Wednesday, January 13, 2021

5 Mt Whitney Resolutions for 2021

I'm gonna choose optimism for this year. At least in the realm of Mt Whitney climbing anyway. I'm going to assume there will be a climbing season, however truncated it might be. Here's a list of "resolutions" to keep in mind while you plan your trip.

Enjoy the view.  Don't meet it.

1.  Take this endeavor seriously.  

Your Whitney preparations begin now if they haven't already. You must be ready physically, mentally, and materially for the challenges. That means training at least six months to achieve a good level of cardiovascular fitness, preferably by running, climbing long and hard to improve musculature, and climbing high to aid acclimatization and mental toughness. Familiarize yourself with the objective dangers of the climb as well as the route itself. Don't rely on "heroic ignorance" to pull you through.

Make sure your gear is in good shape and familiar to you. No tearing off price tags in the parking lot.  Are your shoes broken in? Have you set up your shelter in the dark before?

2.  Don't rely on a rescue.  

Most of the S&R teams in the region are staffed by volunteers. If you require rescue during this pandemic, a volunteer will have to miss 14 days of work at their day job because you decided training was optional. This past season, rescue calls went unanswered because there was no one left to take the call. 

Now, things do happen. Last summer, an earthquake loosened hundreds of tons of granite. Luckily COVID-19 closed Whitney Portal and the Main Trail so there were no casualties. Unavoidable consequences are one thing. Failure to heed resolution #1 is another. According to the authorities, people die on Mt Whitney every year. Most deaths are avoidable.

Taking a fall here because you're fatigued may not be fatal but could have serious consequences

3.  Be self-aware.  

If you've never been to 14,000 feet (4,267 m) or used crampons, fill in your knowledge gaps by rigorous assessment of your prior performance at altitude or practice your skills. The Main Trail is not the place to try crampons for the first time, especially if you didn't know they existed three months prior to your climb. Crampons require mountaineering boots to work best. If you didn't know that, you're proving my point. 

Know your limits. Hubris can propel one up a mountain but it's humility that gets one back down again. Which brings me to the following:

4.  Give yourself the best chance for success.  

Since we are not Sir Edmund Hillary or Ed Viesturs (unless you are Ed Viesturs.  Hi Ed.), make the climb as easy as possible on your first attempt. 15 of the Main Trail's 21.6 miles (34.76 km) are above 10,000 feet (3,048 m). The vertical gain is over 6,000 feet (>1,829 m). 

Sir Ed

Prime climb time runs from the third week in July to the end of September depending on the snow levels.  Earlier trips probably require an ice ax and crampons, the ability to use them well, and route-finding skills you may not yet possess. The "winter line" differs from the established Main Trail route above Trail Camp.  Descents under early and late-season conditions have been fatally hazardous. The road to Whitney Portal has been closed on Father's Day due to heavy snow.  Leave the "shoulder season" trips to the boys and girls with skills and experience. That can be you someday.

Ed Ed

5.  During a pandemic, the single-day trip rules.  

Think about it. Avoiding Trail and Outpost Camps, except to pass through or pump water, could be a way to minimize exposure. Also, the 2020 fires in SoCal and other areas along with the resultant area closures may hamper our ability to climb high as much as we'd like. Zipping up and down with superior conditioning and lighter weight will win the day. The Portal and surrounding high camp areas may be closed so additional on-site acclimatization may be hard to come by unless the authorities allow dispersed camping.

These resolutions are not meant to scare anyone out of attempting the trip. Go with your eyes wide open, your head on a swivel, your antennae up and your brain locked in. Know what you're in for. Hopefully you'll find more useful information here at Mt Whitney Quest.  

In the coming weeks, I will write about fire-induced alterations to the Mt Whitney Dirty Dozen, the Mt Whitney Lottery, and why this would be a great year to plan an alternate adventure climbing a more remote mountain with a longer approach serving to isolate you and yours from the madding crowds. Yup, I just wrote that. We'll discuss....

