Lone Pine Lake

Matt Hanan reached out to me and asked if I would be able to join him in climbing Mt. Whitney on May 31st. As much as I wanted to climb to the highest peak in the lower 48, I had not been training for it, and did not want to hamper Matt’s attempt if I ran into issues. Also, May 30th is my wedding anniversary (29 years), so I would need to make sure missing most of that day was ok. Anita gave her approval, provided I did not actually attempt the summit. We agreed that I would not climb higher than Trail Camp and at my own pace, letting Matt stay focused on his ascent. Since Matt had one more space on his permit, my friend David also planned to meet us there. His plan was to probably stick with me as he had no desire to summit Whitney again, but loved just spending time in the eastern Sierras. I left San Diego mid-morning and drove up to Lone Pine. I met Matt at the motel and quickly changed into my hiking gear. The plan was to drive up to Whitney Portal and hike up to Lone Pine Lake, which is just before the boundary of the Whitney Zone. This would give us some hiking time at some higher altitudes, before the bigger hikes the next day. We found a spot and parked Matt’s car, fully cleared out as this is active bear country and the last thing you want is to return to your car to find it had been torn open by a bear looking for a snack. 

The trail begins almost across from the pit toilets. We each grabbed a wag bag and stuffed them in our packs. The trail headed east for a bit before turning back west. This was my first time here, so I was soaking in the beauty that was all around me. The next day, when I would be on this section of the trail, it would be pitch dark. The grade of the trail wasn’t too bad, but I could definitely feel the altitude. 

Matt had been here several times before, so he led the way. Lone Pine Lake sits about 1,750 feet above Whitney Portal, so we had some gain before us. We continued plodding along, taking some short breaks to let me catch my breath. We crossed the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek with no issues. Matt said the fun crossing was just before the junction with the trail down to Lone Pine Lake. As we climbed up the switchbacks, the views to the east were breathtaking. Soon, we came to the main crossing of Lone Pine Creek. This crossing is a long series of logs spanning the wide flow of water. Matt mentioned in previous years water had been flowing almost over the tops of them. Sadly, now it is well below that level. Once across, we reached the junction and made a short 0.1 mile jaunt to the lakeshore. A few folks were milling about, including one person hoping to catch some fish.

With a very early start time, we did not linger as we wanted to get back down into Lone Pine, grab dinner and hit the sack. I tracked our hike at 5.7 miles in 3:05 with 1,750 feet of gain. 

I am an avid peak bagger, sometimes backpacker, and former sea kayaker living in San Diego. In 2019, I became the third person to complete the San Diego 100 Peak Challenge. Not stopping with that accomplishment, I set my sights on the harder San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list, which I completed in 2021. In addition, I have conquered several Six-Pack of Peaks challenges (SoCal, San Diego, Central Coast, and Arizona-Winter). Beyond attempting the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list a second time, I am looking forward to exploring new summits and new adventures across the southwest. 

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