Mount Whitney Ascent

November 3-6, 1999

random trip report

Mt. Whitney (14,494') is the highest point in the United States outside Alaska. The standard ascent has a round-trip length of 21.2 miles and a net elevation change of 6,134 feet. Most people do the hike in 2 or 3 days, camping and acclimatizing en route, but it can also be done all in one day.

I've been wanting to climb Whitney for several months; in fact, I've been obsessed with it. Normally one would climb it in the summer. However, this year's Indian summer has lasted unusually long, and I had some free time, so I decided to try it. I called up Mike O'Brien, my occasional hiking partner, and he was up for it. Because of limited time, and my dislike of backpacking, we took the one-day approach.

The main difficulty was lack of daylight: Officially, sunrise is at 6:19 AM, sunset at 4:39 PM. Run the numbers: that's 10 hours 20 minutes. The surrounding mountains make the actual daylight shorter.

In a nutshell: we made it, but just barely. It was both wonderful and terrible, an experience I'll never forget. I love climbing mountains, and this is possibly the highest mountain I'll ever climb. It was also the most difficult physical ordeal I've endured.

I've divided the trip report into two parts:

Here are links to other web pages about Whitney.

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