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The High Sierra Trail: Segment 7 of 7

Guitar Lake to Mount Whitney Summit and the descent to Whitney Portal

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Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Strenuous
Length: 14.3 miles
Duration: Full day

Overview:  This is the last of a series of Guides to the High Sierra Trail, an approximately 70 mile trail that runs from Crescent Meadow on the ... more »

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Points of Interest

1. Guitar Lake

Starting early from Guitar Lake is a good way to cover this stretch in a day. By early, I mean pre-sunrise. Most camps will be stirring by 5 AM at the latest.

The trail is easy to follow with a headlamp, and if there is a bright moon reflecting on the white granite the headlamp might not even be necessary.

One of the most memorable experiences... More

2. Trail Junction

After climbing up the switchbacks from Guitar Lake, you'll reach the junction of the spur trail to the summit of Mount Whitney. Many people choose to drop their heavy packs here and continue to the summit with only a camera and water. If you do this, make sure your 'smellables' are put away in your bear canister - while you're unlikely to... More

3. Mt Whitney Summit

Welcome to the top! At approximately 14,500 feet you are higher than any other point in the Continental United States.

After traversing the west side of the Whitney Ridge, you'll follow the sloping summit plateau to the Smithsonian Hut, built in 1909 as a meteorological station and shelter. However, to quote from the NPS website:

"The metal... More

4. Trail Crest

Trail Crest is often confused with the Trail Junction (POI 2). Trail crest marks where the trail crosses the ridge and begins the descent down the eastern side of the peak. The two points are only separated by a short distance of trail.

From Trail Crest, you will descend the 97 Switchbacks (yes, there are that many). You'll also be meeting the... More

5. Trail Camp

This is the first opportunity to camp when descending Whitney from the western approach. It is at approximately 12,000 feet.

Trail Camp is busy but some people really enjoy the socialization the camp has to offer. Water is accessible near by.

6. Outpost Camp

Another campsite opportunity along the trail, Outpost Camp is close enough the trailhead that you'll be unlikely to set up camp here for the night. However, there is water access around here and it is another concentration of humanity along the trail.

7. Lone Pine Lake

The short fork to Lone Pine Lake is a nice excursion for a water refill if necessary, but it is not often visited by High Sierra Trail hikers - after all, it's a mere few miles back to the trailhead!

8. North Fork

This usually has water, and it also marks the turnoff to the Mountaineer's route of Mount Whitney. While you won't be going this way, it's a good place to stop and notice for that return trip you're already planning on!

9. Whitney Portal

You are done! At Whitney Portal your senses will be assaulted: noise, crowds, cars, screaming kids, barking dogs, frying burgers, cold beer. Look for the scale - weigh your pack to see how much lighter it is that the day you started out! Garbage bins and pit toilets seem like luxury.

Hopefully your shuttle situation has worked itself out.... More