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Re: Onion Valley or Cottonwood Lakes to Whitney?

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avatar Onion Valley or Cottonwood Lakes to Whitney?
January 17, 2013 10:53AM
Hi Everyone,

I have a choice to make. Does anyone have a preference of which trek is better: Onion Valley to Whitney Portal or Cottonwood Lakes to Langley to Whitney Portal? Please help me with factors to consider. We are shooting for late July, early August.
Re: Onion Valley or Cottonwood Lakes to Whitney?
January 17, 2013 12:42PM
Hmmm... my hunch is that most people would find the Onion Valley - Whitney trek a bit more scenic than that from Cottonwood Lakes, and (except for the area near Cottonwood Lakes) it would be more crowded (it's the JMT, PCT, and part of the HST...), but getting permits for Onion Valley is probably going to be more difficult than for Cottonwood Lakes (and the Whitney exit permit could very well be harder than either...) You can't go wrong with either itinerary, though... How many days do you plan to be on-trail?
avatar Re: Onion Valley or Cottonwood Lakes to Whitney?
January 17, 2013 01:24PM
Thanks Basilbop. We will be on the trail 5-7 days, so time is a factor, except for getting the permits. Any tips on getting the permits?
Re: Onion Valley or Cottonwood Lakes to Whitney?
January 17, 2013 02:53PM
5-7 days should be more than enough time from either direction. In terms of permits, get them as early as possible, especially if starting from Onion Valley--via the Inyo National Forest website (Inyo NF Permit Page). The best bet is to avoid starting/ending on a weekend or holiday. Unlike most Sierra trips, you will need both an entry permit (Onion Valley or Cottonwood Lakes or Cottonwood Pass) and a Whitney Zone exit permit. Note that some people use Trail Pass to avoid entry quotas out of the Horseshoe Meadows area--it's another option.

Oh, also note that you will need bear canisters (probably one per person) for this trip--they can be rented from the USFS, but if you haven't used one, you'll need to experiment with cramming several days worth of food into one.
avatar Re: Onion Valley or Cottonwood Lakes to Whitney?
January 18, 2013 11:25AM
We have the equipment, its the logistics and familiarity with the area that I need help with. I'm not familiar with "Trail Pass". What is that?
Re: Onion Valley or Cottonwood Lakes to Whitney?
January 18, 2013 02:22PM
They are both nice but I would go with Onion Valley. Kearsarge Pass, Bubbs Creek, Forester Pass, the basin south of Forester and Bighorn Plateau make it tough to beat. There are so many side peaks along the way to enhance the experience. Crowd factor shouldn't be bad as there are some out of this world camping opportunities. Here is a link to some photos, enjoy smiling smiley

http://calicokat.smugmug.com/Hiking/Sierra-Nevada/Onion-Valley/24404000_bWxfmx
avatar Re: Onion Valley or Cottonwood Lakes to Whitney?
January 18, 2013 03:50PM
Great stuff. Thanks for sharing



Chick-on is looking at you!
avatar Re: Onion Valley or Cottonwood Lakes to Whitney?
January 18, 2013 04:08PM
Thanks. Those photos are helpful.
Re: Onion Valley or Cottonwood Lakes to Whitney?
January 23, 2013 05:45PM
I've done both and like them both. Onion Valley is a little harder and longer but much more scenic. Cottonwood is fun too. I would use new or old army pass if going out of cottonwood regardless if you are planning on doing Langley. IMHO cottonwood pass is easier but kind of boring, sandy and dry. Are you peak bagging or fishing on the way? What are your abilities and how far do you want to hike daily? 5- 7 days will give you a lot of time to enjoy the area. Crowds really aren't too bad either way until you hit Crabtree meadows. From that point on you will have lots of company but it's still fun and such a beautiful area.

