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The raising of Whitney (and the downdrop of the Owens Valley) is due to the same geological forces that cause the Basin and Range Province: the crust of much of the intermontane west is slowly being stretched.In the last 2 to 10 million years, the Sierra was pushed up which enabled glacial and river erosion to strip the upper layers of rock to reveal the resistant granite that makes up Mount Whitney today.Despite losing out on their preferred name, residents of Lone Pine financed the first trail to the summit, engineered by Gustave Marsh, and completed on July 22, 1904. Bureau of Fisheries employee Byrd Surby was struck and killed by lightning while eating lunch on the exposed summit.Just four days later, the new trail enabled the first recorded death on Whitney. In response to this event, Marsh began work on the stone hut that would become the Smithsonian Institution Shelter, and completed it in 1909.The mountain is the highest point on the Great Basin Divide.Waterways on the west side of the peak flow into Whitney Creek, which flows into the Kern River. During very wet years, water overflows from the Tulare Basin into the San Joaquin River which flows to the Pacific Ocean.An older plaque on the summit (sheet metal with black lettering on white enamel) reads "elevation 14,496.811 feet" but this was estimated using the older vertical datum (NGVD29) from 1929.Since then the shape of the Earth (the geoid) has been estimated more accurately.
The steep eastern side of the mountain offers a variety of climbing challenges.
Applications are accepted from February 1 through March 15.
Any permits left over after the lottery is completed typically go on sale April 1.
From the east, water from Mount Whitney flows to Lone Pine Creek, which joins the Owens River, which in turn terminates at Owens Lake, an endorheic lake of the Great Basin.
The estimated elevation of the summit of Mount Whitney has changed over the years.
Permits are required year round, and to prevent overuse a limited number of permits are issued by the Forest Service between May 1 and November 1.