Mt. Whitney History
"The culminating peak of the Sierra" was discovered in 1864, by a California Geological Survey team, and named "Mt. Whitney" after the teams leader, Josiah Whitney.
A member of the survey team, Clarence King, attempted to climb Whitney twice during their trip but was not successful. He returned in 1871 and successfully summited -- or so he and everyone else believed for some time. In reality he had accidentally climbed what today is known as Mt. Langley. When his error was discovered two ears later, he returned to California to try again. He did summit Whitney on September 19, but made the fourth ascent.
The first ascent was made by three local fishermen, Charley Begole, Johnny Lucas, and Al Johnson. These three friends reached the summit at noon on August 18, 1873.
Residents of the Owens Valley wanted to name the mountain "Fisherman's Peak" to pay homage to the first summiters. When this name was challenged they proposed the name "Dome of Inyo". Over the next two years, the local newspaper published many articles arguing this issue. Finally a bill which would make "Fisherman's Peak" the official name was introduce d in the State Legislature. A strange twist of fate bought the bill before the Senate on April Fools Day, 1881, where they frivolously amended it to read "Fowler's Peak." The Governor ended the silliness by vetoing the bill, and so today the original name stands: Mount Whitney.
John Muir made his first ascent of Whitney on October 21, 1873. Muir was the first person to climb Whitney from the east via what is today known as the Mountaineers Route. He had attempted to summit via the southwest, as those before him, but had retreated to Independence after a cold night out, returning to summit by this new route.