Mount Whitney: The Complete Trailhead-to-Summit Guide, Second Edition
by Paul Richins, Jr.
(updated 9/14/08)

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Mount Whitney: The Complete Trailhead-to-Summit Guide, Second Edition, by Paul Richins, Jr., Mountaineer Books, Seattle, WA, April 2008, 15 hiking routes, detailed maps, trail profile tables and charts, 40+ photos, and 256 pages. The Second Edition has been completley rewritten, updated, and expanded, and is the definitive guide for ascending Mount Whitney by any hiking route during the summer or the winter. Contents of this page include: [Highlights] [Reviews] [Forward by Steve Roper] [Table of Contents]

Click on Mount Whitney: The Complete Trailhead-to-Summit Hiking Guide, to purchase the guidebook from It is also available at selected bookstores and speciality outdoor hiking and climbing stores.

Paul Richins, Jr. has completely revised and expanded the ultimate resource for ascending to the lofty summit of the highest peak in the lower forty-eight United States. Whether you are planning your first ascent or are an experienced veteran, the newly released Second Edition contains a wealth of valuable information that will help you be safe and successful whether climbing in the summer or the winter. The highlights of Mount Whitney: The Complete Trailhead-to-Summit Guide include:
  • Fifteen hiking routes (including the Mount Whitney Trail) to the summit
  • Three new routes not included in the First Edition
  • Routes from 12 to 96 miles long
  • Ten hiking routes follow established trails
  • Five other routes require cross-country travel (Class 2 hiking) in combination with trail hiking
  • A new chapter on climbing Mount Whitney in the Winter
  • Equipment Checklist for winter ascents (new)
  • New trail profile graphs and charts for quick reference
  • Detailed maps and mileage chart graphically depicting the elevation gain and loss of each trail
  • Major route variations and enjoyable side trips (new)
  • Wilderness permit requirements and the Whitney Lottery, explained and updated
  • Route descriptions for ascending six other fourteeners--Mount Sill, Split Mountain, Mount Tyndall, Mount Muir, Mount Russell, Mount Langley (expanded and updated)
  • List of California's 14,000-foot peaks and 14,000-foot subpeaks (updated)
  • Packing light recommendations and equipment checklists (new)
  • Menu Planner and gourmet recipes (expanded and updated)
  • List of Mount Whitney firsts
  • Physical conditioning suggestions (new)
  • Mountain medicine and altitude sickness thoroughly addressed
  • Daily itineraries and suggestions on camping locations (new)
  • Trip Planner with summaries of all the routes by distance and difficulty (new)
  • Many new exquisite photos
  • Trails and cross-country routes are described in illustrative detail

Paul Richins, has more than forty years of wilderness experience backpacking, hiking, climbing, and ski mountaineering. He is one of the preeminent experts on the Sierra Nevada backcountry and the Mount Whitney region with extensive experience hiking, backpacking, climbing, and backcountry skiing. He has skied from the summits of more than one hundred remote peaks in the Sierra Nevada (including Mount Whitney). Paul Richins is author of three other popular hiking and backcountry skiing guidebooks--Trekking California, 50 Classic Backcountry Ski and Snowboard Summits in California: Mount Shasta to Mount Whitney, and Best Short Hikes in California's South Sierra. He is interested in your feedback and will be glad to answer any questions ( He lives in the Sierra Nevada foothills east of Sacramento, California.

Ascending Mount Whitney by one of the 15 trails/hiking routes described in Mount Whitney: The Complete Trailhead-to-Summit Hiking Guide is not technically difficult but does require good planning, stamina and persistence. Whether you have climbed the peak before or are planning your first ascent, this guide will equip you with the necessary information for a safe and enjoyable climb. In a typical year, about 30,000 hikers secure a wilderness permit for Mount Whitney while many others are denied access due to trail quotas. Of these 30,000 hikers, only about one in three attempting the peak successfully reach the summit, a relatively high attrition rate given the fact that there are excellent trails to the top. This guidebook will increase your chances of securing a wilderness permit, improve the likelihood of a successful trip while encouraging the use of many wonderful routes other than the crowded Mount Whitney Trail.