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Saturday, April 18, 2020

Mt Whitney in the Time of Coronavirus

Revised 5/8/20

Everything was falling into place.  You picked your climb buddies, made a training schedule, understood the subtleties of the Mt Whitney Lottery, submitted your bid, received your dates and were just about to hit the "accept" button when KA-BLAAM!  A tiny little bug so small, more than five million of them fit on the head of a pin, came along and clouded your adventure.  So how does the COVID-19 pandemic really affect your Mt Whitney plans this year?

Get your pandemic sarcasm at

Unfortunately, that is a simple question with a complicated answer.  For instance, Inyo National Forest is technically open, deep snowpack notwithstanding.  However, California has travel restrictions in effect at least until May 15 but could go longer.  The state allows only essential travel for work, groceries, or hardware.  Travel for recreation is technically not allowed.  Plus, Sequoia-Kings Canyon (SEKI) National Park is closed.  The Main Trail after Trail Crest is SEKI jurisdiction.

Furthermore, The Park Service considers Whitney Portal a "developed area," as are other car-camping sites like Lone Pine Camp or Onion Valley.  It is very possible those areas won't open for camping until very late (like September) or not at all this year.  That makes it hard to acclimatize at the Portal for a few days or even stage a single-day trip.  Unfortunately, car camping locales are not high on the priority list in anyone's jurisdiction and won't be among the first (or even second) tier of allowable activities when we roll back into real life. 
There's no way to disinfect bathrooms after every use reliably so Whitney Portal will remain closed
 Hotel accommodations are closed in Lone Pine, Independence, and all the Eastern Sierra towns.  The Boulder Creek campground in Lone Pine can only host essential workers in RVs (like road construction gangs).  No private campground can take visitors.  Even the Alabama Hills (BLM land) are closed due to too many wanderers.  "Elevation," the Lone Pine climbing shop, is closed.  Call ahead at 760-876-4560 with your requests. They can arrange pick-up.  However, they will not outfit you for a trip deemed illegal by any jurisdiction.
Elevation during better times.  They're getting their mail-order thing together
Horseshoe Meadow may open in a limited fashion later this year, making it possible  to stay up high for a few days before climbing Mt Whitney but that's all up in the air.  Backside (western) approaches can't be done as long as SEKI remains shut. According to my well-placed, highly-informed sources, the NPS and Forest Service are working on at least three different plans for the summer.  They expect to release details some time next week.  They are also working on enforceable "Legal Forest Orders" ("you can go here but not there" stuff) which may change as the season goes on.

Another interesting wrinkle:

Mt Whitney (Inyo County) Search & Rescue (S&R) is the most active in the Sierra.  They're already busy this season plucking parties out of post-avalanche zones. Currently, all S&R personnel coming in contact with the public during a rescue must self-quarantine for two weeks.  They are picking and choosing who to rescue because they won't be available to assist people in worse trouble for 14 days.  

This summer, someone may use their PLB to call for a rescue and no one shows up.  It was made very clear to me that all parties on the mountain make reasoned, well-informed decisions about proceeding because they may be on their own. Of course, this assumes there will be a climbing season.  If there isn't, and you decide to sneak up anyway, you'll be met by a smiling ranger and a mandatory court appearance summons.  Have a nice day.

So what to do if you have a permit date before, say,  July 1 which is a date under discussion for opening the Main Trail?  My sources say, "Decline the date."  If you decline before May 1, you'll get a refund this one time because of extenuating pandemic circumstances.  You will be out the initial six-buck permit fee though.   

[NEW]  According to our "deep mole" at NFS, they will now refund even on accepted permit dates.  Here is the verbatim quote from an email: 
"I have verified the $15 per person that usually goes to support Inyo National Forest wilderness programs is being 100% refunded. Dates that were won in the lottery and have been accepted will be refunded if their date is impacted by closures."

As of May 6, 2020, the NFS has decided to open the Sierra backcountry on May 15.  However, all permits pulled for Mt Whitney or other permit-required areas up to May 31 will be refunded.  They need time to staff up and make plans for some type of physical distancing or other restrictions on heavy-use areas like the Main Trail.  Parties receiving refunds can reapply for available spots at a later date as they become available.

