Mt Whitney Summit Hike

From: $1,999

per person dbl occ

Dates: Jun-Oct - see all dates

Total Days: 7

Activity Level: 4

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7 AM to 5 PM Pacific Time

Mt Whitney Summit Hike

Price:

2014/2015

REI Member: $1,999

Non-member: $2,200

Trip Dates:

2014

  • Jun 29 – Jul 5
  • Jul 20–26
  • Jul 27 – Aug 2
  • Aug 10–16
  • Aug 24–30
  • Sep 7–13
  • Sep 21–27
  • Oct 5–11

2015

  • Jun 28 – Jul 4
  • Jul 19–25
  • Aug 9–15
  • Aug 23–29
  • Sep 6–12
  • Sep 20–26
  • Oct 4–10
Group Size: 4-11

Activity Level: 4

Activities:

  • Trekking

Accommodations:

Backcountry Camping, 6 nights

Trip Highlights

  • Summit Mt. Whitney, highest peak in the lower 48 states
  • Follow expert guides and utilize pack animals to lighten our load
  • Take in spectacular views of alpine lakes, soaring peaks, and charming meadows
  • Spend each night at a backcountry campsite where we can soak in the stars

At 14,505 feet, Mt. Whitney is the highest peak in the lower 48 states and a lifelong goal for adventurers worldwide. Our itinerary, which follows the non-technical Cottonwood Route, allows those with a high level of fitness to experience the High Sierra in an intimate and unique manner while also providing an opportunity to summit Mt. Whitney.

Most of this trip is at high altitude and acclimatization to the elevation is important, our itinerary allows us to ease in with a short first day to Chicken Springs Lake, giving the body a chance to adapt. This pack-team supported climb crosses over the Sierra Crest at Cottonwood Pass and traverses below the western slopes of the mountain with the bulk of our gear weight carried by mules and horses.

Along the route, marvel in the beauty of alpine meadows and crystal blue lakes. Each day is capped off at a comfortable backcountry camp where we have time to reflect on our accomplishments under the star-lit Sierra skies.

Itinerary Summary

  • Day 1 - Meet at the Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead Campground.
  • Day 2 - Get our 'hiking legs' on with a short acclimatization hike.
  • Day 3 - Enter Sequoia Kings National Park and head for the summit.
  • Day 4 - Leaving the pack animals behind as we ascend and stage our summit day.
  • Day 5 - Summit day! We rise early for the best chance at summiting.
  • Day 6 - Head back down the trail, enjoying beautiful Sierra views.
  • Day 7 - Our final day of hiking across rolling terrain.

See full itinerary

Trip Itinerary and Details

Important Notice: Day 1 is the day you should plan to arrive at the meeting point for the trip. This may require departing your hometown one or more days in advance and traveling on an overnight flight.

  • Day 1 - Meet at the Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead Campground.

    Your adventure begins at the Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead Campground (near the Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead – NOT the Cottonwood Pass one), where you'll meet your guides and group for an orientation. Meet at the campground by 6:00pm to enjoy a hearty mountain dinner before a review of the trip itinerary, gear check, and packing. We will spend some time sorting gear and ensuring that you have all that you need prior to hitting the trail in the morning. Please take careful note of the gear list, as the campground is 45 minutes from Lone Pine, and you won't have the opportunity for last minute purchases. After a great first evening, it's off to bed for your first night under the stars. Dinner included.

  • Day 2 - Get our 'hiking legs' on with a short acclimatization hike.

    After a delicious breakfast, we'll conduct one final pack check before hitting the trail. Our first day is intentionally short to allow us time to warm up our legs and help with acclimatization. We'll enjoy a steady climb up to the Cottonwood Pass (11,120') and onto Chicken Springs Lake (11,240') for the first night; a perfect route to ease in to our week. All meals provided.

    Hiking: 4.1 miles; 1350’ elevation gain/200’ elevation loss; ~4-6 hours of activity

  • Day 3 - Enter Sequoia Kings National Park and head for the summit.

    This morning we will have time to enjoy a leisurely breakfast and soak up the spectacular High Sierra as we await the packers return to camp. Our trail today will follow a flat or gradual decline, with elevation loss of about 2500' feet over about a 10 mile stretch. We'll meander among spectacular groves of alpine Foxtail and Lodgepole Pine as we descend to our camp for the night at Rock Creek Crossing (9620'). All meals provided.

