The annual Mt. Whitney lottery is here! If you’re looking to climb it this year, I hope you’ve turned in an application. They start issuing dates in a few days! If you haven’t, here’s a quick rundown.
Mt. Whitney is one of the most popular backcountry destinations in the ENTIRE UNITED STATES. To limit access, the Forest Service issues permits for Mt. Whitney in a lottery.
Here’s how the process works:
You send in an application between Feb. 1 and March 15. Earlier doesn’t mean you have a better chance. It all gets lumped together. If you turn in an application after March 15, they’ll still take it. You just end up at the back of the line (very low chance of getting a permit).
March 16 – They randomly start picking applications and assigning dates.
March 24 – You can see the status of your application.
April 1 – You can accept or decline your date.
April 30 – Last day to accept your date.
Last year: 38% of applications were successful. 4500 out of 11,500.
So even BEFORE you start, you’ve got less than 40% chance of GETTING a permit.
July and August are the most popular months.
Weekends? Holidays? Good luck.
Be flexible with your dates.
Picking Your Dates
The presence or absence of snow will be a major factor in your summit bid. Too early in the season and you might have to posthole your way to the top. Too late in the season and you might get an early winter storm dumping powder on you. Either way, snow is no fun for the average hiker.
Snow can persist on Whitney through late July. Luckily, this year has been very dry. No guarantees, but June will probably be hike-able. July and August are best, but the popularity of those months makes getting a permit difficult. Early September can be very nice. Cooler weather, but there is a higher chance of thunderstorms.
If you do encounter snow, come prepared or turn around! Ice can make the Hundred Switchbacks section from Trail Camp to Trail Crest impassable. You should have basic ice axe and crampon skills. Learn to self arrest. It’s not that hard, but it does require practice!
People die up there. Don’t be one of them.
Good luck and go get a permit!