Whitney & W. Portal Questions

Whitney & W. Portal Questions

Joined: January 26th, 2004, 5:02 pm

August 1st, 2005, 8:15 pm #1

I've received a permit for a Sept 8th attempt on Whitney. Now for the pre-hike logistics. I was thinking that I could camp in the afternoon/evening prior to the hike at Whitney Portal.

1) Is there shade in some of the campsites at W. Portal?
2) Can reservations be made for W. Portal campground(s)?
3) Is there any lodging there, ie. Cabin, motel, etc available for rent?
4) I have a day hike permit, I was thinking that I could start hiking at 12:01am, so that I might reach the ridge prior to first light and the summit by dawn. Will that be allowed?

Thanks,

Jack
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Joined: September 16th, 2004, 9:30 pm

August 1st, 2005, 10:50 pm #2

Here's what I recall about my the Whitney trip last year.

1) We camped at the Whitney Portal campground. It is a pleasant spot with big trees, a cascading stream, plenty of shade and big metal boxes to keep rambunctious bears out of your food. They'll break car windows if you leave food in the car, apparently.

2) I went online to make reservations at that campground, don't recall the site. The Inyo Natl. Forest site has a link or reference to the reservation site. The campground was full when we went, so you'll want to reserve if you camp there.

3) Nearest lodging is down in the town of Lone Pine, 10 miles east of the Whitney Portal campground. That's the closest restaurants too except there is snack bar type fare at the Whitney Portal Store, which is very near the campground and the Mt. Whitney trailhead.

4) I think you can start at midnight if you want. With no camping permit, you'll be hiking 22-23 miles and 6,500 vertical feet or so, if you make the summit. I think it's doable if you're in decent shape and you aren't prone to altitude issues. Should be a memorable day for sure.

I read where someone was killed up there a couple days ago by a lighting strike, at about 10,700 feet. That's bizarre to me because there is so much more exposure higher up, you'd think it would happen up higher. Your midnight start time will also help you avoid this danger.

Hope this helps.
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Joined: February 1st, 2004, 4:19 pm

August 2nd, 2005, 2:42 am #3

I've received a permit for a Sept 8th attempt on Whitney. Now for the pre-hike logistics. I was thinking that I could camp in the afternoon/evening prior to the hike at Whitney Portal.

1) Is there shade in some of the campsites at W. Portal?
2) Can reservations be made for W. Portal campground(s)?
3) Is there any lodging there, ie. Cabin, motel, etc available for rent?
4) I have a day hike permit, I was thinking that I could start hiking at 12:01am, so that I might reach the ridge prior to first light and the summit by dawn. Will that be allowed?

Thanks,

Jack
Here are links to some good information:

http://home.earthlink.net/~bclk/dayhike.htm

http://www.whitneyportalstore.com/
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Joined: November 13th, 2004, 12:52 am

August 3rd, 2005, 7:22 pm #4

I've received a permit for a Sept 8th attempt on Whitney. Now for the pre-hike logistics. I was thinking that I could camp in the afternoon/evening prior to the hike at Whitney Portal.

1) Is there shade in some of the campsites at W. Portal?
2) Can reservations be made for W. Portal campground(s)?
3) Is there any lodging there, ie. Cabin, motel, etc available for rent?
4) I have a day hike permit, I was thinking that I could start hiking at 12:01am, so that I might reach the ridge prior to first light and the summit by dawn. Will that be allowed?

Thanks,

Jack
Congratulations on getting the permits. We just climbed Mount Whitney on July 21st, and it was a blast. Here's what I remember relative to your questions:

1) There quite a bit of shade at the campground, due both to the trees and the fact tha the canyon is a bit narrow.
2) Reservations can be made, but getting them this late might be difficult. We managed to get to the campground around 2pm, and there were several walk-in (non-reservable) sites available.
3) The only lodging I'm aware of is down in Lone Pine, 10 miles east and 4,000 feet down. We live at 4,500 feet, but it was still beneficial for us to spend at least one night at the portal to acclimatize.
4) My understanding (and I could be wrong on this) is that the permit is only needed for entrance into the Whitney Zone, which begins at Lone Pine Lake. I would imagine that if you really wanted to, you could leave even earlier and hike up to the boundary of the zone and not enter it until 12:01am.