    Hiking: 9.75 miles; 850’ gain/2500’ loss; ~8-10 hours of activity

  • Day 4 - Leaving the pack animals behind as we ascend and stage our summit day.

    Following our breakfast this morning we continue hiking out of Rock Creek up onto the wide open shelf of the Guyot Flat. Staying above treeline we continue along to Crabtree Meadows where we beginning hiking directly towards Mt. Whitney. This steady climb today will lead us to our camp for the evening at Guitar Lake (11,460'). This is a truly stunning day, full of contour and gorgeous diverse terrain. At this point the pack animal support will leave us and head back down to Crabtree Meadows, as they cannot graze at the altitude of Guitar Lake. We will stage our summit day from here, enjoying a full cooked dinner this evening and getting a good night's sleep. All meals included.

    Hiking: 8.7 miles; 2500’ gain/850’ loss; ~8-10 hours of activity

  • Day 5 - Summit day! We rise early for the best chance at summiting.

    Summit Day! Depending on conditions, expect to rise well before dawn. Today, after packing up our personal belongings for the pack team to transport to our next camp, we will work our way slowly towards our goal of summiting Mt. Whitney. Although the mountain looks close, the air is thin and breathing becomes more labored, taxing energy levels. In addition, along our route, we'll encounter many switchbacks up to the trailcrest at 13,550 feet. This is where the path converges with the summit trail coming from the opposite side of the mountain and also where we start our final ascent to the highest peak in the contiguous United States. Once on top we'll have time for photos and reflection on the amazing accomplishment we've achieved. We'll then head back down the trail to our new lower elevation camp at Crabtree Meadows for a celebratory dinner at camp! All meals included.

    Hiking/Non-Technical Climbing: 11.3 miles roundtrip; 3500’ gain/4457’ loss; ~11-12 hours of activity

  • Day 6 - Head back down the trail, enjoying beautiful Sierra views.

    After a lovely cooked breakfast, we start back down the trail enjoying the expansive views of the valleys below. Having just spent days challenging ourselves to the rigors of working our way up to the summit of a mountain, we'll now have the opportunity to truly absorb our surroundings and enjoy the beauty of the high Sierra. We will make it all the way back to Rock Creek Lake today where we will camp for one last evening together. All meals included.

    Hiking: 10.5 miles; 1750’ gain/2000’ loss; ~8-10 hours of activity

  • Day 7 - Our final day of hiking across rolling terrain.

    Our final day of hiking will take us from Rock Creek Lake back to the pack station. This terrain is rolling and provides great opportunities for early morning photos. We will plan to get an early start after breakfast and we will stop for lunch on the trail, again with a beautiful mountain meadow surrounding. We plan to be finished up for congratulations and farewells in the late afternoon early evening. Meals Included; Breakfast & Lunch.

    Hiking: 10.2 miles, 1750’ gain/1000’ loss; ~8-10 hours of activity

    Note: Due to the remote proximity of the trailhead we strongly discourage scheduling flights or other concrete travel arrangements this evening.

Note on Itinerary

Although we do our very best to adhere to the schedule above, this itinerary is subject to change for numerous reasons beyond our control, including weather and terrain conditions. This trip is operated rain or shine.

Air Travel

Contact REI Adventures prior to purchasing your airline tickets to confirm the trip has the minimum number of participants required to operate.

Price Includes

Professional instruction and guiding; all meals as noted in the daily itinerary; group cooking gear; group first-aid kit; water filter; pack support; three person tents (double occupancy); campsite and permit fees.

Ground operations on this trip are provided by Sierra Mountain Center. Sierra Mountain Center operates under a Special Use permit of the Inyo National Forest and is an equal opportunity provider.

Not Included

Not Included Transportation from your hometown to group meeting point; insurance of any kind; energy drinks; soft drinks; guide gratuities and items of a personal nature. Alcoholic beverages are not permitted due to altitude and nature of trip.

Closest Airport(s)

Los Angeles International Airport; Los Angeles, CA – 210 miles, 3 hours
Las Vegas International Airport; Las Vegas, NV – 230 miles, 3.75 hours
Inyokern Airport; Ridgecrest, CA – 73 miles, 1 hour

Transfers

There is no reliable transfer service from any airport to our meeting place. Anticipate renting a car if flying in for this weekend getaway.

Qualifications

This trip is rated Vigorous [4]. The hiking portions of the trip involve carrying a 15-20 pound backpack over terrain at altitudes often over 10,000 feet, with elevation gain and loss for up to 8-10 miles daily. To maximize your enjoyment of the trip and to avoid sore muscles, we suggest that you engage in a regular exercise regimen beginning at least three months prior to your departure. Most important to your overall enjoyment is your overall fitness level.