An example:  If your permit date is May 27, the NFS will rescind your permit and refund everything paid minus the $6 permitting fee.  If your permit date is June 27, you don't get a refund because technically, you will be allowed to climb even though you may opt out due to your own personal misgivings or the extra logistical challenges.

Speaking of which, there will be no place to stay or camp in the region.  Both Whitney Portal and Horseshoe Meadow campgrounds will remain closed until the NFS figures out a plan for cleaning bathroom facilities every hour or after every use in "developed areas" to reduce the chance of spreading the virus.  All hotels and private camps remain closed for the foreseeable future.  

The only option available is "dispersed camping" allowed in some public areas.  Conceivably, one could travel up a dirt road and find a place to stay.  However, if a sign exists reading "camping in designated areas only," or "private property" or "trespassers will be shot on site," that's a none-too-subtle hint the area you chose is not considered "dispersed."  

Another hint:  There is no dispersed camping allowed along Whitney Portal Road, Horseshoe Meadow Road, or Tuttle Road which is currently closed due to washouts.  Don't even try it.  Don't.  The Alabama Hills remain closed.  Finding a spot to camp with some elevation value to help with acclimatization will have to be your job, as Mt Whitney Quest's chief scribbler has been asked not to provide specific recommendations.  Evidently, the power, breadth, and scope of Mt Whitney Quest's awesome reach has the NPS trembling at the mere thought of our tens of readers descending upon various recommended locations and trampling them to smithereens.

Plans are afoot to eliminate the usual mandatory visit to the Eastern Sierra InterAgency Center to pick up permits.  They may be distributed by phoning the center at
760 876 6200 one week prior to your permit date.  Permit holders can make adjustments to their party size (upwards only if available, downwards always permissible) at that time or any time before.   [/NEW]

If you do decide to go for it anyway, there may be more abandonments than usual this year.  If you decide you're not up for all the extra drama, please give up your slot as soon as you're sure. Give someone else a chance to go.  Mount Whitney will still be there next year.

A bigger question lurks:

Even though the powers-that-be decided we can climb Mt Whitney, will it be worth exposing ourselves epidemiology-wise to an unknown population hailing from all over the world?  If you're contemplating a multi-day trip, you'll be sharing space with 59 other people over two small campsites.  Trail Camp is especially troublesome since flat ground suitable for shelters is at a premium. What's also at a premium is our ability to train for the thing in the first place.  Many of us are cut off from the mountains by travel restrictions.  We can run but unless you live at 11,000 feet, we don't get enough time up high.

Trail camp from the west

Take everything I just wrote with a grain of salt. Our everyday lives are a very fluid situation. Our recreational choices could open up or vanish.  Or both.  The fine folks at the Eastern Sierra InterAgency Center are operating under the premise that some fraction of a climbing season with some fraction of the usual logistical resources will be possible this year.  The size of that fraction is anyone's guess.

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Monday, January 18, 2016

The Road To Mt Whitney is.....Under Construction?

Whitney Portal Road Closure Information

(Revised Feb 9, 2016)

While engrossed in writing a scintillating post about crampons and ice axes, two releases from the Inyo National Forest roll across my eyeballs. The first one is an overview of the 2016 reconstruction project for Whitney Portal Road. For the uninitiated, Whitney Portal Road is the one route for vehicle access to the Portal, which is the location of the Mount Whitney Main Trial and North Fork (Mountaineer's) Route trailheads.

The second is a nuts-and-bolts PDF regarding how to make your Mt Whitney Quest work. So both are required reading for any trip into the Portal area, including car and RV camping, hikes to Meysan Lake, Mt Muir, the backside of Lone Pine Peak, excursions to Mt Mallory, Mt Irvine, and the rest of the area's lumps, bumps, and puddles.

But wait!  There's more.....

Now a third document is available complete with maps and diagrams showing where roadside parking will be prohibited plus the designated parking areas for permit holders. This new document also shows construction will be split into three phases. Phase 1 will be closest to the Portal. As the work moves downward (eastward) back towards town, roadside parking restrictions will ease somewhat in the Portal area. Read the document for more information.

