits chart. I counted only two days during the entire summer season where this strategy wouldn't work for an overnight permit and three days for day-hike permits, and that was on some obvious weekends/holidays.

I also suggest that anyone planning on camping at the trailhead to consider getting an overnight permit for the current day and camping at Lone Pine Lake. It is a short hike to the lake, plus the area will be better for acclimatization and is prettier and quieter (in my opinion). If you're day-hiking, switching to an overnight permit and staying overnight at Lone Pine Lake also makes a lot of sense. Starting your summit day there will shorten the route (slightly), and, if you're really fatigued on your descent, just spend another night at the lake. As others have posted, you are exchanging a burger for a pancake ... pretty fair trade.


Posted by enf, 09-27-07
I'll echo your sentiments. My brother and I wanted to go the summer of 2006. Why? Our father passed away in 2005, and my brother brought up the idea of going back in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of our first, and only, trip to Mt. Whitney in 1976, when we backpacked with my dad. We submitted several dates for the entire summer of 2006, only to lose completely at the lottery.

I wish I had known about this board last year. I now realize that, thanks to Steve C's post, and our own experience, that a large percentage of those who "win" the lottery have the assurance of a guaranteed spot, but then let their plans lapse. We had our permit for 9/5-9/7 this month, and arrived at the Interagency Center in Lone Pine at 3 PM 9/4. Having read this board, I knew our chances of a cancellation and getting on the trail that afternoon were around 100%. We got the extended permit and hit the trailhead at 4:30 PM, with a little bit of trepidation - I'm now 50, hadn't backpacked in 26 years, and had just come up from sea level, so could I make it to Lone Pine Lake before the sun set? What was quite encouraging was I felt GREAT, and we made it to Lone Pine Lake easily. I was rewarded the next morning by a beautiful cloudless sky, a sunrise, and a glassy smooth lake surface. It was heaven. Our original plan was to sleep at the Portal Campgrounds, but this was a no-brainer.

Oh, one other benefit: Hiking from the trailhead at 4:30 PM, we were in the shadows. When we came back down from Trail Camp, we hit the last two miles around 11 AM. It was tough watching those starting their overnight hikes sweating in the direct sunlight.


Posted by VersatileFred, 09-28-07
Thanks for sharing your experiences.
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Orientation Notes for Whitney First Timers



Posted by pattywatty, 09-28-07
I showed up yesterday at 8am 9/27 at the visitors center and got a day permit. Look at the website and you will see for sept that every tues, wed and thurs there were lots of spots left. But then my plan was just to go past lone pine lake not the summit.


Posted by bobcat, 09-29-07
Lone Palm,

I'll never go back to reserving permits six months in advance. How can you possibly predict the weather that much in advance? I'm retired, so I have the luxury of picking up and just going when a span of good weather slips in. I walked into the Ranger station twice this year well after 11AM when the bigger bunch of canceled permits comes up and got one each time. It's not that I don't want to pay the $15 fee, I'd gladly pay twice that for a permit, but I've been stormed off too many times reserving the permit in February.

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