Weather on Mount Whitney in March

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of December 12-18, 1996
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Weather on Mount Whitney in March
Question: I want to climb Mount Whitney via the Whitney Portal in March but I can't find any information on weather conditions. I've done extensive winter camping, including the White Mountains. I'm planning on spending a week in Inyo, and some sources say it's close to 50-60 degrees in the valley, but I can't find anything on the mountain itself. Any help would be appreciated! Thanks a lot for your time.

John Van Hoesen
East Berne, NY
[email protected]

Adventure Adviser: Good thing you've got plenty of White Mountains winter camping experience under your belt, because Mount Whitney is pummeled by severe snow conditions and gale-force winds ("can feel like 70 mph," says Karen in the Whitney Ranger Station) from late November through Memorial Day. Summitting in March isn't out of the question, you'll just need to come prepared with a pack full of ice gear including crampons and telescoping poles.

Temperatures on the mountain drop considerably with every 1,000 feet you climb; expect single-digits at night at either of the two on-trail campsites (Trail Camp and Outpost Camp) and the in teens and twenties during the day, and don't forget to factor in windchill. Down in the Inyo Valley, between 3,300 and 4,000 feet, March temperatures are considerably more welcoming: upper 60s during the day and high twenties at night.

As I'm sure you know, the summit hike via Whitney Portal will tack on an extra four to six miles to the already-hefty 22-mile round-trip trek, due to the fact that the road to the trailhead is snowed-under through May.

One final note: You'll need to stop by the Mount Whitney Ranger Station to pick up a free hiking permit before you go. If the office is closed, you'll find blank permits and instructions in the drop-box next to the door. For additional weather and route information, call the rangers at 619-876-6200.

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