Mt Whitney permit holders will receive all priority regarding parking. However, permit holders are not guaranteed a space. The Forest Service really really recommends parking the car at a lot in Lone Pine and utilizing any one of the many shuttle services to get to the trailhead. Also, anyone hoping to stage a car for a John Muir Trail hike or a Whitney climb from Horseshoe Meadows, Onion Valley or the High Sierra Trail will find themselves shut out. So the road construction's impact goes way beyond anyone's Whitney aspirations.

However, it does appear reserving a Whitney Portal car camping area site for our "base camp"  may get us around the heavily restricted parking situation caused by the construction. Every campsite allows parking for two vehicles.  Start your climb from your campsite by following the last bit of the Whitney Portal National Recreation Trail to the Main Trail proper due to parking restrictions. We should be staying up high anyway before climbing even higher. 

The Whitney Portal National Recreation Trail runs right through the Portal car-camping area

I'm not going to regurgitate the entirety of the four releases. Just click on the links above and get the info straight from the Forest Service. Reading between the lines, the single day parking permit is good for the climb date from midnight to 11:59 pm. The day use parking opens every morning at 8:00 am and closes every night at 8:00 pm during construction. People recreating in the Portal area or visiting the Portal Store, or perhaps taking a stroll to Lone Pine Lake should use this lot. Towing will be strictly enforced outside the hours outlined above so this lot is not suitable for summit day.

Another layer of uncertainty for "Walk-Ins"

"Walk-in" permits, those fortunate few taking advantage of returned unused lottery permits by being in the right place at the right time, may be discontinued for the 2016 season entirely, if the construction situation becomes untenable. At any rate, all "walk-in" permit climbers will be required to use a shuttle for trips to the trailhead.  Seems to me the Forest Service hasn't made up their mind yet but I wouldn't plan on dive-bombing your Mt Whitney plans this year.  Even if you do get one, it's a messy situation.

Here's a thought:  Start your trip from Lone Pine Camp and use the Recreation Trail. There are a few extra spaces for your car.  Doing so will add four miles and 2,400 feet of vertical change each way. Can you do almost 30 miles and 8,500 vertical feet in a day? How much different will it be for the multi-day climber?  It might mean staying at Outpost Camp instead of Trail Camp. Do that anyway because it means an easier night's rest.

Questions? Drop 'em in the comments section. If I can't answer them, I'll find someone who can. For this Whitney summer season, let's all heed the request by the USFS and "Please pack your patience."

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Monday, August 3, 2015

Climb Mt Whitney In 2015 - Good Dates Still Available

October 1 is a fine time to climb Mt Whitney but keep a weather eye to the sky
Just took a look at remaining Mt Whitney availabilities. As of August 2, 2015, 44 people can still sign up for a single-day climb on Thursday, October 1. While the weekends are still booked solid, early October has tons of weekday availabilities. However, the weather can be extremely changeable.  Any precipitation will be frozen above 9,000 feet or so. Having said that, bluebird days are not unknown in October so there's potential for beautifully clear, cool conditions as well. Extra clothing and proper footwear are a must, just in case.

To check availabilities, go to  Enter "Mt Whitney" in the search box. Choose 'Day Use" under "Permits and Wilderness" Hit "Enter Date" on the next screen. In the "Permit Availability" box enter a date and group size. Don't be too fine with the date. Once in, you can slide the calender in two week increments either way.

If October 1 doesn't float your boat, keep checking back and refreshing the screen occasionally. Someone might return all or part of their permit more than 48 hours before their climb date, thereby creating a possibility for an earlier slot. Be ready to pounce, though. Others are lurking over the permit calender as well. That open slot might close in a few minutes.

As for multi-day trips up the Main Trail, the earliest opening is currently mid-October.  However, the same basic rules apply so check often for an earlier opportunity.

Don't forget to reserve space at Whitney Portal for some pre-climb acclimation and post-climb slumber.