What distinguishes Mount Whitney: The Complete Trailhead-to-Summit Hiking Guide is that it not only includes the popular Whitney Trail but features 14 other trails and cross-country hiking routes. These other routes traverse some of the most magnificent terrain imaginable and are far removed from the hundreds of hikers swarming the Whitney Trail. Besides the wilderness experience of using a route other than the Whitney Trail, your odds of securing a wilderness permit is greatly enhanced. Selecting any of the routes described in this guide will result in an outstanding trip long remembered. [Purchase Mount Whitney: The Complete Trailhead-to-Summit Guide]

Reviews--What Others Have Said
I have received many emails and positive comments thanking me for writing such a comprehensive guide to the most popular mountain in California. Below are a few sample reviews.

As a climbing guide, I like to say that my function is to make myself useless. To teach. Paul Richins' book steals much of that thunder. For your adventure on Mount Whitney, this book is all you need. Unless you want to rope up on the East Face, read this instead. Paul will show you how to succeed where 2 out of 3 fail. He can help you get a scarce wilderness permit simply by shifting seasons or taking one of the many and fascinating back doors to the mountain. And he is wise about travelling light. The journey is the reward, and yours will be richer with this guidebook.

--Doug Robinson, First President, American Mountain Guides Association and owner of the guide service, Moving Over Stone. Author of the highly successful book entitled, "A Night on the Ground, A Day in the Open".

This very comprehensive guide has everything that one needs to know for a first-time hike up the Mount Whitney Trail or the exploration of a more remote, less-traveled route. It will be welcomed by hikers and cross-country ramblers seeking the apex of the roof of California.

--R.J. Secor, author, The High Sierra: Peaks, Passes and Trails, and Trails and Mexico's Volcanoes: A Climbing Guide, Aconcagua: A Climbing Guide, and Denali Climbing Guide

This is not just a guidebook. It's a love song to Mount Whitney and its nearby brothers over 14,000 feet high, and to the High Sierra region surrounding these granite siblings. A very impressive guidebook with everything you need to know about hiking to the top of Whitney and back. Buy it, make plans, and hit the trail!"

--Royal Robbins, Yosemite rock climbing pioneer

Many of the routes Richins has chosen lie in timberline country, that narrow zone lying between the lowland forests and the naked crags above. Traveling through this region is usually easy, and the vistas are endless. Paul Richins knows this region as few do. His love for the Range of Light shines on every page and I hope that more Sierra books from him are in the offing. I'll look forward to them.

--Steve Roper, author of Camp 4: Recollections of a Yosemite Rockclimber, Sierra High Route: Traversing Timberline Country, Fifty Classic Climbs of North America, and many others

My boyfriend and I climbed Mount Whitney (via Route 11) following the detailed narrative descriptions and maps included in this popular guidebook. The author's attention to detail sets it apart from all other books on Whitney. This comprehensive guide has everything one needs to know for a first-time hike to the summit of Whitney or for exploring a more remote, less traveled route to the top of this coveted peak. Along the way, we used the author's meticulous route descriptions to explore off-trail and visit Sky-Blue Lake, one of the most beautiful spots in the entire Sierra Nevada. I was concerned about altitude sickness before leaving for the trek. Although I experienced the affects of the high altitude for a day, I followed the advice contained in the guidebook and was able to successfully climb the peak with no further complications. We used the bear-proof food boxes noted in the guidebook placed by the National Park Service at several of our camps. I highly recommend this guidebook, as it not only details the popular Whitney Trail, but 14 other treks that get you away from the crowds and lead you through spectacular mountain terrain you will long remember. I returned to Mount Whitney two more times to capture the alpenglow on Whitney's east face (Routes 6 and 7) and hike the remote seldom-visited segments of Route 10. The Second Edition builds on the First Edition and provides even more detailed information, adds three more hiking routes, suggests many wonderful side trips to explore, and adds a chapter for those interested in climbing Whitney in the winter.

---A backpacking enthusiast in Northern California

Forward, by Steve Roper
In 1954 I approached the top of Mount Whitney as a pilgrim might approach Mecca. Having dreamed of this moment for several years, I raced up that final level path with my heart thumping--and not just from the altitude.

