Mt Whitney Preparation Video 1: The Basics

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A couple of weeks ago Zac, my wife Amie and I got the approval letter to hike Mt Whitney at the end of June. We were both excited and scared as we had been trying for a couple of years and had yet to get a successful lottery application. So when it came in we knew we had to hit the ground running on getting prepared and figuring out what else we would need to get ourselves to the top of this mountain. We created this video as the first part of our series on what we are doing to prepare for Mt Whitney in hopes that we can help others who got into the lottery and are looking for advice as well. Check out the video and some of the links below. The next video we make will be on the gear we are going to be using.


Other Entries in the Series



What’s up, guys?  This is Josh and Zach with OutdoorPros.  We wanted to make this video to show you that we actually got into the Mt Whitney lottery this year.  It’s the first year in three that we’ve actually been able to make it in, so we got our successful lottery.  We haven’t done it before; we’ve done lots of hikes around here.  I know it’s not too crazy difficult, but we know it takes a lot more preparation than what we have done before, so we wanted to lay out our process that we are going through, just in case you got in as well, and you’re trying to figure out what the steps you should be taking are. This is what we’ve laid out as our four main things that we’re focusing on.


So the first is going to be weather.  Kind of depending on when you got into the lottery, is going to determine a lot of things, so July to September, most likely not going to be a lot of snow, going to be a bit warmer, so got to take that into account when you’re planning.  We actually got in in June, so the odds of there being snow is pretty good.  It’s been a pretty warm year, so there’s probably not going to be a lot, but that is one of the things you want to think about when you’re packing, whether to bring warm clothing, equipment, things like maybe an ice axe, or traction, like micro spikes or cramp ons.  Definitely something you want to be prepared to have if there’s going to be snow or ice up there.  Definitely a good set of poles to accompany that, and then, as far as your clothing, how many layers you’d be bringing, like a shell, a base, your insulation.  You want to make sure that for the temperatures that it’s going to be up there, you have the right equipment and clothing.  And there’s actually some great weather information, some historical weather data you can look at.  Josh is actually going to put that in the post, so you can stare at that as well, if you’re making these same decisions.  Yeah, weather was the first one that we were thinking about that we kind of had to make some decisions on.


Yeah, and then if you go into training, you can see that Zach is in a little bit better shape than I am.  Yeah, so I’m working a lot more on training than he’s having to.  For me, I’m starting it with workouts, obviously, getting to the gym.  We got in three months in advance, so that helped us be able to really have time to prepare, and start the process just to make sure that we’re enjoying it, and not hating ourselves while we’re doing it.  So for me, that means going to the gym four days a week and trying to put in ten to fifteen miles at least, of running / walking at the gym, as well as building up your legs and your back, which are the things that are going to be mattering when you’re carrying a backpack and walking the twenty-two miles that Whitney takes.  So the next thing is altitude, obviously, one of the main problems with people not being able to get to the top of this mountain is altitude.  You don’t know how your body’s going to react until you’re actually in altitude, so for us, that means going to some of the local Southern California mountains that we have.  We have a training hike going to San Gorgonio, but we have done almost all of them at one point in time, so just getting ourselves ready, but we know that we are able to hit a new altitude, it’s just being prepared, and the only way to be prepared is to go be in altitude. Camp higher up before you start the trip, so we’re doing that as well.  Last thing is mental.  Obviously it has a lot to do with your mental abilities.  If you can just push yourself when you’re tired, and if you are just able to do that, then that makes it a lot easier for you to get to the top of the mountain.


Yeah, the third section is going to be packing.  So Josh and I, we do a lot of day hikes; we don’t do a ton of backpacking or multi-day trips, so we had to ask ourselves some questions, figure out what kind of gear we’re going to bring.  We divided that into three sections: food and water, backpacks, tents and sleeping bags.  So these components kind of make up a majority of your weight.  So you want to know how many days are you planning on doing the hike in.  That’s going to determine your backpack size.  We’re doing it in only two days, but you can do it in three.  There are other routes that you can do it in a week if you want to.  And since we’re only doing it two days, right now, what we’re thinking about is actually not bringing anything to cook with, so bringing food that’s ready-made to eat, so that we don’t have to have that extra weight of brining a stove, or fuel, or anything like that.  The other thing is water.  Water’s pretty heavy to bring.  We actually bought a really nice, light water filter, which is great, and the other two components are your tent and your sleeping bag, and this kind of jumps back up to weather.  You’ve got to know how cold it’s going to be where you’re camping, and so that determines what kind of tent and what kind of sleeping bag you might be packing.  And you really want to pay special attention to your sleeping bag for what it’s rated for.  Make sure that you have something that’s accurate for the kind of whether that you’re going to be encountering.