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Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Mount Whitney Dirty Dozen Dirty Deed

View of the Lake Fire from space (Jeff Schmaltz/ NASA's LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response)

 Breaking news: As of July 16, 2015, Forsee Creek, San Bernardino Peak, Momyer, and Vivian Creek trails are now OPEN.  Any trail or road in the burn area (see last burn map marked "July 6" below) remains closed.  Hike 10 (San Gorgonio via Vivian Creek Trail) and 11 (San Bernardino Peak out of Angelus Oaks) of the Mt Whitney Dirty Dozen are now available.  Please stay out of the burn areas and be watchful for firefighters and apparatus on the roads.  Heavy fines levied for individuals or groups who do not heed the closures.


The Lake Fire still smolders in some places but has moved into recovery phase.   More information about recovery and the aftermath along with photos of the burn area can be found here

Those of us based in Southern California are following the sad news regarding the Lake Fire. To date, the fire has now stalled at 31,359 acres of pine forest, understory, and an iconic aspen grove in the Fish Creek area. The fire is now relegated to smoldering in some areas. There is some chance of mud flows in heavily burned areas. Hazardous conditions remain due to smoldering, stump holes, and other unstable ground.  Cause of the fire deemed "human activity" by USFS investigators.  However, no one can say for sure whether that activity was intentional or an accident.

For prospective Mt Whitney climbers, Hikes 10 and 11 of the Mt Whitney Dirty Dozen are now officially closed until at least October 1, 2015.  See closure map near the end with training alternatives..

Compare this burn map from June 18 with the later ones below (courtesy inciweb)

June 20. Note the relative positions of the Vivian Creek and San Bernardino Peak trails to the burn area.
June 23. The bold black line at the top of the burn is the containment line.  More than 50 percent of the South Fork route to San Gorgonio is gone.
June 26. Uh-oh
June 29.  Note increases in containment line and the fire's advance At the southernmost point
July 2. 70 percent containment.  No advance
July 6.  90 percent contained.  Only the most rugged areas have no fire line

The Vivian Creek route (hike 10) straddles the south slope of San Gorgonio while the fire blackened the north side pretty much up to the treeline. The fire did not effect the trail directly but the most recent map showed the flames jumping the ridge and burning east of the Vivian Creek trail.  The San Bernardino Peak route out of Angelus Oaks (Hike 11) lies farther to the west and completely unaffected as the flames spread east and south from the origin point near a summer camp off Jenks Lake Road. All trail routes through the San Gorgonio Wilderness are closed (CA Route 38, the trailhead access route, has been reopened).  Closures will be in effect until at least October 1, 2015.

Map showing extent of forest closure until at least October 1

Training alternatives:  

 If you want to complete your Dirty Dozen training, there is an alternative:  Climbing San Jacinto via the old pre-tramway route from the west side. The town of Idyllwild is the jump-off area. Heading out via Humber Park or Deer Springs trailhead will result in climbs of  about 17 miles round trip (though Harrison maps show them as longer) while gaining about 5,600 vertical feet. Both trailheads are good stiff tests that will augment your stamina buildup and leave you in good stead for your date with Mt Whitney. However, the loss of 800 vertical feet from San Gorgonio's 11,503 elevation means your immediate pre-Whitney acclimation routine for single-day or multi-day climbs will be even more important.

Start your climb early, as the lower elevations near town will heat up as the sun rises and swings over to the western slopes.

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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Mt Whitney Dirty Dozen Hike 2: Mt Lukens

Mt Lukens, aka Sister Elsie Peak is the highest point within Los Angeles city limits at 5,075 feet (1,547 m). It's not a particularly tall mountain, nor is it a pretty climb. The city flattened the summit area to make more room for antennas and haze often obscures the view. So why are we climbing it?

There are two reasons. First would be bagging the highest point in LA. However, we're climbing it because it rises 800 feet per mile for four miles without much altitude effect. It's a great early step for those training with higher aspirations. If this hike leaves your legs quivering, you have a lot of work to do before you're Whitney-ready.