I had been lucky enough to attend the first-ever Sierra Club Wilderness Base Camp, and one of the lures of this ten-day outing had been the possibility of climbing Whitney at the end, if the weather cooperated. It did, and that stifling August day still sparks my memory. How thrilled I was to stand on the highest spot in the Lower Forty-Eight! Far below, to the east, the dull Owens Valley quivered in the haze. In the other three directions rose uncountable peaks, nameless and unclimbed as far as I knew. This wasn't true, but the mystery seized me. My mountaineering career began at this very moment. I was thirteen.

I've been back to those sere summit rocks three times since, by various routes. Much of the attraction, of course, is that never-to-be-changed fact: the highest spot of our contiguous country is a desirable goal simply because of its preeminent position. Yet Whitney's human history also draws me in. Those striplings King and Cotter named the mountain for their boss but ended up on the wrong peak, and Josiah Whitney must have been both pleased and pained. King's later failures even now make us cringe. John Muir's shunning the easy way up makes us aware of challenges then and now. The Smithsonian experiments cause us to ponder the heavens. The pioneering ascent of the formidable east face alerts us to the "impossible." All these stories, so well related by Paul Richins in this book, add spice to the ascent, no matter which route you take.

Although the summit of Whitney is the end result of each hike described herein, it's the chase rather than the conquest that should appeal to many readers. Days might go by before you reach the summit--and these might well be the best days of your life. The interior of the High Sierra, invisible from any road and visited by relatively few people, is one of the magical spots on our planet. Elegant lakes occupy grand cirques. Streams of diamond clarity dart toward the canyons below. Marmots whistle from the talus, and mountain bluebirds hawk for insects near their nests in golden snags. Wildflowers. Meadows. Paradise.

Many of the routes Richins has chosen lie in timberline country, that narrow zone lying between the lowland forests and the naked crags above. Traveling through this region is usually easy, and the vistas are endless. On a clear day--which is the rule during the summer and early fall--you can reach out and touch peaks a dozen miles away, or so it seems. Sometimes thunderstorms disturb the calm, and shadows race each other across the landscape. The mountains tremble and the wind howls. What a time to be setting up camp and gazing out into a true wilderness!

Paul Richins knows this region as few do. His love for the Range of Light shines on every page, and I hope that more Sierra books from him are in the offing. I'll look forward to them.

--Steve Roper, author of Camp 4: Recollections of a Yosemite Rockclimber, Sierra High Route: Traversing Timberline Country, Fifty Classic Climbs of North America, and many others

[Purchase Mount Whitney: The Complete Trailhead-to-Summit Guide]

Table of Contents

Foreword, by Steve Roper
Preface to the Second Edition
A Note About Safety
Author's Note of Caution

History-A Short Record of the Past
Just How High Is Mount Whitney?
How to Use This Guidebook

Thoughtful Planning
Thorough Preparation
Perseverance and Discipline
Going Light-What to Take
Alpine Cuisine-What to Eat
When to Go
Wilderness Permits-Do I Need One?
Protect the Fragile Alpine Ecology
Trail Tips for a Single-Day Ascent
Moonlight Ascent

Mountain Medicine and First Aid
Water Safety
Wildlife Encounters

Safety and Survival
Snow Shelters
When Is the Best Time to Go?
Avalanche Awareness
Winter Gear
Winter Routes

Route 1: Bishop Pass Trail
Route 2: Taboose Pass Trail
Route 3: Kearsarge Pass Trail
Route 4: University Pass Route
Route 5: Shepherd Pass Trail
Route 6: Mountaineers Route
Route 7: Circumnavigation Route of Mount Whitney
Route 8: Mount Whitney Trail
Route 9: Meysan Lake Route
Route 10: New Army Pass Route
Route 11: Cottonwood Pass Trail

Route 12: Bubbs Creek Trail
Route 13: Avalanche Pass Trail
Route 14: High Sierra Trail
Route 15: Farewell Gap Trail


Appendix 1: California's Fourteeners
Appendix 2: Summary of Routes by Difficulty
Appendix 3: Going-Light Equipment Checklists
Appendix 4: Menu Planner
Appendix 5: Information Resources
Appendix 6: A Brief History-A List of Facts and Firsts
Appendix 7: Glossary
Appendix 8: Selected Bibliography and References  

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Backcountry_Resource_Center--Paul Richins, Jr.

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