Want to climb the highest peak in the lower 48? You're not alone. While the permit process is a major hassle, the crowds are thin (until you summit), and the granite is as fine as it gets.
Most climbs are about 1000 feet tall on the east face that gets shady by afternoon. Storms can brew over on the west side and give you quite a surprise.
There are two non-technical ways to the summit: the Whitney trail, a long slog up an easy walking trail, and the Mountaineers Route, a steep gully filled with loose rock, which is the usual descent route for climbers.
There's a decent campground at the end of the road, near the trailhead. You must have a permit to camp anywhere beyond that, and they're not easy to get. Call 760-873-2483 or go to the forest service's website. Unless you're doing the Whitney Trail, you want a permit for the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek.
Drive up the Whitney portal at about 8,300 feet. Lots of parking and bear boxes, where you need to leave anything with an odor that you're not bringing, including toiletries.
Most people spend the night at either Upper Boy Scout Lake (11,300 feet) or Iceberg Lake (12,600 feet). Iceberg is the way to go if you have the time. Incredible views of the mountain (and most routes), clear water right in front of you, and the climbing starts just a little ways up the scree slope from your campsite.
Getting there is tough and it's quite easy to get off route. I recommend buying the supertopo and follow the excellent instructions there.
The hike can get really hot. Start early (dawn) and you'll get to a campsite by lunch, have time to rest up and scope the route.
From Iceberg Lake, scramble up to the notch just above the First Tower. Gear up. Make the Tower Traverse across the south face of the Second Tower, and climb a short chimney (5.4-5.5) to the first belay.Scramble or simul climb up three pitches of 4th - easy 5th to the top of the Washboard. Climb left up and over a tower/chimney (5.2-5.5) to a large ledge, and traverse to the base of the Fresh Air Traverse. The Fresh Air Traverse pitch (5.5) climbs easy ground up then left to three fixed piton...[more]Browse More Classics in CA
You can easily (well, maybe not easily) do the East Face, East Butt, or Mountaineer's Route in a day. IF (big if) you know the approach to Iceberg Lake. You'll be doing it in the dark. Early season the creek is high and you'll be crossing it. The trail may be running with water. You will get wet. You may get soaked.
Like the man said, buy the Supertaco. The directions are excellent. Scope the approach in daylight if you've never done it.
Don't take the mountaineer's route too lightly. I climbed the route on the first day of summer last year thinking I could do it pretty fast but found snow most of the way above treeline. Post holing sucked a lot of energy out of me on the descent but still managed to finish the route in 11.5 hours. It is a good idea to find out what current conditions are before climbing. Crampons and axe are necessary early in the season.
By Chris Owen Administrator From: La Crescenta and Big Bear Lake Nov 19, 2007
If you're going to do it in a day (perhaps because you couldn't get a permit) then yes, intimate knowledge of the North Fork approach and the selected route is mandatory - altitude conditioning is also mandatory. Don't forget to pack out your puke.
By Scott Rice From: Colorado Springs, CO Aug 25, 2012
East Face to the top of the washboards. Direct East Face to the top of the PeeWee. East Buttress to the summit. 7 hr 20 min car to car. Direct makes for a TERRIFYING solo!!