There are two principal routes. A fire road climbs out of Deukmejian Wilderness Park in Glendale. This route is boring, dusty, and incendiary as it climbs the south-facing slope. Our route is mostly single-track ascending the peak's north side. People lose the thread after crossing Big Tujunga Creek so follow along with our photo-gravure as we decipher the clues to a day filled with sun, sweat, and satisfaction for your hard work.

The trailhead lies at the western terminus of Stonyvale Road just off Big Tujunga Canyon Road. Actually, parking at Wildwood Picnic Grounds off Doske Road is closer but the Forest Service closes the gate at sunset. Or not. Rather than deal with the nebulous gate closing schedule, let's take the sure bet and turn off Big Tujunga Canyon Road here at Stonyvale in the picture. It's a right turn clearly seen coming from the west but it comes up quickly driving from the east

The road descends and lands at a T-intersection facing the sign. Turn right toward Vogel Flat. 

The day we shot the pics, this roadblock barred our way. Erected by an in-holding homeowner, she emerged from the house and asked our business when we stopped and parked. When assured we did not mean to drink, carouse, and/or debauch, she cheerfully took the roadblock down but followed us as we made our way on foot to the trailhead.

The road is a public right-of-way and the homeowner does not have the right to block it. However, let's all play nice and avoid entering into a heated debate about who has the God-given right to do what. After all, you're leaving your car behind for a few hours. It's another 330 yards (300 m) to the trailhead from here.
If the block isn't up, park your car at the end of the road. Note the trailhead on the berm to the left of the "END" sign.

Once over the berm, continue along what used to be Stonyvale Road before a bygone flood washed it out. Big Tujunga Creek runs to your left.

The view to the south from the trail. Note the dirt tracks. This land may or may not be private down to the streambed running left to right through the middle of the photo. Treat everything off the road or trail up to this point as private and respect it.
Once past these girders, everything is public.

 just past the girders you'll find a small rockfall. Look south-southwest from the rockfall and find this dead tree.  Note the trail to the left of it partially obscured by the chaparral and the foliage from the creek.
That dead tree is on the left side of this stony drainage from which Stone Canyon gets it's name. Keep going to the northwest away from the dead tree.
A closer view of the river rock. The trail runs up the left side following the rift. You're still walking northwest while the canyon rises to the south.
When aligned with the center-right of the canyon from your perspective, start looking for the path to the creekbed as seen below. Follow to the creek.
This year (early April 2015), Big Tujunga Creek is a simple rock hop. As recently as 2010, it has been a raging torrent at certain times of the year.  Do not cross unless it's safe. You may have to choose an alternate place to cross. If you have any doubts, call it a day or climb nearby Condor Peak instead.
Once across, clamber up this bank and watch for the trail bending left.
Now on the other side of Big Tujunga Creek, keep walking southeastward
The dead tree from the trail east of it. you can see the trail now.
If you see the stanchion from the old trail registry, you're on the right track.
The trail hangs a 90-degree right and starts climbing.
Up the trail a bit, looking back the way you came. Find the little rock fall on the left-right trail beneath the rock cut where you first spied the dead tree.
To the northwest is the Wildwood Picnic Area parking lot. Looks temptingly close. It won't seem so close if the NFS decides to lock the gate.
Keep heading straight up-canyon while keeping your eyes peeled to the left. The trail will leave the canyon, sweep left, and start switchbacking up a rib. The grade does not relent until you reach a small plain below the summit mound. At that point, follow the fire road heading towards the antennas.

Start this one early. A hat, sunscreen, and at least three liters of water are a must. The entire area except the summit plain burned in the 2009 Station Fire. The trail was closed for two years. Maybe a foot of shade exists on the whole trail now. Poison oak abounds all along the route so identify it and do your best to avoid it. An immediate hot soapy shower and clothes wash will prevent a breakout. Load the washer first, then shower in case your clothes have the oily residue on them. 