You should be in prime physical condition to participate in this trip and capable of carrying a daypack weighing between 15-20 pounds. This trip takes place in the High Sierra of California, and as such, the bulk of your six days will be spent at elevations over 11,000 feet. This adds an even more challenging element to your experience on the trail to Mt. Whitney. In addition, daily hiking mileage will average between eight and thirteen miles, with hiking times being, on average, EVERY DAY being between eight to twelve hours.

Weather

Daytime temperatures usually range between 60o - 95o F, depending on month, with evening temperatures potentially dropping to below freezing during earlier and later departures to temperatures in the 60s during mid- summer. Expect to encounter freezing temperatures at some of the higher elevations, especially at night. Afternoon thunderstorms are common on Mt. Whitney so adequate raingear is important.

Single Travelers

If you are traveling alone and specifically request single accommodations, you will be asked to pay the single supplement fee. There is no single supplement fee for those willing to share accommodations, and we will assign you a roommate of the same gender if possible. Please be advised that there are a limited number of single accommodations available.

General Information

This trip is subject to the booking information set forth in the current REI Adventures Reservation Information. Please read this information carefully and call us if you have any questions. A full gear list and pre-departure information is sent upon sign-up. We highly recommend the purchase of travel insurance through REI Adventures. If coverage is purchased at the time of your initial reservation, the 'Pre-existing Conditions Exclusion' is waived (certain exclusions apply).

We look forward to having you join us for the trip of a lifetime! Why wait? Space is limited, reserve your adventure today.

Mt Whitney Summit Hike Gear List

The key to staying comfortable while on an active trip is layering. To get maximum comfort with minimum weight, you need versatile layers that mix and match to create the right amount of insulation, ventilation and weather protection. Try to bring only what is necessary—this will help you and the field staff.

While this is a pack supported adventure, weight is still one of the most important elements of preparation you should take into consideration. The gear you bring along with you (excluding the gear you will carry yourself in your day pack while hiking) MUST NOT weigh more than 20 pounds. This 20 pound maximum should include the weight of your sleeping materials (including bag and mat), clothing, favorite snacks, etc. Please make sure to weigh your gear prior to the trip to ensure it will not exceed the 20 pound maximum.

Gear Checklist

Provided Gear
  • Three-person tents (double occupancy)
  • Cooking gear
  • Stoves and fuel
  • Water filter
  • Group first aid kit
  • Duffle bag
Hiking Gear
  • 20L – 30L day pack
  • Sleeping bag (rated around 20-35 F –should weigh around 3 pounds for fall and cooler weather, a lighter bag is acceptable for mid -summer trips)
  • Sleeping pad
  • Trekking poles
Outerwear
  • Rain jacket and pants (lightweight waterproof and breathable)
Clothing
  • Hiking shorts (quick-drying, lightweight)
  • T-shirts (synthetic)
  • Long sleeve shirt (synthetic)
  • Hiking pants (quick-drying, lightweight; zip-off legs are great. No jeans!)
  • Underwear
  • Hiking Pants
  • Synthetic tee shirts
  • Sunhat or baseball cap
  • Hiking socks (wool or synthetic)
  • Synthetic Sock liners (optional)
  • Sun hat with wide brim
  • Mid-weight fleece jacket or wool sweater
  • Mid- or lightweight thermal bottom made of synthetic or wool
  • Down jacket or vest (optional)
  • Wool or fleece hat
  • Wool or fleece gloves
Travel Accessories
  • Favorite snack items for each day (easily packable and light)
  • Powdered Hot or Cold drinks (ex: coffee, cocoa, tea, Gatorade, sports drinks, etc)
  • Two 1-quart water bottles or hydration system equivalent up to 50oz (2 liters)
  • Headlamp with spare batteries and bulb
  • Plastic bowl, spoon, travel mug with lid
  • Sunglasses and retainer strap, preferably glacier glasses
  • Sunscreen (small amount not the whole bottle; min SPF 25)
  • Lip balm (unscented)
  • Personal medications
  • Toothbrush & trial-sized paste
  • Pack towel and/or washcloth
  • Personal first aid kit (small and light with personal medication)
  • Lighter
  • Travel size wet-wipes
  • Plastic trash bag.
  • TP system: toilet paper (not a full roll) & 1 Ziploc quart baggie
  • Insect Repellant
  • Bandana
Footwear
  • Well broken in hiking boots (medium weight – lightweight hikers or approach shoes do not provide enough ankle support)
  • Comfortable camp shoes (ex: sport sandals or tennis shoes)
Optional Field Gear
  • Trekking poles (highly recommended)
  • Light pocket knife
  • Ear plugs
  • Journal & pen
  • Camera and memory - think weight

Feel free to give us a call at (800) 622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales (800-426-4840) will also be happy to help you with gear questions. Or check out www.rei.com/learn. The Expert Advice section on our "Learn" page has great information to help you prepare for your trip.

