This post is the first in a three-part series about hiking Mount Whitney with a few unexpected twists: a wildfire, an alternate trip, and eventually, a solo summit.
It wasn't supposed to happen like this. We were supposed to be driving southeast to hike to the summit of Mount Whitney. But there we were, heading north on a bright, sunny day to the Trinity Alps instead.
I had been eyeing Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous United States, since writing about moving to California. When I submitted my permit application to hike it, mine became one of thousands entered into the annual lottery. In 2017, there were over 15,000 applications for 100 day use permits and 60 overnight permits up for grabs per day between May 1st and November 1st.
So in March, when I got the email that I had "won" an overnight camping permit, I was elated, nearly bouncing out of my chair. I had even gotten one of my preferred entry dates: Wednesday, July 11th, 2018. I requested it because the snow was likely to melt out on the infamous 99 switchbacks by then, and because it coincided with a new moon—favorable conditions for shooting the Milky Way. Immediately, I emailed Grace to see if she wanted in. The answer was yes, and we began what would become months of planning for our first Mount Whitney summit attempt.