Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Mt. Whitney 2012: Chapter 3: Itinerary

We are now 48 days away from our attempt to summit Mt. Whitney. Just about every single day, I add something to my planning sheet for this adventure. Over the last several weeks, and after continuing to read up on everything I can, I have compiled a pretty-close-to-final itinerary for our entire trip.

Since I posted Chapter 2, we have purchased trail maps and a couple of books on Mt. Whitney. We have confirmed our flights, and will be flying both ways together. This entire plan can change slightly, and I expect it will on the go, but its now mostly set. If you have hiked Mt. Whitney, or even if you haven't, I welcome any suggestions that anyone may have or other ideas for consideration. As you will seem we actually have 2 nights to spend in the Whitney area, and maybe a third, so we're looking at other ways to maximize our adventure!
Photo courtesy of George Vargas - George's Epic Adventures
Itinerary: Part One - Getting Out West and into the Sierras
Wednesday, June 13 - Sunday, June 17
  1. Take flight from Boston to Las Vegas on 6/13/12. Flight departs Boston in the early evening lands in Las Vegas after 11pm. (There will be several of my friends from HS on this flight too) 
  2. Check in to my hotel on the strip and confirm receipt of my shipped gear (stove, knives, etc), and immediately start partying!
  3. Attend wedding festivities Wednesday-Friday, and attend my friend’s wedding Friday evening in Las Vegas. 
  4. Pick up rental car from Las Vegas on Saturday Afternoon. 
  5. Depart Las Vegas by 7:00am Sunday and drive 234 miles, approximately 4hrs 20min to Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center in Lone Pine, CA. 
  6. Pick up the official wilderness permit at Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center. (Tentative pick-up time is around noon-time. (If, in the event we arrive after 5pm, there is a night box under a gazebo to the left and behind the building, we must contact them in advance) 
    • Ask about snow cover, trail conditions, and upcoming weather conditions 
    • Inquire about bear canister rental.
  7. Pick up any other last minute personal items, hiking items, or luxury-type food before leaving Lone Pine. If we want to have a campfire at Horseshoe Meadow, purchase our own firewood. 
  8. Follow driving directions from Lone Pine to Horseshoe Meadow Road (left off Whitney Portal Rd), and drive to the walk-in campgrounds located at Horseshoe Meadow, 10,000’. 
  9. Establish a campsite location, lock up our food, and focus on having a great evening resting, preparing, and acclimating. If time allows, take a short hike to exceed 10,000 feet, if possible.
Itinerary: Part Two - The Mt. Whitney Adventure - Day 1
Monday, June 18, 2012
  1. Wake around 6:00AM at Horseshoe Meadow, pack up the campsite, and begin our drive to Whitney Portal. 
  2. At Whitney Portal, scope out the store, grab a bite to eat, ask of any updated trail conditions, or weather conditions, and both of us will perform a thorough and final gear check.
  3. Leave Whitney Portal on Mt. Whitney Trail at approximately 9:00am, no later. 
  4. At 2.8 miles, take a short break at Lone Pine Lake at 9,900’ for pictures and to drink water.
  5. Hike 1 mile, and at 3.8 miles, take a break at Outpost Camp at 10,300’ for more pictures and water. Refill water here if necessary, and it must be treated. (If weather is questionable, establish camp and re-align the itinerary for day two.) 
  6. At 4 miles, stop to photograph Mirror Lake and the meadows below. This is treeline. 
  7. At 5 miles, stop at Trailside Meadow for a break if needed for water and to take photos. 
  8. At 6 miles, arrive and establish camp at Trail Camp, 12,000’. Should we have about 2 hrs of free time and no symptoms of AMS, we could explore trail camp. 
  9. Take it all in spending the evening and camping out at 12,000’ - get everything ready for morning, and get as much sleep as possible, but not too much.
Itinerary: Part Two - The Mt. Whitney Adventure - Day 2 (Summit Day)
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
  1. Wake around 2:30am, eat breakfast, and plan to leave camp no later than 3:30am. The plan is to allow 4 hours to reach the summit, and be approaching Trail Crest around sunrise. 
  2. At 8.2 miles, and after the 99 switchbacks, arrive at Trail Crest 13,700’ and take a break to take in the views. Look for Mt. Hitchcock, Hitchcock Lake, and Guitar Lake, and more. 
  3. At 11 miles, arrive at the summit of Mt. Whitney. Depending on conditions, we will enjoy the summit for 1 hour. 
  4. Sign the summit register. 
  5. At the summit, look for the city of Lone Pine, Owen’s Valley, Mt. Russel, Langley, Muir, and the Sequoia, Inyo, and White Mountain Ranges. 
  6. After we’re done at the summit, we begin our descent. 
  7. (Optional - good conditions only) On the descent, look for the Mt. Muir turnoff (unmarked) near the John Muir Trail junction. - Climb the class III scramble to Mt. Muir (14,015ft) and return to junction. Mt. Muir is a CA 14,000-footer. 
  8. Enjoy the rest of the afternoon in the Sierras, and hike continuously down and out to Whitney Portal. Stop at Whitney Portal Store for some food and souvenirs. Drive to the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center to return the rented bear canister.
  9. Check into motel on Tuesday afternoon to rest and leave for Vegas the next morning. (I can recommend the Dow Villa Motel).
  10. On Wednesday morning, leave Lone Pine and 
  11. Drive approximately 234 miles, approximately 4hrs 20 min back to Las Vegas. (With an evening flight, we left early enough to be able to explore most of Death Valley on the way back to Vegas)
  12. Leave Las Vegas for Boston on the red-eye.
That's how I plan to hike Mt. Whitney. At this point, the only thing that needs to be reserved is the rental car, and the only thing left to do really is buy a few more gear items, finalize the pack lists, and do a test overnight hike with all of the gear we intend to bring. Bill and I are crafting that test hike right now (in addition to other planned hikes) for the one of the first two weekends in June, and it will be another unique one, which may include Mt. Washington, Mt. Isolation and several other mountains with spectacular views. It only gets more exciting from here, and there is so much more to come from DMOutdoors this summer!