Hope you have a good time and enjoy the hike. As a previous poster said, getting up and down early is the best policy to avoid bad weather. We started at 4am, and got to the summit shortly before noon, as clouds were starting to build. For more information about our experience, take a look at my trip report.

-Hyrum
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Joined: January 26th, 2004, 5:02 pm

August 7th, 2005, 4:00 am #5

Thanks for everyone's help. After thinking about it, I wanted to be sure of 2 more things.

1) I have my light & fast hiking shoes that are great for relatively smooth treadways (trailbeds) & I have some real tough boots for rocky, twisty walking on rough trails or off-trail. My preference would be the lighter boots, but would folks recommend the heavier ones for Whitney? For instance, I'm using the heavier ones on Boundary a few days prior.

2) Since I am planning to do almost the whole ascent in the dark, is the trail relatively safe to do that? I'm concerned about 2 issues w/ regards to this question:

a) Is the trail easy to follow by headlamp? (I will also have at least 1 flashlight too)

b) Does walking on the trail put one at the edge of serious drops that one misstep could lead to disaster. If the answers are different for the post-ridge portion vs the approach & switchbacks, let me know that 'cause I could delay at the ridge for first light.

I've seen pics of the 99 switchbacks, which seem smooth & very easy to follow with minimal lighting (heck, or blind w/ flip-flops). But I don't have a good sense of the lower trail portion.

3) This is just a curiosity thing (and I might later post it on the thread for backcountry injuries) Does anyone know what time the scouts were hit by lightning near Whitney? Tragic in any case, but "inquiring minds want to know".

Thanks,

Jack S.
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Joined: January 23rd, 2004, 4:14 pm

August 8th, 2005, 5:39 pm #6

To answer your follow up questions:

1) I have my light & fast hiking shoes that are great for relatively smooth treadways (trailbeds) & I have some real tough boots for rocky, twisty walking on rough trails or off-trail. My preference would be the lighter boots, but would folks recommend the heavier ones for Whitney? For instance, I'm using the heavier ones on Boundary a few days prior.
I would go with the lighter weight shoes. If you are dayhiking Whitney, 20+ miles in boots is murder on the feet. You'll travel much quicker with lighter shoes.

2) Since I am planning to do almost the whole ascent in the dark, is the trail relatively safe to do that? I'm concerned about 2 issues w/ regards to this question:

a) Is the trail easy to follow by headlamp? (I will also have at least 1 flashlight too)

The trail is wide and easy to follow, I don't remember any confusing sections. We did the route from Trail Camp to summit completely in the dark and didn't have any problems.

b) Does walking on the trail put one at the edge of serious drops that one misstep could lead to disaster. If the answers are different for the post-ridge portion vs the approach & switchbacks, let me know that 'cause I could delay at the ridge for first light.
Not really, there are some steep gullies to traverse after you reach ridge crest and go along the backside of The Windows, but the trail is good and you'd have to be very clumsy to fall here. Once again, we did this section in the dark and had no issues.

I've seen pics of the 99 switchbacks, which seem smooth & very easy to follow with minimal lighting (heck, or blind w/ flip-flops). But I don't have a good sense of the lower trail portion.
Very easy to follow. My brother's headlamp died about halfway up the switchbacks and he just followed behind me w/o any problems.

3) This is just a curiosity thing (and I might later post it on the thread for backcountry injuries) Does anyone know what time the scouts were hit by lightning near Whitney? Tragic in any case, but "inquiring minds want to know".
Can't help you there, don't know many of the details on this, but a google search will probably give you more info. than you ever wanted.

