Mt. Whitney: Human Waste
Pack It Out!
To maintain the integrity and beauty of Mt. Whitney, all visitors should pack out their human waste. Currently, this is the best way to manage your waste in the Whitney Zone. Since 2006, trail users have packed out an enormous amount of waste; 7,000 to 8,000 pounds per year! The majority of hikers use this waste disposal method because they realize how awful conditions would be if nobody packed out their waste. Waste kits are becoming a standard means of controlling human waste in public lands throughout the west.
Lots of people: At Mt. Whitney, there was a time when no special methods were required for disposing of human waste. Those days are gone. This is the most popular wilderness destination in the Sierra Nevada. Despite daily use limits, Mt. Whitney continues to be overwhelmed with visitors. During the summer, up to 178 people per day are issued permits to climb Mt. Whitney from the east. Hundreds more day hike lower portions of the area, where permits are not required. In addition, about 100 people per day are issued permits to climb the west side of Mt. Whitney and descend the Mt. Whitney Trail. Hundreds of people may be in the area on a busy summer day. Lots of people produce lots of poop!
Not a lot of dirt: Much of the terrain in the Mt. Whitney area is solid granite with little or no soil. The climate is dry and cold for most of the year. In such an environment, feces decompose very slowly.
No toilets: There are public toilets are at the trailhead, but not along the trails. In the past, toilets were located along the Mt. Whitney Trail. Despite numerous renovations and retrofits, they never functioned properly and were overwhelmed with waste. Sometimes the toilets and related cesspools overflowed. The toilets were removed several years ago.
Waste Kits are distributed with permits. They can be used for multiple days. After you use a waste kit, pack it out and deposit it in the designated containers at the trailhead. Packing out your waste might be awkward at first, but it’s a breeze once you do it!