Friday, June 7, 2013

Mt Whitney At-A-Glance (Geography and Glossary of Terms)

Ms Natalie directs us to Mt Whitney
When presenting a Mt Whitney lecture, I lay out the geographical particulars of a Mt Whitney Main Trail climb.

Mt Whitney by the Numbers:

Elevation:  14,508 feet - 4,422 meters
Trailhead Elevation:  8,360 feet - 2,548 m
Vertical Rise from Trailhead:  6,148 feet - 1,874 m
Average Rate of Climb:  569 feet per mile - 108 meters per kilometer
Trailhead-to-Summit Distance:  10.8 miles - 17.4 km
Trailhead-to-Outpost Camp Distance:  3.8 miles - 6.1 km
Trailhead-to-Trail Camp Distance:  6 miles - 9.7 km
Trailhead-to-Trail Crest Distance:  8.8 miles - 14.2 km
Trail Crest-to-Summit Distance:  2 miles - 3.2 km

Lone Pine, CA (pop 2,035):  The closest town of any size to Mt Whitney located on CA Rte 395.  Go west at the stoplight on Whitney Portal Road about 13 miles (21 km) to reach the Main Trail.  Lone Pine has a post office, grocery store, restaurants, an excellent expedition and climbing outfitter, and hot showers.  Elevation 3,727 feet (1,136 m)

Lone Pine Camp:  Not to be confused with Whitney Portal, this car-camping area is six miles from the town of Lone Pine and serves as the jump-off point for winter mountaineering expeditions up Mt Whitney (Whitney Portal Road is closed for the winter past Lone Pine Camp).  Camp can be brutally hot in the summer.  Elevation 6,000 feet (1,829 m)

Whitney Portal:  Location of Mt Whitney Main Trail trailhead as well as a beautiful car camping area.  Also location of the Whitney Portal Store selling souvenirs, showers, hot food (try the pancakes), snacks, and beer.  Note:  No permit necessary to camp at Whitney Portal but reservations strongly recommended.  They do keep some campsites open on a first-come-first-serve basis.  Check in with the campsite superintendent. Elevation 8,000 feet

The Superintendent is in

Main Trail:  The most heavily traveled route to the summit.  Not to be confused with the Mountaineer's Route.  Permit required past Lone Pine Lake.

Lone Pine Creek:  The watershed through which the Main Trail meanders.  The creek originates as a spring above the tarn at Trail Camp and flows all the way back to Lone Pine.  Lone Pine Creek constitutes the main source for drinking water along the Main Trail.  You brought your water filter, right?

Mountaineer's Route:  Also known as the John Muir or North Fork Route.  A very direct alternate route first pioneered by John Muir.  Requires Class IV climbing knowledge with exposure.  Permit required but which permit depends on whether an overnight stay on the Route is part of the plan.

Mt Whitney Zone:  Area around Mt Whitney requiring a permit to enter.  The Mount Whitney Zone begins just above Lone Pine Lake on the Main Trail,  above Lower Boy Scout Lake on the Mountaineer's Route, and above Crabtree Ranger Station on the John Muir Trail when approaching from the west.  This map shows the entire Zone in a good scale.

Lone Pine Lake:  A popular day hike destination comprising the first three miles (4.8 km) of the Main Trail.  No permit required to visit this lovely glacial tarn perched at the edge of a cliff.

Outpost Camp:  The lower of two primitive backpacker camps located at the west end of an upland meadow called Bighorn Park.  Staying there requires a Mount Whitney Zone Overnight Permit.  Note:  The NPS removed the toilet facilities a few years ago.  All waste must be packed out.  Elevation 10,365 ft (3,159 m).

Your Official Government-Issue Poop Kit

Trail Camp:  The higher of two primitive backpacker camps located in a rocky, wind-scoured basin.  Staying there requires a Mount Whitney Zone Overnight Permit and a good dose of previous altitude acclimatization.  Note:  The NPS removed the toilet facilities a few years ago.  All waste must be packed out.  Good times.  Elevation 12,000 ft (3,700 m).

The 97 (or 96 or 99) Switchbacks:  The trail section winding its way up and out of a cirque between Trail Camp and Trail Crest.  The switchbacks gain approximately 1,650 feet (503 m) of elevation in about 2.3 miles (3.7 km).  This is the steepest section on the Main Trail.

Trail Crest:  A narrow pass from the east side of the ridgeline to the west.  Trail Crest also marks the entrance to Sequoia National Park.  Elevation here is 13,600 feet (4,150 m).  The John Muir Trail joins the Main Trail about 1/10 mile (161 m ) west of Trail Crest and about 200 vertical feet (61 m) below.  So yes, there is uphill on the way back down.  The view made my stepdaughter Natalie's knees buckle.

Summit Hut:  Built 1909 in part with funds from the Smithsonian Institution who used it for solar study and observations of  Halley's Comet.  Hut is open but not to be used as refuge from electrical storms.  Many climbers find this out the hard way, most of whom are dead.

Did I leave anything out?  Please comment with suggestions for further stat or glossary additions.

Like Mt Whitney Quest on Facebook 

No comments:

Post a Comment

OK guys, let's keep 'er civil and mannerly. This is not a political site so diatribes of that ilk are not welcome and won't be published.