Good luck, enjoy Whitney. If I were ever to go back and do it again, I would just dayhike it next time.
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Joined: August 8th, 2005, 8:56 pm

August 8th, 2005, 9:13 pm #7

I've received a permit for a Sept 8th attempt on Whitney. Now for the pre-hike logistics. I was thinking that I could camp in the afternoon/evening prior to the hike at Whitney Portal.

1) Is there shade in some of the campsites at W. Portal?
2) Can reservations be made for W. Portal campground(s)?
3) Is there any lodging there, ie. Cabin, motel, etc available for rent?
4) I have a day hike permit, I was thinking that I could start hiking at 12:01am, so that I might reach the ridge prior to first light and the summit by dawn. Will that be allowed?

Thanks,

Jack
Camping is shady and $8.00 last Thursday night at 7pm there were lost of sites. It is first come first serve there. We slept in a SUV thursday till 4:40 then walked. I never saw any ranger type looking for permits as you can at this time descent from the peak without one. The switchbacks are an easy walk, most of the trail is tourist,housewife friendly. I am not saying easy though! We stopped by the Ranger station on the way in and found out you can get trail camp permits the day before, get there before the office opens. Here's a little tail I wrote my friends.


I just did Whitney, Mountaineer Route, August 5, 2005. 14,496.2, I think, 17 Hours, I did not weigh my pack this time! I had nothing better to do and had a nagging feeling of unfulfillment from two weeks earlier. You can go on the sperm of the moment if you want. You don't need a permit because the trail is frequented by a hearty, few. You make a left after .8 of a mile off the Tourist trail, just before the North Fork sign. The tourist trail, you heard of, ....the leaving at some ungodly hour after getting up to the Sierras early enough to throw away money at some local motel for five hours. How about the 99 switchbacks? I am not going to say Mountaineer has no switchbacks, and I wonder if I could say I have really gone Mountain climbing? The climbing entailed negotiating these couloirs bottomed by either rocks of increasing sizes which either were the base for larger ones above, that loosened and rolled down on you or waited for you to confidently use them as a large stair step and then begin to slide down, a scary prospect either way. Some of these couloirs (french for the space at the curb where drainage flows if I remember my dialogues) are filled with snow, that's right August 5th, the South Half of California, foot and a half of snow, in which you either sink or lose your footing and slide down, which brings us to the Ice Axe(baby) I was convinced to buy for $25 used, where you self arrest by ramming it into the snow so you and your 30 pound backpack don't, like the cartoons, roll down the mountain, becoming a larger, and larger snow ball.
The side of these couloirs is where my first intro to mountain climbing took place. With a weighty pack which destroys your center of balance, climbing the still solid sides, trying to not climb back down after you have gotten thirty feet higher into mountaineering's surprising and deceptive cul-de-sacs, wedging available body parts into cracks, fissures, crannies, finger scooping dirt out to create a hand hold to get higher only to get as high as you or maybe anyone with or without your experience should expect to get, and then have to lower youself back the same way, forgetting where you stepped, or how you were able to heave yourself higher with what on the way down is a non-existant foothold, scrambling up to give your partner a hand, or she who has been in the Andes or Himayalas catching up to help you out of what looks to her to be barely a Fisher-Price predicament. Exciting, isn't it?
