Mt. Whitney Trail is Now Open After Temporary Closure Due to Flooding

Release Date: Jul 30, 2011  

Contact(s): Nancy Upham (760) 873-2427

Many people spent a harrowing night last night, temporarily stranded on the Mt. Whitney Trail after a late afternoon thunderstorm down-pour caused major flooding in the Mt. Whitney area.  A number of hikers abandoned their gear in an attempt to ford the rising creeks to get down off the mountain, while Search and Rescue crews attempted to locate a person reportedy suffering from hypothermia.  Due to unknown trail damage, high water, and Search and Rescue efforts, the Mt. Whitney Trail was closed at approximately 9:00 Friday night.  Access roads were also temporarily closed and campers pulled out of Whitney Portal Campground as high water and mud ran through the campground.

According to District Ranger Margaret Wood, the  main Mt. Whitney Trail is scheduled to re-open to hikers today at 1:00.  The North Fork of Lone Pine Creek Trail will remain closed until high waters recede and trail damage is assessed.  It could re-open as early as tomorrow, once it has been determined that the trail is safely passable.  All access roads and Whitney Portal Campground are now open.

According to the Inyo County Sheriff’s Department, 21 people and two helicopters were involved in Search and Rescue efforts from Friday night through Saturday morning.  Involved in the effort were the China Lake Mountain Rescue Team and their helicopter, Inyo County Search and Rescue, Inyo County Sheriff’s Department, and Inyo National Forest employees and their helicopter.  This morning one person was airlifted from Mt. Whitney suffering from hypothermia, and Search and Rescue Teams contacted everyone on the trails, attempting to match up people with abandoned tents and gear to make sure that everyone was all right and capable of making it down the trail without assistance. 

Inyo County Sheriff Bill Lutze was on scene thankful that everyone made it down off the mountain safely.  “Under such adverse conditions, and with the large amount of water coming down the trail, we are very fortunate that there was only one hypothermic victim, and that there were no more injuries or fatalities,” he stated.  “I appreciate the patience of the public while we conducted our Search and Rescue operations, making sure that everyone made it down safely.”

Weather forecasts call for more thunderstorms throughout the weekend.  The Forest Service would like to remind hikers and backpackers to be aware of changing weather conditions and to be preparedwith the right gear and equipment .  Hikers should be aware of stream crossings and remember that waters can rise very quickly due to cloudbursts, especially when the rain is falling on snow that remains from the late winter.  It is important to be prepared to spend the night in case high waters or a washed out trail preclude access back to the trailhead.

For information about the trails and conditions please call 760-876-6200, visit the Inyo National Forest website at , or stop in at one of the visitor centers.