The extend of our North Fork experience is a trip up to Lower Boy Scout Lake during the winter, therefore, we can't be of much help to those hiking it in the summer. What we will discuss here is how to get permitted and which types of permits you will need to climb the various routes which are the MR.
The MR is handled like any other trail in the Inyo National Forest and is not a part of the Main Mt. Whitney Trail Lottery in February, except as a day hike. The first day you can get a permit for a MR hike/climb is six months prior to your date of entry, the Inyo refers to this route as the North Fork Lone Pine Creek.
So let's go over the various permutations of a MR trip.
The Inyo National Forest has combined the MMWT and MR for day hiking purpose into one trailhead starting in 2008. They are both a part of the Mt. Whitney Zone Day Use Quota. The daily quota is 100/daily. If you reserve in advance the fee is $15.00, walk-in walk away with a permit and a heavier wallet.
If you go up and down the MR you will need a standard backpacking permit which will cost $15 because you are entering the Whitney Zone, only on an advanced reservation; walk-ins are free. These permits become available six months prior to date of entry. Just call the Wilderness Reservation Office number that day, don't screw around with a fax.
If you go up the MR and go over Whitney-Russell Pass and access Mt. Whitney via the John Muir Trail and exit via the main trail you will also need a Trail Crest or exit permit. The Trail Crest quota is how the Inyo controls the flow of people to Mt. Whitney from its other trailheads. In 2002 the quota was 33, 19 of which are reservable. If you go down the MR you will not need no stinking exit permit.
Clear as mud, I hope ;-).
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