Preparing for Mt. Whitney?

Mount Whitney, 12/2012
Mt. Whitney, David Husted, Flickr

Any trip into Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks wilderness is a challenge and is a risk. But nothing will prepare you more for the daunting hike than tackling the web-encrusted tangle that is

To hike Mt. Whitney in the summer and fall (the season for mere mortals) you must somehow navigate the treacherous journey through corporate websites built for the government and answer these riddles three. Ok. I’ll stop joking, but here’s some tips for winning the Mt. Whitney lottery.

For 2021, the lottery is open for six weeks, beginning Feb. 1-March 15. Now is the time to get your group together and buy multiple lottery tickets for a better chance at winning the date of your choice. Here’s what I’ve learned from my online gambling addiction on

1. Name your group leaders so that there’s more options if anyone drops out.

2. Try to shift your “weekend” so that you have plenty of days and are not hiking on a Saturday. Ideally, you could arrive, acclimate for a day or two and pick up your permit, spend an ENTIRE DAY hiking to the roof of the continental US, and recover, basking like a collared lizard in the eastern Sierra Nevada sun and desert.

Great Basin Collared Lizard
Great Basin Collared Lizard. Photographed by Brad Schram, Inyo County, Flickr.

3. Consider a backpacking trip if you have more time. Coming from Lodgepole is a long way, but a more gradual and less crowded climb than doing the up and back stair-stepper in one day. It’s also easier to get permits.

4. Overestimate your group size, including room for one or two of your flaky friends who at the last minute will want to join. (That used to be me on all river trips.)

5. Be flexible and respond quickly to reserve your space when the lottery is announced at the end of March. Which gives you plenty of time to get training!

I hope you win the 14,505-ft Lotto–which is not the man-made system, though I hope that for you too. It’s a blue sky and solitude on Mt. Whitney.

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