Hiking Tips: Your Guide To Scaling Mount Whitney

Check out these ultimate hiking tips before conquering the prime pinnacles of the West Coast.

Tim Shell is a veteran hiker who has climbed 17 peaks across the United States and summitted Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous 48 states. After years of ascending formidable peaks, Shell has accumulated a toolbox of tricks to ensure his preparation and climbing go smoothly. Check out his hiking tips to make the most of your trek.

Hiking Tips: Your Guide To Scaling West Coast Summits
Mount Whitney Summit. Photo: Tim Shell

Training Regimen

Hiking Tips: Your Guide To Scaling West Coast Summits
Training. Photo Unsplash: Sébastien Goldberg

While training for a strenuous hike can sound daunting, a simple commitment to daily exercise can help you get ready to hit the trail. Shell suggested getting outside and walking for at least 30 minutes every day to prepare for your longer treks. Shell encouraged hikers to prioritize time throughout the week for refreshing strolls and explained that intentional exercise has holistic benefits that extend beyond physical gains.

“Training can take many forms and will be different for each person,” Shell said.

“I would advise people to get outside and just start walking around your neighborhood and near your office at lunchtime. I usually try to get some exercise at least five days a week with a bigger hike usually once a month. 30 minutes of brisk walking every day will do wonders for your physical, mental and spiritual well-being.”

West Coast Hikes

Hiking Tips: Your Guide To Scaling West Coast Summits
Grand Canyon. Facebook: Michael Shainblum Photography

Shell highlighted several of his favorite hikes that display the unique and varied beauty of the West Coast. The Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim expedition is a strenuous 24-mile trek through Arizona’s premier chasm that plunges the hiker into a barren maze of sandy reddish-gray rocks that gleam under the sun’s unrelenting rays. If you would rather take a jaunt alongside the deep blue San Dieguito River, take the annual Coast to Crest Trail Challenge. Hikers must complete five trails ranging from 1.75 to 5.5 miles by a specified date and send selfies to the Conservancy as proof of completion. Trail details can be found on the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy website.

For Shell, selfies are not the sole proof of his many hikes—his plethora of pins proves his perambulating prowess.

“I have been collecting pins that show the survey markers from the top of the most significant peaks I have summitted,” Shell said.

“I have a total of 17 pins for mountain tops, two pins for my Grand Canyon Rim to Rim hike and two pins commemorating groups of hikes in the Anza Borrego desert and for the Coast to Crest Challenge along the San Dieguito River Park.”

California Peaks

Hiking Tips: Your Guide To Scaling West Coast Summits
Mount Whitney. Photo: Unsplash: Jeremy Bishop


Hiking Tips: Your Guide To Scaling West Coast Summits
Climbing Mount Whitney. Photo: Tim Shell Photo

After an initially painful trek up Mount Whitney, Shell has braved the craggy crest—a monstrous, snow-dusted peak that towers over the vast Sierra Nevada range—six more times. Shell’s seven successful summits have strengthened his body and conditioned him to rest and recuperate after a long day of climbing.

“It is good to listen to your body and recover as needed after a strenuous hike,” Shell said.
The first time I climbed Mount Whitney I was so sore and stiff I thought I would never do it again.  Now after completing my seventh annual summit, my body has adapted to the stress and strain, and after a good night’s sleep I feel better.”

Along with Mount Whitney, Shell has climbed the slate-gray Mount San Jacinto—which at 10,834 feet is the highest peak in Riverside County—and Mount Woodson, a 2,894-foot mountain with a paper-thin ledge at the top known as Potato Chip Rock.

“My favorite is Mount Whitney because that is the highest in the continental U.S., it can be completed in a long day and it is challenging,” Shell said.  “My next favorite is Mount San Jacinto because it is relatively close to home, it has multiple trails to the top, there are trees all the way to the top and it has the tram from Palm Springs. Mount Woodson in Poway is a good training hike because it is pretty challenging and has the unique Potato Chip Rock at the top.”

Bucket List

Hiking Tips: Your Guide To Scaling West Coast Summits
Denali. Photo Unsplash: Bryan Goff

Even after conquering so many pinnacles, Shell is not ready to hang up his hiking boots. His goal is to stand atop the highest point in each state from Alaska’s snowcapped Denali, whose soaring height of 23,310 feet cements it as the tallest peak in the country, to Colorado’s Mount Elbert, the loftiest mountain in the contiguous states whose windswept summit rises 14,440 feet above the Rockies.

“I am going to Mt. Baker in Washington state at the end of August to continue training for Mt. Hood and Mt. Rainier, the highest mountains in Oregon and Washington,” Shell said. “My bucket list includes climbing the highest peak in each state as I travel around the country in the future. I have checked off four high points so far.”

Experience the thrill of standing on top of the world when you visit these lofty peaks.

Hannah Larson

Contributing Editor

A southern California native, Hannah is a traveler and thrill seeker whose love of writing is matched only by her passion for adventure. From ziplining alongside Niagara Falls to paddleboarding in Lake Itasca, she is always on the lookout for exciting experiences in beautiful places. Her favorite national parks include the Great Smokies, Sequoia and Glacier because of the spectacular mountain views.

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