The popular 6-pack peak challenge [Wilson, Bernardino, Gorgonio, Cucamonga, Baldy and San Jacinto] is the go-to for southern California mountaineers when training for Mt. Whitney. But there are many more peaks you can bag during your Whitney training that are perfectly adequate.
I am a lazy alpinist when it comes hiking peaks for training. I hate permits, crowded trails and inaccessibility. I’ve gathered my favorite training peaks for those who want a different challenge. This will be fun and this will get you there!
First, what do you actually need for taking on Mt. Whitney? Let’s break down your goals ,
1st Goal: Elevation Gain.
This is the most important to me. Making those legs a hiking machine requires time. I chose 2 hikes with distance below 10 miles so you can really focus on elevation gain.
Distance: 8 miles
Duration: 5-6 hours
Max Elevation: 8,441′
Black Mountain Fire Tower
Distance: 8.87 mi
Duration: 4-5 hours
2nd Goal: Mileage.
In southern California, we are blessed with having the Pacific Crest Trail. This is my go to for distance. I simply find a place to hop on and hike in and out the distance I want to accomplish. Your mileage goal is also easy to tackle even at Griffith Park which has a ton of trails that can be explored. Here are some lengthy hikes as well, although these come with hefty elevation gain which can be hard to jump into.
Santiago Peak aka Saddleback Mountain.
o Distance: 15 miles
o Duration: 6 hours
o Gain: 4469′
o Max Elevation: 5,689′
Mt. Wilson via Chantry Flat.
o Distance: 14 miles
o Duration: 6-7 hours
o Gain: 4200′
o Max Elevation: 5,713′
3rd Goal: Altitude!
Some people are extremely sensitive to altitude changes. Some won’t be faced by it. Altitude sickness can be dangerous it’s good to know how your body reacts to elevation gain. These 3 hikes are in order of elevation and you should really pay attention how you feel during your hike and how you feel after. This will give you a chance to understand if you need further training. There are many methods for you to get your body to use oxygen more effectively.
Baden Powell via Vincent Gap
o Distance: 8.75 miles
o Duration: 4-5 hours
o Gain: 2,830′
o Max Elevation: 9,401′
Mt. Baldy loop. Ascent via Register Ridge and descent via Devil’s Backbone or Ski
o Distance: 7.18 mi
o Duration: 6 hrs
o Gain: 4,285
o Max Elevation: 10,084′
Cirque Peak via Cottonwood Pass. (One of my all time favorites)
o Distance: 15.1 mi
o Duration: Give it a good amount of time for camp and enjoyment
o Gain: 2945′
o Max Elevation: 12,900′
4th Goal: Gearhead!
I can sit here and talk about gear till your ears fall off. I don’t even know when I became one of these people but some of my most enjoyable conversations are with REI salesmen.
The reason I got into gear is because I struggled a lot in the beginning. My pack was always heavy. I was often dressed inadequately and underprepared for extreme weather conditions. Take it from someone currently typing this blog entry with 9 toenails, properly fitting pair of shoes with knowledge of shoe lacing techniques goes a long way. Before my last trek into Mt. Siguniang, I tested different set ups weekly. I had never gone above 20,000’ of elevation and let alone -40F. I went by myself and I didn’t want to leave any room for errors. Mt. Whitney is not the place for errors.
There is so much gear out there that is overwhelmingly difficult to put it together. Every person has different needs so it also requires trial and error on your part.
My advice is to prioritize what is important. Outdoor retailer salesmen will try to convince you to buy a $50 mug. That’s right! They are made out of Titanium; A metal with a very high melting point that it is used in space rockets’ parts so they won’t melt during take-offs. You’re not going to space. Laugh it off and save your pennies. You got down jackets to buy!
If you need information of this, feel free to contact me.
The great news if that if you need to test your feet, gear and ability all at one, I have the hike for you!
You can test all of your gear and skills with the Langley peak. I actually prefer Langley over Whitney. The challenge is nearly identical. They stand so close to each other that the views are similar. The trail is not crowded and the permit is free and you get it the day of the hike. This is a no hassle Mt. Whitney and you should definitely do it at some point in your life.
o Distance: 23 miles
o Duration: ~14 hrs. Plan to camp. Pair it up with Lone Pine and you got yourself the best weekend ever.
o Gain: 4,425
o Max Elevation: 14,026′
Hope you enjoy training for Mt Whitney and tackling all these awesome SoCal peaks. Climb on!