How To Prepare to Climb Mount Whitney

How To Prepare to Climb Mount Whitney
Though it doesn't have the severe glaciation associated with peaks in the Cascades and the Alps, Mount Whitney, at 14,505 feet high, is the highest mountain in the lower 48 states. Even hiking the normal route up this California mountain is a stiff physical challenge, as the trailhead is at just above 8,000 feet. Over the course of your summit attempt, you will climb 6,000 feet.


Difficulty: Moderately Challenging


Things You’ll Need:
  • Backpack
  • Hiking boots
Step 1
Start at least three months in advance, if you are not already in peak shape. Begin by taking short day hikes in the boots you plan to use. Carry a pack on these hikes to get used to carrying weight.
Step 2
Do stair climbing for up to an hour a day with a 20-pound pack on your back.
Step 3
Weight train with your legs, getting the muscles into good condition.
Step 4
Go running, or do some sort of other aerobic exercise, a couple of times a week for 30-minute sessions.
Step 5
Increase the distance of your hikes gradually. The climb to Whitney's summit is 10 miles one way.
Step 6
Try some short climbs to altitudes of 11,000 feet or so to see how your body reacts to high altitude. Make sure to stay hydrated on these hikes.

Before the Hike

Step 1
Organize a list of all the gear you will need on the trip. Plan to carry a water filter, food, first-aid kit, sunscreen and extra clothing, including waterproof/breathable shell jacket and pants.
Step 2
Weigh the pack on a scale and take out anything that isn't absolutely necessary. Most people overpack; your goal should be to get the weight down to 10 to 15 pounds. It can be easier to do this by spreading out items like food and water among multiple people in a group.
Step 3
Try to camp out at higher altitude one or two nights before the hike so your body is better acclimated.

Tips & Warnings

Up to a third of Whitney hikers turn back due to altitude sickness. Altitude sickness is potentially fatal. Monitor your body for its early symptoms, such as nausea and a headache. If these symptoms persist, return to a lower elevation.

Article Written By Candace Horgan

Candace Horgan has worked as a freelance journalist for more than 12 years. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications, including the "Denver Post" and "Mix." Horgan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and history.

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