Yeah, we’ll throw in more links to the gear that we’ve picked up so far into the bottom, so you can see what we’re doing, and tell us if you think we’re doing anything incorrectly.  We’d love to know that as well.  Obviously the last thing is travel.  For us, we are Southern California based, so Mount Whitney’s only about two-hundred miles away from us.  It’s a three, four hour drive, so, for us, it doesn’t really take much for us to prepare; we’ve just got to drive ourselves up there.  But if you’re going to be coming in on a flight, or anything like that, obviously make sure that you’ve got your lottery pass.  I’ve seen people in the forums that are actually travelling there, and they’re hoping they can get a day pass.  I mean, obviously that works out for some people, but it’s best to have those things planned out so you know you’re going to be able to make it.  Obviously acclimatizing is a really big thing.  You want to make sure that you’re able to get to the top of the mountain so camping beforehand at the portal, so you’re at eight-thousand feet when you start, or even going to White Mountain and camping there: that’s around ten-thousand feet.  Those things are just great to just get your body prepared, so that way when you’re at a higher elevation, it’s not a shock, and you’re able to just do it a lot easier.  A lot of people for flights fly into Las Vegas, then they drive right through Death Valley to get to Lone Pine, so that’s a great way to do it.  You could always fly into L.A. if you wanted to try to take down some of the mountains that we have in Southern California, but just planning out your days is a big thing.

So that’s our first round of our videos on Mount Whitney.  We’re going to some more as we’re preparing.  Hopefully we’ll have one from the summit as well, and our sponsor is, so if you want to check them out, that would be awesome as well. Go ahead and leave comments if you have suggestions on something we should be taking into account that we’re not, or any of those kind of things, because as you can see we’ve never done this before, so I mean, we’re doing it our first time too, but we’re just bringing you along with us.  So hopefully you enjoyed this video.


Make sure to leave us a comment and give us any other advice you have!

 Mt Whitney Preparation Video 1: The Basics

About Josh

My name is Josh and I am a fan of the outdoors. On the weekends you will find me hiking or trying to complete any of the numerous adventures I have on my list. I live in Southern California and love the deversity that allows me to have in my daily life. I am part of the OutdoorPros Adventure Team. I also love photography and you can find me blogging on my California Travel Blog or Seek the Sunrise.


  • Joe

    I was luckily able to do this climb last year with my family (9 total people) and it was well worth the trip! Since the group was large and experience levels were mixed, we took a slower pace acclimatizing first at the portal overnight, stayed another night at Trail Camp, then headed for the top the following day. Trail camp is crowded and exposed but is a great place to camp because of the water access and if you intend to summit and come all the way down the mountain in one day, it’s a great spot to get started and make it down.

    There was a TON of snow last year so we weren’t sure if the cables were going to be open, but the trail ended up being navigable with just boots and poles the whole way up. I doubt any extra traction, like micro-spikes, will be needed this year.

    I completely blew it with the lottery system and lost 4 of the 9 spots I was granted because I hadn’t confirmed them via telephone before 11am the day we arrived. So make sure to read everything they send you and confirm those spots before heading out! Luckily, the stand-by lottery system at the ranger’s station was pretty good and it was fairly easy to get a couple extra passes to enter the next day (which was fine for us because we had planned for a longer trip than was necessary). #lessonlearned

    Happy trails!

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    • Josh

      Joe, thanks for the great comment and advice! We plan to do the same thing except we may stay two nights at horseshoe meadows instead of portal since it is higher. Great advice on the calling to confirm, will make sure I read the information!

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