Backpacking the Mt. Whitney Trail, July 15 & 16, 2019, 11 Miles RT, Elevation +/- 3,225', Max Elevation 11,000'

This was my and my husband’s first time hiking the Mt. Whitney Trail past Lone Pine Lake and our very first backpacking trip. We didn’t plan to summit due to the trip reports of snow traverses beyond our skill set and comfort zone. We weren’t in a hurry and we didn’t put any pressure on ourselves. The only goal we had was to gain experience, enjoy an evening on the mountain and return home safely.

I’d been reading trip reports from other hikers and keeping track of trail conditions for weeks. With the big snow year we’ve had, I needed to be aware of what to expect on the trail. The first obstacle we encountered was a water crossing just before the John Muir Wilderness boundary. It was flowing strong, but I found it easy enough to cross. I removed my boots and hiked across in sandals. I did the same on the return, but my husband chose to rock hop and we both were able to get across with no problems. It was actually a lot of fun.

We hiked up the first set of switchbacks slow and steady. I kept my pace in synch with my breath. I carried 28 lbs. My husband had 33 lbs. We had no problems with weight. Both of us workout regularly, so we both have a good level of fitness. We are both going to be 50 years old this year.

For our first night, we planned to sleep at Outpost Camp. Both of us felt great when we arrived. We even felt like we could have gone farther, but I didn’t want to risk AMS.

Our plan to acclimate was the following: Saturday, spend time at Horseshoe Meadow, sleep in Lone Pine (enjoy hotel facilities such as plumbing and a shower!), Sunday, hike the Ancient Bristlecone Forest, sleep again in Lone Pine, Monday hike and sleep above 10,000’ at Outpost camp.

Monday night we had Outpost Camp all to ourselves aside from one other couple. The star filled night sky was amazing and the moonlight reflecting on the granite walls surrounding us was beautiful. We fell asleep to the sound of the nearby waterfall. Well, my husband fell asleep. I actually didn’t sleep all that much, but I never sleep well when camping. The only other issue I had was the bugs. Lots and lots of mosquitoes!!!

In the morning, there was a doe wandering around camp. I watched her for a while as my husband made breakfast. I didn’t have much of an appetite, but other then being tired from lack of sleep, I didn’t have any signs of AMS. After breakfast and decided to leave our gear at Outpost camp. We planned to hike up as far as we could get with lighter daypacks, then return to Outpost camp and decide whether or not to spend another night there or drive back to L.A.

I was pretty tired when we first got going. We continued up the trial and just past Mirror Lake we encountered a very short snow bridge with footprints going left and right. The trail here was actually almost covered, but you could kind of see the rocky steps to the right which is the way we went. We had to do some route finding between that section above Mirror Lake and Trailside Meadow where it got a little confusing. We came prepared with navigation tools. I carried a paper map, compass, a Garmin inReach Explorer and my husband had a Garmin Fenix 3.

We kept on hiking until we reached Trailside Meadow. It was amazing to be above the timberline! At this point we were both satisfied with how far we had come. We could have continued on, but decided to turn around. Both of us wanted to make sure we had enough energy left to hike back down, pack up our things at Outpost camp, then hike out and make the drive back to L.A.

Even though we didn’t reach the summit, I feel accomplished. We gained experience, had a great time, returned safely and got to know the majestic Mt. Whitney a little bit better.