Mount Whitney , the most popular climb in the USA , is the highest summit in continental USA with the highest point at 14,505 feet (4,421 m) .The only American mountains higher than Whitney are in Alaska, which has seven higher peaks including Denali . Mount Whitney is located in California , just 84.6 miles (136.2 km) of the lowest point in North America at Badwater in Death Valley National Park , 282 feet (86 m) below sea level .
The summit of Whitney lies along the Sierra Crest and near many of the highest peaks of the Sierra Nevada.
Due to its elevation, Mount Whitney is above the tree line and has an alpine climate and ecology. Very few plants grow near the summit such as Sky Pilot, a cushion plant that grows low to the ground . The only animals are transient, such as the butterfly Parnassius phoebus and the Gray-crowned Rosy Finch.
Climbing Mount Whitney
Mount Whitney is the most climbed high peak in the Sierra Nevada and one of the most climbed mountains in the United States, although no exact statistics are available.
Charles Begole, A. H. Johnson, and John Luca, fishermen from Lone Pine, made the first known ascent of Mount Whitney on August 18, 1873. They renamed it Fisherman’s Peak. The United States Geological Survey, however, decided in 1891 that the peak would remain as Mount Whitney. After World War II a movement tried to rename it for Winston Churchill but failed.
The most popular route to the summit is by way of the Mount Whitney Trail which starts at Whitney Portal (8,360 feet (2,550 m)) 13 miles (21 km) west of the town of Lone Pine. The hike is about 22 miles (35 km) round trip with an elevation gain of over 6,100 feet (1,900 m). Permits are required year round, and to prevent overuse a limited number of permits are issued by the Forest Service between May 1 and November 1.
Longer approaches to Whitney arrive at its west side, connecting to the Mount Whitney Trail near the summit by way of the John Muir Trail.
Permits from the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service are required year-round to climb the mountain to save it from being loved to death by the tramping impact of hundreds of hikers a day. Permits are few because more people want to climb Whitney than what is considered the daily carrying capacity of the trail. Permits are allocated in summer by lottery. Peak climbing season is July and August.
The most popular climb in the USA
Here are couple of reasons why Americans love this climb :
- no climbing gear needed
- surprisingly easy if you get good weather
- it’s a wonderful and impressive peak
- Whitney is on both the John Muir Trail and Pacific Crest Trails
- the Wilderness Permit is free
- only 84.6 mi (136.2km) away of the lowest point in North America , Badwater in Death Valley
- you can also visit the nearby Alabama Hills
- signing the summit register makes you feel an “alpinist”