Mount Whitney, located in Inyo National Park in Lone Pine, California, is the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States. It is 14,505’ tall, and is attracting more hikers than ever. Due to the attention, the mountain’s inexperienced climbers have incurred numerous injuries this past year. So why are so many people attempting to climb this mountain unprepared?
Mount Whitney has been underestimated. People have been attempting the 22 mile round trip hike without any equipment. Experienced climbers are concerned, more about the mountain’s reputation than the actual inexperienced climbers. The mountain has been called “dangerous” and “unsafe for many” in the past year.
Megan Michelson, a mountaineer, wrote a news article on the catastrophe of Mount Whitney becoming overcrowded. She states many times that many people were unprepared before approaching the mountain and even while they were on it. In the shop located on Whitney portal, the beginning of the hike, she says a man asked if he needed crampons and hiking poles for his hike. Of course, this is an extreme hike, so this equipment is necessary. She also includes there were people wearing shorts and a t-shirt in the snow on the mountain, and that many of the hikers were not prepared for “the chute.” The chute is the 90’ high snow chute that hikers must ascend and descend if the mountain still has snow on the 99 switchbacks. She explains that some of the hikers were uncontrollably sliding down the chute, which is extremely dangerous and could lead to death. On her way back down, she also states that one woman had no way of slowing herself down and knocked down several other people in her path. This led a woman, in extreme shock, to fall moments after and tumble into rocks jutting out of the snow at the bottom of the chute.
There has also been two cases of solo-climbers dying on the mountain just this summer. One man, Ling Dao, was missing for three days until Mount Whitney’s air rescue team found his body on the north side of the mountain near the summit. His cause of death has still not been revealed, but many believe it was dehydration or altitude sickness.
This mountain is becoming popular, but the dangers and risks also must be discussed. The mountain is becoming too overcrowded, and the inexperienced, unprepared hikers have undergone too many injuries. People who want to endure on this adventure must be warned. The experienced hikers who have climbed dozens of 14’ers and hikers who have never climbed a mountain over 2,000’ have the same chances of death or injury. Everyone must prepare themselves mentally and physically, and they must know what they are getting themselves into. A 22 mile mountain hike is no joke, or “light work” and people need to start realizing this.