There are many areas overgrown with new scrub oak and chaparral on the trail's upper third. Climbers must contend with a few washouts as well. Use your very best judgement on this climb. However, if anything I've written thus far dissuades you from from attempting it, then your Mt Whitney aspirations may be wobbly as well.  This is an early test of your mental commitment and your physical conditioning. Just remember you're entering a national forest, not an amusement park. Be aware at all times. Take pride in this early victory. Build from it.

Learn about the origin of the peak's original name, Sister Elsie. Judge for yourself whether she existed or not. If you believe she did, tell her we said hi

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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Playing the Mount Whitney Lottery Part II: Timeline, Tips, and Lottery FAQ

The map on the floor of the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor's Center.  Note the position of San Francisco.  Perhaps the consequences of awarding contracts to the lowest bidder?

2015 Mt Whitney Permit Important Dates

February 1, 12:00 am EST – Mt Whitney Lottery begins.  Set up your free account at  You can choose as many  as 15 dates.  The date you choose is the date you enter the Whitney Zone / John Muir Wilderness.  Everything goes into the hopper and drawn randomly at the end of the lottery so being first doesn’t mean anything. You will owe a $6.00 non-refundable transaction fee at this time.  9:00 pm PST start on January 31 for West Coasters.

You need a multi-day permit to camp at Lone Pine Lake (Charles Hirsch photo)

March 15, 11:59 pm EST – Lottery closes.  That would be 8:59 pm Pacific.

March 23 – Results are in.  Check your account to see your dates.  You have from this date until April 1 to look at your dates, see what else might be available, and finalize your permit size. The results are "frozen" until April 1. Costs will be $15.00 per person on the permit. You can alter the size of your original permit downward without penalty but no alterations can be made upward until April 1 and only if there are availabilities.

April 1 – All permitting functions thaw out and become operational. will publish a “calendar” of all remaining availabilities including those generated by permit alterations up to this time.  This is also the time you can revise your permit upward if available.  Each addition person costs $15.00.  Do not accept your date until you know your permit size. Once accepted, any up or down movement in permit size will cost you.

April 30 – Last day to accept or decline.  You have until 9:00 pm Pacific to hit the “ACCEPT” button.  Don't white-knuckle this thing to the very last minute.  If the web slows down or you're looking for your credit card when the cutoff point arrives, the system locks and you lose your place.  This is also the last day to revise your permit downward without penalty.  Make sure you alter the permit size if necessary before accepting.  After hitting "ACCEPT," any downward revisions mean forfeiting the dropout's per-person fee.

May 1 – All unaccepted dates are released.  They become part of the availability calendar.  Note:  The calendar is “dynamic” i.e. availabilities can go down and up within a 24-hour period.  You may find no extra availabilities for your intended date, then manually refreshing the screen ten minutes later shows availabilities added.  Check often.

14 days before Whitney Zone entry date -You may receive an email reminding you once again to confirm your date.  This should happen whether you went through the lottery or not.  Tip:  There was a problem with this in the past so check your account two weeks before your date.

2 – 14 days before Whitney Zone entry date - Reconfirm as explained above.  Verify your group size or alter it as required.  Doing so allows freed-up space to hit the calendar as soon as possible so someone else can use it.  The USFS thanks you in advance.  Print out the confirmation and bring it with you when you pick up your permit at the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitors Center on the southern end of Lone Pine.  Throughout the process, follow all instructions on any correspondence to the letter.

48 hours to noon the day before Whitney Zone entry date for single-day permits - Pick up your permit.  Only the trip leader or alternate leader(s) can pick up.  Otherwise, your permit will be reassigned by lottery to a walk-up candidate by 2:00 pm.

48 hours to 10:00 am the day of John Muir Wilderness entry date for overnight permits - Pick up your permit.  Only trip leader or alternate leader(s) can pick up.  Otherwise, your permit will be reassigned by lottery to a walk-up candidate by 11:00 am.

Note:  Permitting and info – Inyo National Forest (760) 873-2483

Location map for permit pickup at the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitors Center

Frequently Asked Lottery Questions

Note:  New questions will be added to the list on an ongoing basis.