They only issue 15 trail crest exit permits a day. You need to reserve those 6 months in advance on the site that Basilbop referenced. They go fast so you need to decide in like 2 weeks.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 01/23/2013 05:46PM by apeman45.
Re: Onion Valley or Cottonwood Lakes to Whitney?
January 23, 2013 09:40PM
You also might consider Trail Pass from Horseshoe Meadows if you are not absolutely sure of the day/time you're going to pick up your permit. There is no quota going up to the PCT from here, although it is five or so miles longer than from Horseshoe Meadows over Cottonwood Pass. Also, just before you enter Sequoia National Park on the PCT, the trail does a horseshoe. At the head of the horseshoe hike up 150' vertical and a couple hundred yards total to an absolutely stunning little lake/tarn right at timberline. It has a gorgeous view over Whitney Meadow over to the Western Divide area. Just gorgeous. Perfect for the last night before heading out to Horseshoe Meadows or the first night after getting a permit, etc.
avatar Re: Onion Valley or Cottonwood Lakes to Whitney?
January 24, 2013 11:44AM
Thanks Apeman and Jeffery. I was hoping someone who had hiked both would reply. We are experienced hikers, although 7 days on the trail will be my longest trek. I think better scenery trumps easier trail, and dry and sandy are cons. We will bag a couple of peaks, may fish a little and swim a little if the weather cooperates.

I noticed the exit permits are the key to the whole trek, so I will shoot for Onion valley first but may have to use cottonwood as plan B if we need to shorten the trek by a day or 2 to get the exit permit.

If we enter through Trail Pass, do we still need the exit permit?
Re: Onion Valley or Cottonwood Lakes to Whitney?
January 24, 2013 12:01PM
Quote
Coolburn
If we enter through Trail Pass, do we still need the exit permit?

Yes - you always need a permit to be in the Mt. Whitney Zone, even if you are just day-hiking. If you come from the backcountry and exit through Whitney Portal, you need an exit permit.
Re: Onion Valley or Cottonwood Lakes to Whitney?
January 24, 2013 02:02PM
Quote
Royalist
Quote
Coolburn
If we enter through Trail Pass, do we still need the exit permit?

Yes - you always need a permit to be in the Mt. Whitney Zone, even if you are just day-hiking. If you come from the backcountry and exit through Whitney Portal, you need an exit permit.

Minor clarification: if you enter the backcountry from Inyo National Forest (which includes Onion Valley and Cottonwood Lakes...) and exit via the Whitney Zone, you need an exit permit; however, if you enter from elsewhere (such as Sequoia, Kings Canyon, or Yosemite), you don't need one.

Exception to the above clarification: if you are using a PCT thru-hiking permit, you need a special endorsement to enter the Whitney Zone regardless of your entrypoint.
Re: Onion Valley or Cottonwood Lakes to Whitney?
February 04, 2013 05:55PM
However, you don't need an exit permit if you don't want to climb Mt. Whitney. I've heard though, if you want to climb Mt. Whitney, a permit is much easier to get if you enter and leave from the west.

You might hike from Horseshoe Meadows over Trail Pass, down to Corral Meadow to the Kern River. Then you hike north up the river and head east at Wallace Creek or Tyndall Creek. Wright Lakes and Wallace Lakes basins are supposed to be spectacular and you can bag peaks out of both.

You can follow the river to its headwaters in the Lake South America area - an incredible basin of lakes at 12,000'. There is fishing all along the Kern River. You have a couple choices to cross over to the PCT from the headwall at the south end of the Lake South America plateau. When I did this trip four years ago I had an itinerary of campsites lined out at bear boxes. We were NOT required to carry bear cannisters.

Here's a topo of the north end of the trip.



You can also head up into Miter Basin at the head of Rock Creek and the Siberian Pass and Army Pass areas and spend more time fishing and ridge/peak bagging. Supposedly the view over into Whitney Basin is spectacular. I think you could figure out a way to spend seven days in this area with no problem.



Have fun!

Jeff.
avatar Re: Onion Valley or Cottonwood Lakes to Whitney?
February 05, 2013 12:07PM
Thanks Jeff, and everyone else,

We were able to secure entry passes from Onion Valley and exit from the Whitnet portal, so I look forward to a long, fun trek.
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