I summitted solo from the Portal on the 22nd for the first time, and felt well prepared because of this site. There were however some surprises:
- From maps, I had the impression that the hike consisted of vertical climbs between long sloping grades. In reality, unless you're by a lake you are going vertical for 11 miles.
- While I made it from Portal to summit in 6.75 hours, it took me almost that much time to get back down. On earlier climbs in the Rockies where the trails are mostly dirt, you could almost run back down. On Whitney you are on rock almost all the time and have to watch your step just as much going up as going down.
- The 96 Switchbacks seemed to take longer going down than up (maybe because I was so tired).
- My impression was that once you reached Trail Crest, it was just a little hour walk over to the summit. That walk is above 13,000 ft. on a shadowed trail as little as two feet wide with vertical drop-offs on one side. It was still a major challenge for me. (Hint: drop your pack and summit with some water and your camera).
- I ran across a climber at the summit who said he was lost and couldn't find the way down (I presume from the effects of the altitude). We went down together, and I got to know a new friend. But I got thinking later how terrifying a feeling that would have been for me at that height. My point is have a Plan B. As the sign says at the Portal, "Don't assume you will be rescued".
If I ever run across someone who says they did Whitney in one day, they will earn my instant respect. That was one tough climb.