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How to climb Mount Whitney: A late-season primer

August 15, 2007|By Mary Forgione | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Got a bad case of Whitney fever? Around August and September, the iconic Sierra peak above Lone Pine, Calif., draws hikers, backpackers and determined souls who lust for a chance to stand atop its 14,497-foot peak. And long summer days are a perfect time for day hikers to attempt the highest point in the Lower 48 (11 miles one way, more than 6,000 feet of elevation gain).

Why do Mt. Whitney? Take a look at the related stories on this page that tease out the inspirations and aspirations of what this peak means to outdoors folks. Also get some tips on training, terrain and how other Southern California peaks stack up to the Big One.

Permits: Yes, they're required for day hikes and backpack trips from May 1 through Oct. 31.

The bad news: The U.S. Forest Service holds a lottery each year (you must submit by February) to dole out the precious permits.

The good news: Savvy trekkers with flexible dates and access to the Internet can still squeeze out a permit -- if you act quickly.

For example, as of this writing, overnight permits are full for August and September, but there are day hike permits for Aug. 22 and 31 -- and many in September and October. There are still lots of overnight permits in October too.

Go to and you'll see a calendar (one for backpacking permits, the other for day hikes) that shows exactly how many permits are available for any particular date through Oct. 31. After that, permits aren't required.

So find a date and call (760) 873-2400 or fax (760) 873-2484 with your reservation request.

Also, for last-minute plans, the Forest Service reissues unused permits and may have some to hand out to walk-ins; ask by calling the phone number above.

You also may be able to snag a permit via the message board at the Whitney Portal Store ( The store sits at the base of the mighty mountain where the trail begins.

The website is a great place to get up-to-the-minute news on trail conditions, weather and all things Whitney. At the store, go for the pancakes, stay for the homemade fries. It also stocks a full range of Whitney victory T-shirts and other memorabilia.

Preparation: Take a look at the Forest Service's Mt. Whitney page, where you can learn about leave-no-trace camping, bear safety and other precautions to take while on the mountain.

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