Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Permit

About 2-1/2 miles up the Whitney trail, you enter the Whitney Zone which requires a permit for all hikers, even day hikers. Because of high traffic on the trail and environmental damage from high numbers of people, the forest service instituted a strict permitting system that limits the number of people entering the Whitney Zone each day to no more than 100 people. Since demand in the summer far exceeds that number, they have a lottery system. You send in your application in February with a permit fee ($30) and a list of dates you would accept in priority order (you can list as many dates as you want). In March, they start doing a drawing from all applications received on time and they just draw them one by one and give you the first date on your application that is still available. In April, they let you know what did or didn't get.

Because of snow conditions, the later you can go in the summer, the better your chances are. But Kevin was planning on taking a two week summer school class the first two weeks of August and then he starts school so August was out. I sent in an application for basically any three nights in July. Then, Kevin applied to this science program at the University of Santa Cruz which is all of July. We weren't sure Kevin would get into this highly competitive science program, but a couple days before the deadline, I decided to send in a second application for any three nights in June, but clearly listing out the later days in June as our first priority because snow can really still be an issue in June.

What I had read on the web was that if you get your application in on time and you include a number of mid-week options that don't have Friday, Saturday or Sunday in them, you will probably get something. I was really, really hoping we'd get something workable. Somewhere in early April, we got a rejection for the first application I had sent in for the July dates. My heart sunk - now it all depends on the second application for the June dates. I started to wonder if all the planning and training so far would be for naught. 

Then, a couple weeks later, we got the permit for the nights of June 23-25th. Not the very end of June, but way better than the early days in June. Then, Kevin got into the Cosmos science program for July so the June dates were the good ones for us anyway. The trip was on - yeah. Now we had something concrete to plan for.

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