Thursday, September 26, 2013
So, four days ago I was standing at the highest point of the contiguous United States. Higher than anywhere else, yo. And I got there on my own two feet.
We started before dawn with headlamps. The plan was to start at 4:00, but we lagged and didn't get on the trail until 5:00 am. If you ever want to hike this trail, start earlier rather than later.
My buddy the Blue Jay near Lone Pine Lake. Hikers either feed him or drop food inadvertently.
Meadow near Mirror Lake
More meadows on the way up the trail
Consultation Lake. Almost to Trail Camp!
Partway up the billion and one switchbacks. It's usually called 96, 97, or 99 Switchbacks, but has anyone ever counted them? I sure wasn't going to!
Trail crest! Those switchbacks are behind us!
Looking back into the Sequoia National Park.
The first gnarly bridge. The wind was blowing so hard, I was a little nervous to get blown off the mountain.
This was maybe the worst part. You get to the top of the switchbacks and think you're home free. Then you see how far you need to go the shack is a title tiny dot on the top of the furthest peak. My husband actually thought it got further away from us!
We made it! It was FREEZING! The wind was blowing so hard. I had to go into the shack to add clothing, since I wasn't exerting myself as much. After taking a few pictures of course...
Now came the hard part. It was actually a surprise to some, that the way down was just as long as the way up. My husband, who I could just throw under the bus here, was in some major pain. Maybe because the longest hike he did all summer was 4 miles? Did I mention the round trip to the top of Mt. Whitney is 22? Anyway, he lagged. Big time. I waited for him no less than two hours over the course of the trail. I should have timed it.
The backside of the mountain (Trail Crest to peak) is very rugged, the drop offs can be steep, and the wind was howling. As someone who is pretty afraid of heights, I was soooo happy to see the top of the switchbacks.
I thought once we got to the eastern side of the crest, the wind would drop off. I was wrong. And waiting for my husband sucked because it was so cold.
Filling up our water and running out of daylight.
I think when I took this picture, we were still almost 5 miles from the trailhead.
Well, as you might be able to tell from the last photo, we did not finish in daylight as I had originally planned. I had anticipated us to take 8 hours on the way up and 6 hours on the way down. With our late start, that still would have put us a little behind, but it still took us 9 hours to get up and 7 hours to get back to the car. I blame my husband who thought his active job would adequately prepare him. ::eyeroll::
What I brought as far as food was good, as I didn't really have any altitude issues other than breathing a little heavier. We should have filled up our water at trail camp instead of the spring a mile or two before, but we had read that there was a spring on the way up the switchbacks. Unfortunately, we didn't see it which meant hubby went a few miles without water. Side note - we did use a water filter made for the backcountry. There are mountaineers that will dip and sip, but the last thing I wanted to have at the top of Whitney was diarrhea. Just saying.
If I were ever to do this hike again, I would camp, even if it was just one night. The worst part of he hike was getting to the bottom of the switchbacks and realizing you still have 6 miles left. I would still get up super early, dropo camp at Trail Camp and then summit with a small camelback, come down and pass out in my tent, and then take a leisurely stroll back to the care the next day after sleeping in. That last six miles blows, and the last three blow three times as hard.
It was definitely an experience and it was gorgeous. However, there are many, many gorgeous places in the Eastern Sierras so this hike is really about the accomplishment, you know? Bragging rights. That being said, I don't think Mt. Whitney is an unattainable goal for almost anyone - was it harder than a Marathon? If it was, not by much.
So if this is something you're ever crazy enough to want to do, go for it! If you have any questions, I would be happy to try and help.