Mount Whitney....El Montano Contiguoso (don't you be correcting me mo' fo') imagine an irregular, pyramidal, conical, apex pointedly object. But just from the side we approached. Take some not so giant chicken wire, the graph paper kind. cut the segments into two square rectangles, PUSH THIS SCREEN DOWN OVER THE CENTER OF THE OBJECT(god I hate cap lock, WORD should have a 'things I always do wrong', hey I think it has something I can use, but does E-mail have it?), we will call it mount whitney and then push it sidewards, to create a pile of blocks, Have Thor's hammer or Zeus's thunderbolt knock it and half the mountain range of of "needles" and 'actual' mountains away to create a caldera, (caldera may be specifically something else) of curving mountain valleys totally devoid of trees except for some brush by the stream, sometimes the streams build up to create lakes which were ice even on August 5th. The non-hammer/thunderbolt side of the range is the child's blocks knocked over, quarry look of the whole section of the range; a real bear goes over the mountain torture, seeming to never reveal a tree, or tree-filled trail camp below,...hell to walk on a trail, for miles, an eternity it seemed, only to go down the infamous 99 switchbacks. Down is no bargain if you are tired and wobbly.
Started at 4:30 am, motored along with the experience of two weeks ago, recognizing trails, using one stick, better pack and poles from Gary! Got to u-bos-co real early (but I have forgotten the actual times through the haze of subsequent ordeals) as far as we went two weeks ago. Climbing faster than my partner, but being substantially older, I earned many rests, motivate by altitude headaches, shoe problems, food and water disciplines, exhuberence provoked fatigue...
The mountaineer 5 trail goes relentlessly up, from the sunken living room comfort of the Whtney Portal at about 8900 feet, I think, through balconies, ledges, tunnel-like waterworks, trails along the rising rock face, only switching when totally necessary after the onset. Up a succession of narrow, step-valleys getting starker and treeless and winterlike with snow melt lakes, Golf course sand trap sprinkling of snow spots, the final lake being the appropriately named, ICEBERG LAKE, accessible by a higher degree of climbing as the thousands add up. Then the 1831 feet of snowy couloir a similiar .8 to the top. But how different eight tenths of a mile can be. Garirox of all sizes, luckily ten to fifteen percent of them don't move. The one's that do do so in concert. I have never been in an earthquake where you can't stand up, or an avalanche, slipping out from below you; but the surface of the earth should be a given. Here it often is not. Being out ahead I chose a parallel couloir that shotcutted more than half the snow. I don't got no stinkin' snow boots. .8 equaled three hours!
By that time we had decided on the 11 mile tourist way out and the way people were gingerly negotiating the descent cemented our decision. At the notch we skirted the peak, (I will never do this again....AGAIN! ...HA!...Circling almost to the tourist trail; we climbed to....not the summit but what I will call the top, only the top was like a graveyard for broken sidewalk pieces,...it went on forever with a curvature of the earth sort of feel. It had a lost in a Sahara, twilight zone we have landed on another planet look, with nothing but the fluffy clouds at three quarters of the horizon. At that point of exhaustion it's total coolness was unnecessary. It went on forever! Did I mention the two guys scrambling down an hour ago with a paranoia thunder storm fear very much alive in their eyes? Well the flows of angel hair and ice cream castles in the air had some evil cousins in tandem. Mountain Goddess Michal gave me no rest at the top. Next time I will stay a while...NEXT TIME? HA
A fallen forest of mini monoliths, could they arise Fantasia-like to chase us down to those surley switchbacks. Just my magination...fatigue will get you....long before the end. So those strength sapping switchbacks sucked. Thank god for the hiking poles; I could have lurched off the side on numerous occasions and thanked God for the abrupt rescue. Facing south looking down at the trail camp; facing north looking down at the trail camp, I was told of someone who had slid down the mile long snowskid suicidal and self arresting. It took too too long; I would rather risk the mounaineer drop! When we got to the bottom it haled . The trail got nicer eventually; and dark again, but it never ended. God if there was only a Ponderosa steak house at the Whitney Portal and Rite-Aid sale twelve packs of St Pauli Girl for $8.99! Fatburger, Barneys Beanery burger dog combo, how about a gift certificate to Pirhana on Palm in Burbank! The kind of meal that would almost seem to fill those throbbing legs, push out the stomach obscenely.
Steve and Gary want to do this.they say..I want to do it with even less stuff, and run it !
Glorious!
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