  1. Wow! This really looks cool! I am looking forward for the pictures.

    1. Thanks! 5 Weekends left and we're there, and I'll be hiking 3-4 out of those 5 weekends as we gear up for this. We plan to practice in the Presidential Range, including an overnight. I hope I can keep up with the reports!!

  2. You must be very excited already Dan!

    I haven't stopped by in a while since my attempted winter climb of Mt. Washington but I see you've been busy.

    Congrats to you and your brother for the AMC recognition. It should come with a gas card or something :)

    Reading your Whitney itinerary just curious; will you leave your tent and gear when you summit or take everything with you? Or do you take a smaller pack and leave most everything behind to pick up on the way back to the trail head? Kind of curious about the logistics.

    1. Jim - Thanks for reading, and thank you very much - or at least one $1000 gas card for a finisher or something(even though I know that doesn't even break it). I'm most definitely excited, its now just weeks away.

      Yes, it seems that most overnight hikers to Whitney do this, and this is the plan. Our packs are going to be pretty light anyways, so I think we're going to leave just our tent, sleeping gear, and bear canister. What I have to do is finalize my complete pack list, then determine what is going to be in the pack for the summit day, and then choose a pack to use that will pack nicely in my main bag.

    2. The REI Flash 18 might be a decent candidate.

      It has no internal frame (compresses into nothing), comes with a pocket for your hydration system and can hold some layers and food. It's not huge of course but that isn't what you'd need. Plus it's not expensive (relatively) and can be turned inside out for double duty as a dry bag/stuff sack.

      Provided you aren't loading it up too much on summit day it might be a good solution.

    3. Jim,
      I have the REI Flash 65, and I plan to use that for my main pack on this trip. I will look at the 18 when I make my trip to REI. It looks like a good pack to have in the general arsenal anyways. Even for a summit pack, I still want it to be comfortable. I don't want to leave any gear loose in my tent really. If I bring a couple of stuff sacks so I can leave any non-summit items neatly secured in a couple sacks in the tent, I can use the minimized Flash 65 (without floating lid)with my essentials for the summit day. So I can either bring a summit pack, or maybe just a couple of extra stuff sacks (for non-summit gear) and use the minimized 65 for the summit. Thank you for the suggestion.

  3. Sounds like this will be an awesome trip! I can only dream of a trip like this - enjoy every minute of it.

    BTW, nice blog, I just went through some of your older posts. Congrats on your 48, I picked up my scroll this year at awards, too. Loved your personal slide show - thank goodness I'm hiking tomorrow, because it makes me want to

    I'll be checking back to see how your Whitney trip goes!

    1. Summerset - Thank you for checking in, thank you for the congrats, and ALSO congrats to you, AND best of luck to Ethan and Cam on the rest of their journey for the 48! (I checked out your page and progress, thanks for the link).

      Have a GREAT hike tomorrow! I will be heading up Mt. Washington.

  4. Hey DMO, you could take a few partying hrs off the Vegas itinerary and go hike one of the highest peaks in the area as a preview on how your body will handle the alt and it will also help your acclimate.
    Hope you have great weather when you stay at T.C. and go some place higher and return back. Time released Advil might help you in Vegas and also on the mountain! Ask the returning hikers about the conditions on the mountain as they go by. You will have great time and plz take some wonderful pics of this enchanting area... ENJOY...