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