REVIEW SNAPSHOT®

by PowerReviews
REI AdventuresMt Whitney Summit Hike
 
4.6

(based on 5 reviews)

100%

of respondents would recommend this to a friend.

Pros

  • Food (4)
  • Group camaraderie (4)
  • Guides (4)
  • Once in a lifetime experience (3)

Cons

    Best Uses

        • Why Did You Choose to Travel with REI Adventures?:
        • All the details planned for me (4), Destination (4), I liked the itinerary (3)

      Reviewed by 5 customers

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      Displaying reviews 1-5

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      (2 of 2 customers found this review helpful)

       
      5.0

      Spectacular Hike

      By Mary-M

      from Pismo Beach, CA

      About Me First-Time Adventurer

      Pros

      • Exceeded Expectations
      • Food
      • Group Camaraderie
      • Guides
      • Once in a Lifetime Experience
      • Well Organized Itinerary

      Cons

        Best Uses

          Comments about REI Adventures Mt Whitney Summit Hike:

          We had beautiful weather. Each night camping in a different gorgeous spot. Guides were fantastic, fellow hikers were all nice, we were a compatible group. Food far exceeded my expectations. Guides dug a view latrine for us at each camp except at Guitar Lake where wag bags were required. We had to hike at a faster pace than I am used to but it was great to arrive at camp in the early afternoon and have time to rest and enjoy the scenery. Summit day was the highlight, a spectacular and challenging experience. Our whole group reached the summit. Our guides were the best!

          • Why Did You Choose to Travel with REI Adventures?:
          • All the Details Planned for Me, Destination
          • Why did you choose this trip?:
          • Thought it was the only way I would be able to climb Whitney.
          • What was the highlight of your trip?:
          • Summit!
          • What would be your advice to potential travelers?:
          • Prepare for high altitude hiking. You need to be in good shape to make it.

          (4 of 4 customers found this review helpful)

           
          5.0

          Stunning Views

          By Hiker997

          from Greenwich, CT

          About Me Avid Adventurer

          Pros

          • Activity Level
          • Exceeded Expectations
          • Food
          • Group Camaraderie
          • Guides

          Cons

            Best Uses

              Comments about REI Adventures Mt Whitney Summit Hike:

              Trip was tough but a lot of fun. Guides Luke and Sam made the trip. They were very easy going and the rest of our group of 10 got along very well too. We lucked out with good weather, rain just one morning. Tents were really small (barely fit two) but did the job. Aside from your back pack which you carry (<15 lbs recommended), 20 lb bag of your other gear including sleeping bag and mat (in your duffle or theirs, your choice) is carried by mules. They arrived ahead of us every day but one.

              Typical day - up at 6am, hot breakfast then on the trail by 8am after you pack up your gear. Hike until 2pm, roughly 10 miles/day with breaks for water and lunch. Set up your tent, then dinner at 6pm. The trails are really well maintained and the food was surprisingly good.

              Summit day we were up at 3:30AM, departed camp at 5am from Guitar Lake in the dark to beat afternoon thunderstorms. Incredible view from the top, worth the climb!

              Having many layers of clothing was key since temperature ranged from 35 to 75. Cold in the morning but gets quite hot in the strong sun at that altitude. Sun hat, sun glasses and sun block are important. Surprisingly few bugs.

              Overall views were stunning with lush green meadows, lakes and streams against massive cliffs.

              Expect cell coverage the first afternoon at Cottonwood Canyon, then again only briefly when you are on the summit on Wed, day 4. You are officially off the grid.

              It was 102 degrees in Lone Pine, CA where you can spend the night before the hike starts, but much cooler at the Cottonwood trail head (10,000 feet /70 degs F).

              • Why Did You Choose to Travel with REI Adventures?:
              • Active Adventures, All the Details Planned for Me, Destination, Good Value, I Liked the Itinerary
              • What was the highlight of your trip?:
              • Summit was spectacular.

