The gates may have just opened to allow vehicle access on Whitney Portal Road, but at this point in the year it's no surprise that snow still covers the majority of the trail to the tallest mountain in the continental United States. I checked it out on Sunday and made it about one mile before huffing it atop hard-packed and somewhat icy snow. For the next half mile, it was on and off before reaching an elevation where it was snow the rest of the way, at least according to hikers and one skier coming down from the top.
In fact, if you're not familiar with the trail, it would be hard to find your way at points. Following tracks was not a good idea as it seemed hikers were going in every direction possible (including a set of bear tracks I found). I bumped into two struggling as they slowly made their way down a steep hillside, probably instead of switchbacks that were not visible. So that is where I, for safety reasons as a solo hiker not familiar with the trail, decided to turn around.
Back down at the parking lot, plenty of cars took up spaces, several people were fishing, and a man at the Whitney Portal Store said they would probably be opening for the season this week. For being one of the busiest trailheads in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, it was a sign of a very busy summer to come.
Because of the snow, there are plenty of day-use and overnight permits available at the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center down in Lone Pine. But once it melts, usually in July, those permits are spoken already spoken for. Check out my last Mount Whitney post for details on scoring a permit when someone cancels.
Zach Behrens is the Editor-in-Chief of blogs for KCET.
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