What are the Mount Whitney daily permit quotas?  160 people per day get to summit Mt Whitney by starting at Whitney Portal, the main jump-off point.  60 people get a multi-day permit, 100 people can climb on a single-day permit.  Single-day climbs via the Mountaineer's Route are part of the 100 per day quota but multi-day trips via the Mountaineer's Route are not part of the lottery at all.  10 people can climb Mt Whitney via a multi-day trip on the Mountaineer's Route which is part of the normal backcountry permit program.  See for details.

It's March 5.  The lottery started back on February 1.  Am I already shut out of my first date choice?  Nope. Since the Mount Whitney Lottery went computerized, it does not matter how early or late you are in making your application.  Everyone has an equal chance at their first date choice.  Nothing is tabulated ahead of time.  Once the lottery closes on March 15, the USFS takes a few days to check the integrity of the data, dump any obvious hoarders, bots, and other pests, certifies the results, runs their date assignment program, and sends out congratulatory notices to applicants.

What if everyone in my party applies separately?  Does that enhance our chances for success?  Quite the opposite.  According to the USFS, they filter actively now for duplicate or even similar applications for the same dates and alternates, even if each has a different name.  They were not clear on whether they allow one to go through or reject all of them entirely. The USFS wants everyone to get at least one shot to climb Mt Whitney.  So multiple applications will result in a waste of money and possibly no date at all.

Don't forget to make reservations at Whitney Portal when you know your permit dates
What are my odds of landing Labor Day weekend for my summit attempt?  About the same as winning Powerball while being bitten by a shark.  According to sources within the USFS, about half of the permit applications list Labor Day weekend as either a preferred or alternate date.  Tip:  Do yourself a favor and climb on a Thursday.  It's the least requested day followed by Wednesday, Tuesday, Friday, Monday, Sunday, and Saturday.  Weekend days are tough.

When I get my acceptance letter, I'm good to go, right?  Unfortunately, no.  Check the important dates above. You still have to pay $15.00 per person.  You have to accept your date.  You have to indicate no less than two weeks to two days in advance you and your party still intend to show up.  Then you get a confirmation letter good for a permit.  Take the confirmation letter to pick up your permit from the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitors Center as outlined above.  Tip:  Don't be a sport and pay everyone's fee in your group. They'll be less apt to show up when the time comes.  People will move heaven and earth to get their $15.00 worth if they pay themselves.

Do I have to go through the permit process to climb Mt Whitney?  No. There are two ways to circumvent the process.  First, you can log into on April 1 and start watching the rejected dates come back.  If someone you know has space on a permit where someone dropped out, you can latch on with them. By May 1, all unaccepted dates are released.  Some availabilities will trickle in after that if people are nice enough to give up slots ahead of time that won't be used.  Tip:  Check out the exclusive USFS study documents below regarding early cancellation numbers to get a feel for when they might occur.

Regardless, availabilities usually exist in May and October. May and June will usually require an ice ax and crampons because the trail will be covered in snow above about 11,000 feet. Occasionally the road to Whitney Portal will be closed in May due to snow.  The road has been closed into June as well.  October features very short days and cold nights with a chance of snow every day. If trained and prepared for the conditions, these are the times to climb in some solitude.

The second non-lottery scenario is cooling your heels at the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitors Center either the day before you want to make your summit bid (single day trip) or the day of entry into the John Muir Wilderness adjacent to the Mt Whitney Zone (multi-day trip).  Unclaimed permits get released to the public so it's possible to do an impromptu trip with a bit of luck.

EXCLUSIVE TO MT WHITNEY QUEST:  Check out the data on these two USFS-generated studies showing last year's cancellation and no-show patterns for both single-day and multi-day trips.  There were as many as 36 no-shows for one day during prime September climbing time so an impromptu trip is possible:

Day Use               Overnight 

What are the best months to climb Mount Whitney?  The last half of July, all of August, and all of September.  There's less snow, less bugs, and more stable weather.  Summit before noon if you can.  Otherwise the afternoon electrical storm / hail /blizzard will catch you in a potentially dangerous
situation on top of the highest point for 1,630 miles.

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