High Sierra Trail, Day 6 – Guitar Lake to Mt. Whitney to Whitney Portal, June 22 2015

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Gil (GoHiker.com) and I hiked the High Sierra Trail to Mt. Whitney, June 17-22. Here is Day 6 of our trip:

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The Plan

  • Day 6 (Mon) – hike Whitney Summit to Whitney Portal
    • Hike 10.7 miles || 6 hrs
    • LEG 6 Total: 10.7 miles || 6 hrs 

The plan above assumed we stayed on the summit and not at Guitar Lake. Leaving Guitar Lake the morning of Day 6, we were still planning to exit the trail by the end of the day. With the extra climbing and mileage, I estimated that we’d be on the trail 10-12 hours.

The Outcome

I estimated that we needed about 3.5 hours to hit the summit by sunrise, so we planned to start hiking by 2:00 am. We were very slow packing up camp and by the time we hit the trail, it was almost 2:15. It was chilly out and we were both wore the majority of our layers. With the steep climb, we were both worried about hiking too fast, getting sweaty, then becoming cold as a result. I made it a point to stop at the end of each switchback for a short break to make sure we were well hydrated, snacking, and not overheating.

Around 4:15 we reached the JMT – Mt. Whitney Main Trail Juction, where we left our heavy packs. From the junction to the summit and back to the junction, we only carried 1-2 liters of water, snacks, a small first aid kit and layers of clothing. We were only 1.9 miles from the summit, but it would be a challenge covering it in the 75 minutes left before sunrise. We moved as quickly as we could, navigating a few areas with ice and snow and I actually felt great for the next 45 minutes or so. At that point I told Gil to go at “his pace” and that I’d see him on the summit. Based on where we were on the trail and how tired my legs were, I knew that I would not make the summit for sunrise. I decided that I wanted to watch sunrise from the window between Keeler Needle and Mt. Whitney and slowed my pace to match my new goal.

A few minutes before sunrise
Sunrise, from the last “window”
Sunrise hitting Keeler Needle


After watching sunrise, I hurried along, very excited to congratulate Gil on his first Whitney summit. This was our third attempt together in 3 years; if anyone I knew “deserved” to get to the top of Whitney, it was him. After about 20 minutes, I reached the summit, congratulated Gil and took some pics before heading down.

One of my favorite views
The fire from day 3
Summit photo


The descent from the summit was uneventful and went as planned. We took long breaks at Trail Crest (breakfast) and Trailside Meadow (long foot soak) and hit Whitney Portal around 2 PM.

Leg 6 (as tracked), Guitar Lake to Mt. Whitney to Whitney Portal: 

  • 15.5 miles || +3305, -6445 || 12 hours 

Trip Totals (as tracked), Crescent Meadow to Whitney Portal, via High Sierra Trail and Whitney Creek Shortcut: 

  • 64 miles || +18,617, -16,967 || 64.5 hours hiking (including rest stops)

Water & Food

I left camp with about 4 liters of water, drinking 1+ on the way up to the JMT – Mt Whitney Main Trail Junction. I left 1 liter at the junction and carried 1+ to the summit. On the way down, we refilled  at Trailside Meadow.

Other than breakfast (granola), I didn’t eat except for the small snacks. I was hungry, but I was quite excited about eating pizza in Lone Pine.


A few notes on the gear I used.

  • Farm to Feet Merino Wool Socks
    • High Points – 6 days/64 hours of hiking and only washed twice. I plan to buy another pair of these socks!
  • Geigerrig Hydration Pack Engine
    • The pressurized water bladder was awesome on my ascent. When breathing is difficult due to the thin air, I find pulling water out of a bladder to be very difficult. On past trips, once I was above Trail Crest, I’ve needed to stop to drink out of a bladder. This has usually resulted in me not drinking as much as I should. I was able to hike while drinking with the Geigerrig and was well hydrated.
  • Gossamer Gear Riksak
    • I carried this, as well as the top lid from my Mountainsmith Boundary 75L Backpack to the summit. Without the extra layers, only 1 of the bags would’ve been sufficient. 
    • This was my fiirst time really using a “summit pack” and it was awesome. I probably shaved 30+ minutes off of my best Trail Crest to Whitney Summit time.
  • Delorme InReach, provided by LowerGear.com’s Rental Service
    • We didn’t really need it for navigation today, but it was nice to send texts from the summit. I do know a few people were watching our progress on the trail for Day 6.
  • WoolX Merino Wool


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