Welcome to my article on Mount Whitney! My name is Amy Gatlin. I’m 38 years old and a mother of two. I grew up in Redlands, California and currently live in San Diego. I have been here for two years and love it! I do miss being close to the mountains but now they are just a few hours away.
I have always been an active person and really fell in love with the mountains in my early 30’s. I started out running and then began hiking and running in the mountains. After my divorce in 2013, I found a lot of peace in the mountains. It was awesome to discover some local peaks. One year I decided to hike Mount Whitney and it was the best decision ever!
I had the mindset that anything was possible, you just had to work hard. Being active on Instagram allowed me to meet other hikers and we would meet up every so often to go hiking. I have hiked and summited Mount Whitney fives times now, all in a day hike. This year will be my sixth time.
Whitney is a peak that I aim to hike once per year. It gives me something to work hard for. The beauty of that mountain keeps drawing me back. I also hike the mountain with my boyfriend, Cameron, who I met after winning my first permit. He has done the trail with me every year. Cam is an ultra runner and he pushes and encourages me. I love that we do it together.
My Experiences Hiking Mount Whitney
The hike to Mount Whitney can range depending on one’s fitness. A fast person can complete the summit between seven and twelve hours. There are some runners who finish it incredibly quickly. For some perspective, the first time I hiked Mount Whitney, it took me eighteen hours! We had a large group and had snow and water crossings to deal with.
Now, we choose to do the hike in a smaller group or just the two of us. My fastest time hiking Mount Whitney was last year at twelve hours. It all depends on the conditions, group size and your abilities. Mount Whitney is 22 miles round-trip and 14,500 feet up. The first part of the mountain is long switchbacks and you reach different campsites and Lone Pine Lake.
You actually don’t need a permit to hike the first few miles. The second part is a trail camp which is surrounded by two lakes and the start of the 99 switchbacks. This is usually where we catch the sunrise. There are a few waterfalls to see along the way and each section has its own unique beauty.
The last two miles take you through rocky terrain and the elevation starts to bite. It’s the longest two miles ever! I normally do the hike in July or August. The weather and trail conditions are usually prime then. But don’t be fooled! Conditions can change in an instant and you can get rain and lightning. For that reason, we start very early – between 12am and 2am.
The top part of the mountain and the summit are exposed and you don’t have much shelter, especially from lightning. I also like to finish before dark and get food from the portal cafe afterwards. Their fries are so good!
Biggest Challenges & Best Memories
Without a doubt, the most challenging aspect about hiking Mount Whitney is the altitude. It always affects me early on but I’m usually able to recover and feel better quickly. You just have to eat and drink water, even if you don’t want to. It’s so important to stay hydrated and fueled.
My best memory of Mount Whitney was the year my sister, her husband, my boyfriend and I all hiked it together. It was great to see everyone experience the mountain. The feeling of summiting together was epic!
Where to Stay near Mount Whitney
I have camped at the Whitney Portal Campground before but I like getting a room at a hotel in Lone Pine for the night before and after the hike. There are a few hotels I can recommend such Best Western, Quality Inn and Dow Villa. If the campsites at the portal are all booked, you can camp in the Alabama Hills area which is located before heading up the mountain.
Applying for Mount Whitney Permits
You need a permit during the quota season which is May to November. The lottery opens in February and ends on March 15th. So far, I have gotten lucky and won a permit each time. If you aren’t lucky enough to win, there are other chances. In April, reservations open for the remaining dates and in May you can get permits for cancelled/unclaimed permits.
Need to Know Before you Go
Some tips I can give are to be well prepared and do your research. Training is important, as many people try hiking Mount Whitney and get hurt or killed. For beginners, I would say hike between July and September. A lot of people apply for permits for May which can be dangerous due to the snow. I wouldn’t try climbing this mountain in the snow without being skilled.
Never leave your partner or group and choose your groups wisley. Make sure to bring a water filter, sunscreen, a hat and layers as the weather can change without warning. My number one tip is know when to turn back. The mountain will always be there. Thanks for reading everyone 🙂