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Hiking Mt. Whitney

Adventure

Travel guides and travel tips told in a first-hand perspective. 

Hiking Mt. Whitney

Stephanie Nielsen

Mt. Whitney is known for being the highest summit in the Sierra Nevada. It also is the highest peak in all of main-land United States. All of the other highest peaks in the US actually lie within the boarders of Alaska. Chicago native, Moe shares with us another one of her amazing climbs in this guide to hiking Mt. Whitney. 

To start this incredible journey, arrive in Lone Pine, California approximately three hours North East of Los Angeles.  This is a town that most hikers either pass through or sleep in before they begin their hike on the John Muir Trail (JMT). Stay at the Mt. Whitney Motel for an affordable yet comfortable night before you set out into the wild. 

Moe began her hike with a 55-60 lb. pack which included: clothing, food, water, stove, sleeping bag, pad, propane tank, etc. The bulkiest of items necessary to carry with you on this hike is a bear canister. Below was her itinerary within these five days of hiking to the summit of Mt. Whitney. 

Day One: 

On the first day, Moe and her friends set out to hike 14 miles up and down switch backs through the Kearsarge Pass in the Inyo National Forest. At the end of the night they set up camp which traditionally went as follows: put up the tent, replenish the water, and eat dinner. After the necessary tasks were completed the group would play a few card games and review the following day's agenda.

 "In the middle of the night we had heard a strange noise that was coming from the outside of the tent. The forest is riddled with all kinds of noises so after about 20 minutes we decided to ignore it and get some sleep. Then all of a sudden we hear our two friends whispering to us outside of our tent to “Get the bear spray, we heard rocks being moved around outside of our tent!” I grab the bear spray and we unzip the tent only two have our friends jump in immediately (quite a funny sight to see considering they were two big guys). My friend hands me a large rock and proceeds to instruct me to hit the bear on the head with it while he had a spear that he had carved earlier that day… you can only imagine what my face looked like when this was requested of me. Then, we hear the noise again and my boyfriend suggested that we should take a better look. Earlier in the day we had seen a caravan of horses and donkeys so there was a good chance (crossing our fingers) that this is what we were hearing. Finally, we pulled open the tent and there were about 20 donkeys and horses grazing/brushing past our tents!" 

Day Two:

On day two, the group was to hike up a very steep portion of the mountain which was called Forrester Pass. During this part you ascend 3,000 feet in a very short distance. For those of you who don’t know, it is not a walk in the park. After about nine miles they decided to make camp near a river to wash off and sooth blistering feet.

Day Three:

The group woke up to hike nearly  13 miles to Guitar Lake which actually is really in the shape of a guitar. The variety of terrain you will pass through in this area is quite astounding including desert, forest, and a variety of bodies of water. Moe and her fellow hikers found a camp spot that jutted out over the lake on a giant rock formation the night.

John Muir 8.jpg

Day Four: 

The group decided to wake up at 1:30 a.m. to begin the summit attempt at 2 a.m. They made it up to the summit of Mt. Whitney in two and a half hours which is quick compared to the average amount of time it typically takes to hike this leg of the journey. Once at the summit, they huddled in a small hut at the top because they were not prepared for the cold weather. 

On the way down the sun started to rise and the views of the sun peeking through the mountain were breathtaking . Once back to camp they rested for two hours and hiked 10 more miles back towards where they started.

"In total that day we hiked 19 miles…needless to say my feet looked unrecognizable at the end due to the blisters."

Day Five:

On the last and final day of the journey, the hikers met a fellow hiker that was on his 45th day on the JMT! Moe hiked along with him for about 13 miles which proved to be just what she needed to take her mind off of her blistering feet.

All in all we hiked about 66 miles in five days. We gave our new friend a ride into town, he bought us lunch, and we were on our way to San Diego!

Travel Tips: 

Ditch your usual hiking boot for a more flexible yet stable trail running shoe. This will save your feet on hikes like this one. 

Be flexible, a lot of things come up that may delay/cancel something you have had planned, just go with it and you may discover better things along the way.

"My favorite memories of this trip were overcoming some nasty flashes of pain only to arrive at gorgeous and breathtaking moments. I endured a fair amount of discomfort and physical fatigue, but if I hadn't I wouldn't have seen and done half of the beautiful things on my journey." 

To see Moe's journey hiking Mt. Ranier in Washington State, follow this link


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