TahoeBackcountry.net Home
Up to featured trips main page
About Us

Legal Stuff/Terms of Use


Backcountry ski and snowboard gear, camping

Mt. Whitney Day Hike, Inyo National Forest, California

Key Takeaways & Advice:

Ask around and you'll get lots of advice from people about climbing Mt. Whitney.  After having dayhiked this peak a couple of times, here are my key unsolicited pieces of trail wisdom:

  • don't overweight your pack.  You would be amazed at the amount of stuff that some people schlep up to the top of Whitney.  Leave the laptop computer, 500 piece wilderness medical kit, and emergency 4-man tent in the car.  Remember folks, this is a long climb, and you should bring only what you absolutely need.  The lighter you are, the quicker you are, so don't overpack.  Then again, a far more common problem is not overpacking but underpacking, so . . . 

  • don't underweight your pack.  Ok, I know it sounds like I'm being contradictory here, but you would be equally amazed at how many knuckleheads climb up Mt. Whitney with nothing more than a powerbar, a 16 oz water bottle, blue jeans and a cotton T-shirt.  Clothesw-ise, even if it is hot at the trailhead, you should bring a warm layer (e.g., fleece) and a light raincoat or poncho (click here to see my gear recommendations).  However, the key thing to bring with you is precious water, because on both the way up and the way down, you should . . .

  • drink more water than you think you'll need.  Mild to severe dehydration (coupled with altitude sickness) is the most common malady affecting the Whitney dayhiker.  Dehydration leads to severe muscle fatigue, increases susceptibility to altitude sickness, and causes headaches.  Take it slow and drink LOTS of water and you should be okay.  I cannot stress enough the importance of this.

  • use trekking/hiking poles.  This is a personal preference, of course, but I absolutely swear by these things.  Europeans have been using these for a long time, and after so many years of making fun of them, I've finally been co-opted.  Poles will transfer a surprising amount of the shock and energy use of your leg muscles to your arms and upper body, helping you hike farther, faster and more efficiently.

  • use sunscreen and cover thyself.  The sun can be brutal at high elevations where there is no tree cover.  You will be in the blazing sun for approximately 12 hours, exerting yourself to the fullest.  Be smart, cover your head and neck with a hat and/or bandanna, and use sunscreen.  This will also reduce body heat and combat dehydration.

  • leave early.  For a reasonably fit individual traveling at a decent pace, the round trip hike should take anywhere from 12 to 15 hours, including 30 minutes on the summit.  This means you should leave the trailhead at 4am in order to increase your chances of summiting and to get down off the mountain by a safe time.  

  • "tortoise up, rabbit down".  You've got to maintain a decent pace on the Whitney trail if you want to make the summit.  However, don't overexert yourself on the way up or you'll be sorry.  My approach is to be a "tortoise" on the way up and a "rabbit" on the way down -- take it easy going up, and drink lots of water, maintaining a slow and steady pace.  On the way down, use gravity to your advantage and get off the mountain quickly.  Trekking poles will help with this.


To see photos of our "snow in July" 2001 day hike of Mt. Whitney, click the "next" link below.

BACK               NEXT

Up to Top