Mount Whitney

Mount Whitney Trip Report (#7873)

This marks a 20th anniversary climb of Mt. Whitney.

Twenty years ago I took a greyhound bus up to Mt. Whitney to do an overnight hike of it's famous trail. I was then 17. I lumbered up to Mirror Lake and had lunch there and then slowly made it the rest of the way to Trail Camp. I awoke the next morning and then hiked up to the wonderful summit. After the journey was over I had done my first “Fourteener”. I was hooked. I then wondered how one could ever do it in one day.

Well twenty years has passed since that day and I got to wondering again about doing it one day. This time would not only mark my first time on the peak in 20 years, it would also be my 70th Fourteener summit.

So I decided to train a bit harder as I wanted to go as fast as I could and break the 10 hour mark. I did a couple of day hikes the week before that were about 10 miles and 3,000 vertical feet up to 13,600. I then photographed the Leadville 100 Trail race from several vantage points up to 12,000 feet. On 5 hours of sleep, I drove 816 miles from Aspen to Whitney Portal in 16 hours. Over 300 miles of it was in a horrible 30 mile per hour headwind that slowed me down a bit.

I slept about 5 hours and got up about an hour early due to camp commotion . I had a light day pack with a full 100 OZ Camel Back and about 6 lbs of Nikon camera gear. My whole system weighed about 18 lbs. I had a bag of gorp, dried apricots and two whole submarine sandwiches . I also had a full charge on my iPod. I felt kind of tired and crappy from the drive, I was concerned about my ability to really charge.

So at 2:31 AM I hit the trail. I made good progress on my warm-up period ( about one hour) passed two dozen people on t he way. It felt brilliant to be out on the trail. At about Mirror Lake I remembered how I felt as a teen and how badly I sucked air above the lake….Not this time thank you, I was actually singing as I rocked up the switch-backs and ledges. I was planning on taking a short break and fueling up with water at Trail Camp but one thing changed that: I had arrived there in 2:10. and felt no need to break my increasing speed.

I roared through the busy encampment as hikers were taking to the trail in a line of tiny headlamps. As I passed one fellow at a near run just before the start of the switch-backs, he grumbled, "You'll bonk for sure at that rate buddy, good luck!" As I pointed my energy skyward I felt a slight decrease in speed to warm up to the idea of gradually "flying" up the 2,000 feet of trail. "I love these things" I said of the dreaded switch-backs. I had a great tune from the "Cult" blasting in my headphones when it came on. I actually had the urge to bump up my pace about halfway up. It felt incredible to have power to spare as I passed one after the other. By the time I reached Trail Crest, I had caught up to and passed a group that was over 2/3 the way up the switch-backs when I started them. They were shocked.

I continued the pace to reach the top about 40 minutes ahead of the next hiker. I watched a wonderful sunrise after blasting up the mountain non-stop in just 3 hours and 54 minutes. I was elated. After a very cold 40 minutes on top, I was ready to head down. I did not feel all that tired so I ran down much to the annoyance of those who had still not made it up and returned to the Portal in just 2:42. Total time including the summit break: 7 hours, 16 minutes.

I love the mountains, that's why I insist on living in them. My advantage here was clearly my mindset and the fact that I am 100% acclimated. I believe I could do better in the future but right now, flying up the trail non-stop passing everyone in sight on my old friend Mt. Whitney is more than good enough.

Mount Whitney Trip Report Index