Ascent of Mount Whitney on 2016-06-30

Climber: Anthony Wilkinson

Others in Party:Rob
Troy (& his two boys)
two more.
Date:Thursday, June 30, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Mount Whitney
    Elevation:14498 ft / 4418 m

Ascent Trip Report

We reached the summit of Mount Whitney and returned to the Whitney Portal as a day hike. Total time was 15 hours, 40 minutes.

After sleeping in a group site at Whitney Portal, we started from the trailhead parking lot at 4am. The forecast for Mount Whitney's summit the night before was 0% chance of any precipitation, clear skies.

The trail was great all the way up. Stream crossings and runoff on the trail itself were easily bypassed without getting socks wet (using low top, non-waterproof hiking shoes). We did come across snow in two spots on the 99 switchbacks (at the chains and one other location), but rapid melt the previous weeks had cleared the majority of the snow/ice. There was also some remaining snow as you reach the summit block, but this was only over a distance of about 50 yards and easily traversed with hiking shoes/trekking poles.

Water was available up to partway up the 99 Switchbacks, but we decided to refill at the springs at Trail Camp, just before the switchbacks.

The weather was good until about 1pm, when a thunderstorm developed over the high peaks. Hail up to the size of small marbles pelted us on the descent from just below the summit all the way back to Trail Crest. We then had light, intermittent rain down to Outpost Camp. Thunder was booming soon after I left the summit block (the gathering clouds and the first distant boom sent me immediately off the summit), but it appeared to be only cloud lightning (luckily) as it didn't strike any of the nearby peaks, at least until I was down below Trail Camp.

The trail was slippery in places on the descent due to the rain/hail, but we made it down without injury, other than one minor ankle sprain in our group.

All of our party except one made the summit. One already had a head cold prior to travelling to Mount Whitney, which was exacerbated by the high elevation. He did not sleep well at Whitney Portal before ascent day, and then had symptoms of strong headache, mild nausea, burning lungs, cough, etc. up to about 11,000 feet. At that point he was not feeling well at all, but was not overly lethargic or slurring his words (additional symptoms of altitude sickness). He decided to stop and rest for a while next to the trail to see if he could feel better, and then descend when the party reached his location on the way down.

Others in the party definitely felt the elevation, but did not suffer from altitude sickness.

The Whitney Trail was long and physically demanding for a day hike, but made for a beautiful day on a spectacular mountain. We had a great time.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:6455 ft / 1966 m
    Extra Gain:297 ft / 90 m
    Round-Trip Distance:21.4 mi / 34.4 km
    Route:Whitney Trail
    Trailhead:Whitney Portal Trailhead  8637 ft / 2632 m
    Grade/Class:Class 1
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Snow on Ground
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Thunderstorm, Pleasant, Windy, Partly Cloudy
Clear until descent, then hail and some rain. Cloud lightning.
Ascent Statistics
    Time:8 Hours 40 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:6 Hours 40 Minutes

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