              (2 of 2 customers found this review helpful)

               
              4.0

              Photos from August trip

              By Corktrekker

              from Sacramento

              See all my reviews

              Site Member

              Comments about REI Adventures Mt Whitney Summit Hike:

              Already posted. Just forget to upload photos.

              (5 of 5 customers found this review helpful)

               
              4.0

              Whitney Summit Hike

              By Corktrekker

              from Sacramento

              About Me Casual Adventurer

              See all my reviews

              Site Member

              Pros

              • Activity Level
              • Food
              • Group Camaraderie
              • Guides
              • Once in a Lifetime Experience

              Cons

              • Non-pack weight unclear
              • REI's gear list misstated
              • REI Day 4 distance wrong

              Best Uses

                Comments about REI Adventures Mt Whitney Summit Hike:

                Fantastic meals, particularly dinners. The first three days of rain/lightening it's all I had to look forward to other than getting closer to Whitney. Of course we had no guarantee of summiting due to weather so food became a factor to cheer me up.

                A wonderful group of trekkers. Good sports all! Very supportive. We were definitely "in it together."

                The two guides, Ryan and Tom were great in their own ways. Ryan could really read the weather and it's because of him we summited safely and got back down. This required us getting up at 2:15 in the morning but we got up/back before the storm set in and it was a monster. Tom was fabulous in terms of moral support. He knew how to guage my condition and weigh it against my emotional barometer. I told him many times that had it not been for him I would not have summitted.

                What REALLy wasn't okay was that REI's itinerary stated that summit day was 4.3 miles round trip. Oh heck no! It was double and then some. That's a big error. The other thing was that REI's trip list stated a duffel would be provided and that weight was 20-25 lbs. After I left for Lone Pine I got an e-mail stating all "personal gear" need not exceed 20 lbs including tents. Since REI was supplying the tents I wasn't too worried but knew my duffel was over 20 lbs. When I arrived at Cottonwood station I discovered that ALL my gear was to come to 20 lbs and no REI-supplied duffel. I had asked specifically about this so....I had a non-waterproof duffel and my sleeping bag/matt weren't in it!

                • Why Did You Choose to Travel with REI Adventures?:
                • Active Adventures, All the Details Planned for Me, Destination, I Liked the Itinerary, Travel with Like-minded Outdoor Enthusiasts
                • Why did you choose this trip?:
                • Less brutal than climbing Whitney in one or even two days from the east side...but...it's a long haul to base camp!
                • What was the highlight of your trip?:
                • There were two: summiting Mt. Whitney and getting back to Cottonwood Pack Station
                • What would be your advice to potential travelers?:
                • Conditioning tips were good but get as much exposure to altitude over at least 8,000 as possible. Go in advance and stay overnight at Mammoth or someplace with altitude. Do ALOT of cardio. Also...be aware that the weather might include alot of electrical storms with alot of downpours. It rained 4 days out of 6 and the lightening danger was always a concern to guides and trekkers. Also...buy and acquaint yourself with WAG bags...don't wait until the trip to use one!

                (2 of 2 customers found this review helpful)

                 
                5.0

                Excellent Backcountry Hike

                By Jonathan Dunder

                from Boulder, CO

                About Me Avid Adventurer

                See all my reviews

                Site Member

                Pros

                • Food
                • Group Camaraderie
                • Guides
                • Once in a Lifetime Experience
                • Quality Equipment Provided
                • Well Organized Itinerary

                Cons

                  Best Uses

                    Comments about REI Adventures Mt Whitney Summit Hike:

                    The guides (Ryan and Tom) were very knowledgeable of the route and the Sierras in general. They shared a lot of interesting information on the geology and history of the area. I felt like they knew what they were doing, especially when responding to adverse weather conditions. In spite of bad weather forecasts, we were able to leave very early and summit Whitney, then return to camp before the storm hit.

                    The food provided on the trail was also very good and better than anything I could have produced on my own.

                    • Why Did You Choose to Travel with REI Adventures?:
                    • All the Details Planned for Me, Destination, I Liked the Itinerary, Travel with Like-minded Outdoor Enthusiasts
                    • What was the highlight of your trip?:
                    • Hiking up the switchbacks to Trail Crest at night with headlamps, then reaching the summit of Whitney
                    • What would be your advice to potential travelers?:
                    • Bring good rain gear just in case

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