I am not sure where to put this post but the general discussion and postings by people were so helpful to my and my hiking buddy that I wanted to pay it forward with our experience. So, here was ours...
Got to Whitney Portal campground after picking up our permit on 10/16. Heard a lot about camping with bears and the aggressive nature of the bears at the campground. Sadly, didnít see a one. Loved the campground. Good sites and easy car camping. I would highly recommend staying at the campground versus down in Lone Pine. You are probably at 8K feet versus 4K feet so it helped us acclimatize. Plenty of water. Firewood available. Bathrooms are clean. Note that I said firewood - itís is starting to get pretty cold. We went to bed with temps in high 30ís. Whitney Portal store is running at odd hours given off season. We never got in there but weíre prepeared with food. From everything we read, that store is pretty stocked and the burger after the hike is rumored to be legendary...if only it had been open.
To the hike - two dudes in their late 40ís. If you read the post from the Reno couple, we strived to be as awesome as them. We did a fair amount of training. I was running a lot at sea level (I live in Houston) and my partner was doing lots of hikes around LA. We did one training hike up to Mt Baldy, which was a good way to get a few miles in above 10K feet. We paid a lot of attention to this message board and the webcam shots and the weather forecasts. We found them to be great resources.
By all accounts 10/17 was going to be a epic day. Forecast at the Portal was low in the 30ís. Forecast at the peak was highs in the 30ís. No wind. It did not disappoint.
We got a tad cocky about getting up early. Most people talk about being on the trail at 3am. We thought that was a bit early. It ended up being a mistake going back to the randomness of the portal storeís opening. Trust it. Leave at 3am.
We got up at 3am and left at 4:30. 20 pound packs. Gear for cold, microspikes, poles, 4.5L of water. Headlamps all the way to Trail Camp. We tried to keep a reasonable pace - 2.5mph, which felt kind of slow. The hike to Trail camp is pretty easy relative to the rest. Maybe 6íish miles. Not too steep. Easy to stay on trail. We couldíve pushed harder but were worried about what was ahead. Stopped at trail camp as sun was coming up. Great views. Frigid. Super cold. No clue what the temp was but I took off my wool gloves and hat for the time it took me to open my pack and they froze solid (wet with sweat). Someone suggested handwarmer in a post. We had them and used them here. It was a great call. I honestly thought one of us might get hypothermia. Canít believe people camp there.
Thankfully, movement and Mother Nature kicked in. Sun came up as we hit the switchbacks. Loved the warmth of the sun. Hit the switchbacks to the cables without microspikes. Put them on there and they stayed on for a while. Surprised how many people did not have any traction and went all the way up. Maybe we were conservative but the cost of a mis-step seemed pretty severe and they were suggested so we went with them. Switchbacks were more of an endurance walk than anything hard. Lots of people. We chatted folks up. Enjoyed the sun and camaraderie. Even saw some guy take his pack off and it went tumbling down. Saw writing in the snow later that he had found it.
Got to the gap after switchbacks before John Muir Trail intersection. Donít know what itís called but it was sunny and a good place to stop and grab a rest and food after switchbacks. Took off microspikes here but shouldnít have. Put them on pretty quickly later. Sunny. Bluebird day. NO WIND. We had amazing conditions.
Pushed on to summit - the famous 1.9 miles that takes 2 hours. Believe it! I am not a great fan of heights so this part was a tad outside my comfort zone. The windows are awesomely terrifying. The trail was both technical - big boulders and ankle twister holes- and icy. We were in and out of the microspikes. It was a pain but we wanted to stay safe.
Hit summmit at noon. My buddy did not feel great so we only stayed about 20 minutes. For my part, the relative pace of the switchbacks and the last two miles made the elevation totally bearable. I honestly didnít think two old dudes who drink too much could make it. But we did. I cried. (My only emotional part of this matter of fact story. Had to share it with someone. Sure not gonna tell my wife!)
The way down, we just focused on being smart and not going too fast. The two miles to JMT is just as tough down. Just boulders and height and ice. Maybe we are wimpy. Switchbacks down with microspikes were very nice. Just never ending. Trail camp to Lone Pine was beautiful. We had passed through there in the dark so we got to appreciate that. Then on down to the Portal. We focused on drinking lots of water and eating food - even though neither were appealing. We both felt pretty good when we got done at 6pm.
All told 13.5 hours and almost 23 miles.
Commentary - passed, interacted, saw a lot of people along the way. Tried to be good trail dudes so always said hello, how are you doing, etc. That totally made the experience better. Saw most of them along the way multiple times. Sometimes in trouble - all elevation derived - so weíre able to give people food or water or tums (old dudes that we are). Many of them struggled immensely with the altitude. Didnít make it. Ended up in hospital. Be careful. Some folks handle the altitude differently. Donít make bad decisions. Drink water. Eat. We also saw a lot of them down in Lone Pine the night we finished and enjoyed a beer. Fun to hang with kindred spirits.
What else can I tell you - we carried our water 4.5L - but brought tablets. We did fine on what we brought. Probably took too much food but, as mentioned above, were able to give to folks who needed it. We both went with solid ibuprofen plans. Starting the day before through the night we finished. Amazingly, neither one of us were sore after. I had one heel wrecked from blisters but what can you expect.
I hope this is helpful. So many other posters have been to so helpful in our preparation.
Itís a great hike.