Winter Summit Mt. Whitney

Rate this Adventure Yosemite Mt. Whitney Trail

Added by Alex Anderson

Conquer the highest point in the lower 48 during the most difficult time of year. Capture amazing views of the snow covered Sierras and hone your mountaineering skills.

Day 1: We arrived at the Lone Pine Visitors Center at the intersection of HWY 395 and HWY 136 just south of Lone Pine, CA. We issued ourselves our overnight permits to climb Mt. Whitney and picked up our Wag Bags. You can self issue yourself the free permit Nov. 2 through Apr 30. Climbing during this time of year allows you to avoid all the crowds and the lottery system for permits in the summer. After retrieving our permits we drove 2 miles North on HWY 395 to Lone Pine, CA and turned left/West onto Whitney Portal Rd. From here we drove 7.1 to the Lone Pine Campground at an elevation of 6,000 feet to get acclimated. The Campground is 20 dollars a night and you can self issue yourself a campsite. The campground provides water and restrooms. The campground offers a clear view of Mt. Whitney and the challenge that lies ahead.

Day 2: We drove 6 miles from the Lone Pine Campground to Whitney Portal at 8,300 feet, where the Whitney Trail starts. The Whitney Portal Campsite, Store and even the road can be closed this time of year. We were able to park right at the the clearly marked trailhead free of snow. We threw on our 45 pound packs and headed for the summit. The First 1.5 miles of the trail was free of snow. The trail gains elevation quickly as it switchbacks towards Lone Pine Lake. About a mile before the lake, the trail disappears under the snow and foot prints go off in every direction. This is where a good map study and GPS come in handy. If you don't want to work up a sweat or post hole your way through the snow, this is a good time to put on your snowshoes. You may only need them for a short time. You can follow the blaze marking on the trees and slowly make your way up the mountain, or you can cut straight up and save some time. Once you make it to Mirror Lake just .5 miles past Outpost Camp, you will want to fill up on as much water as you can, since this will be the last water you can get to before you have to melt snow. You will also want to put on your crampons for the next steep section and keep them on until you reach Trail Camp. Continue up through the trees to the south of Mirror Lake. After you break out of the tree line at around 10,200 feet, head west and stay to the left near the frozen Consulation Lake, at the 6 mile mark in your journey. Continue .3 miles to Trail Camp at 11,800 feet and find a nice spot out of the wind for the night. The sunset is incredible and offers an opportunity to capture a great photo. Overall: 6 hours, 6.3 miles and 3,700 feet of elevation gain

Day 3: I recommend waking up early at 5:30 or 6 and starting your climb. The snow will be firm, which is good for climbing. You will also be able to capture amazing sunrise photos. This will also help you beat any late evening storms that may roll in. I recommend bringing two, full 32 ounce bottles of water for the climb. From Trail Camp, you need to make your way up the steepest portion of the trail. Head west up the slightly steep snow chute towards the Trail Crest at 13,650. You will need to understand how to properly use crampons, an ice ax and the proper way to self arrest in case of a fall. A fall during this portion of the trail could be deadly. Once you have reached the crest, take a moment to soak in the majestic views of the snow covered western Sierras as far as the eye can see. Make sure you have wind and sun protection for this section of the trail. Continue your climb towards the North as the trail enters Sequoia National Park and descends 150 feet to link up with the John Muir Trail. Although there may be long sections of trail with zero snow, keep your crampons on! Certain sections along this 1.9 mile stretch towards the summit are very icy and on the edge of fatal cliffs. After about .5 miles on the trail you will see the first glimpse of the stone hut at the summit. Continue past the Needles and Mt Muir for the summit. Take a rest at the summit hut, sign the log, and cautiously make your way back down. If you understand how, you can glissade certain sections on the way down to make your descent faster. Once we were safely down to Trail Camp, we took off our crampons and quickly made it to the Whitney Portal trail head in 2 and half hours. We stayed at Portagee Joe Campground the final night. It is a very easy self issue campground for only 14 dollars. It is only one mile from Lone Pine, so it was easy to eat dinner that night and breakfast the next morning in town. Overall : 8 hours from Trail Camp to Summit Round Trip, 9.4 miles and 2,800 feet of elevation gain

Once you get back to Lone Pine, stop in the Mt Whitney restaurant, which is a shrine to " The Duke" John Wayne and the movies produced in the area. Grab a cold beer, there famous Mt. Whitney Burger and some chili.

Pack List

  • Self Issue Permit http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/inyo/passes-permits/recreation/?cid=stelprdb5144746
  • Crampons
  • GPS
  • Ice Ax
  • Snow Shoes
  • Snow Shovel
  • Avalanche Probe
  • Trekking Pole
  • Zero Degree Sleeping Bag
  • Bivy/Tent
  • Ground Pad
  • Wool Socks x 2
  • Down Socks
  • Gloves
  • Boot Gaiters
  • Thermal Layer
  • Down Jacket
  • Outer Shell
  • Cooking Stove
  • Headlamp
  • Moleskin
  • Good Insulated Boots
  • Beanie
  • Water Treatment/Filter
  • Neck Gaiter
  • Balaclava
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Mountain House/Food/Snacks
  • Chapstick
  • Fuel For Stove
  • Batteries
  • Mulit-Tool
  • Wind Proof Lighter
  • Camera/Go Pro
  • Flask of Whiskey for Summit
Read More

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

Share

Activities:

Backpacking, Camping, Hiking, Photography, Snowshoeing

Skill Level:

Advanced

Season:

Winter

Trail Type:

Out-and-Back

Distance:

22 Miles

Elev. Gain:

6500 Feet

Features:

Forest
Groups
Scenic

Are we missing something?

Suggest an edit

How to Get There

Have you done this adventure? Have something to add? You could be the first to leave a review!

Added by Alex Anderson

I grew up hunting and fishing the back woods of Louisiana all winter, and backpacking the mountains all summer. I try to spend every free moment skiing, backpacking, fishing or finding an adrenaline rush!

More Adventures Nearby

Backpack Gem Lake Loop in Emigrant Wilderness

Yosemite / Crabtree Trailhead

The Gem Lake Loop is located in Emigrant Wilderness, which borders Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park, and offers incredible views, smaller crowds, and diverse terrain.

Nancy Lappetito
4 Saves

Snowshoe to Dewey Point, Yosemite NP

Yosemite / Dewey Point

Take the one-hour shuttle ride from the Yosemite Lodge to the Yosemite Ski Area, so that you don't have to worry about driving in the snowy conditions, or finding parking.

Julie & Brian
9 Saves

Explore Aguereberry Camp

Yosemite / Aguereberry Camp, Death Valley

Pete Agueberry came Death Valley in 1905. After a legal battle, Pete gained control of the Eureka Mine in 1909. He worked the mine alone for nearly 40 years before his death.

John Maurizi
3 Saves