28 Aug Day 129 – Mt Whitney
At mile 772.7. Hiked 6.4 PCT miles today plus 15 miles to Mt Whitney summit and back plus 0.8 miles to return to the PCT. Total distance hiked today was 22.2 miles.
I was cold in the sleeping bag when I awoke to see that the ground had frozen.
I was up at 3:35 am and on the trail to Mt Whitney just after 4 am.
There was a nearly full moon so I left my headlamp turned off most of the time. Without the headlamp beam, I could actually see more of the surroundings. While the headlamp was on, I could only see the trail. Just to my left, I spooked a large animal, causing a loud scattering of rocks. Switching on my headlamp I saw that it was a large buck sporting an enormous rack of antlers. Once again extinguishing the headlamp, I gazed at the white cliffs and mountains rising around me. Stars and planets shone above the line where the sky joined the darkened mountains. The lower corner of Orion laid just above the mountain in my path. In the moonlight lakes and meadows were darker pools of calm.
The trail crested above Guitar Lake where I could spy distant headlamps just beginning to form in small groups and move out in lines. Tents around the lake glowed like lamps marking where others were still waking and packing for their turn to join the early morning ascent of Mount Whitney. As I moved through the lines of slowly moving headlamps, people thought it strange that I walked in the dark. Some wrongly assumed I didn’t have a headlamp. I thought it strange that they used headlamps on such a brightly lit and beautiful night.
I started climbing with Guitar Lake below me.
Many switchbacks later, I reached the junction with the Whitney Portal trail that ascends from the desert floor eastern approach. Soon after, I passed these 2 pinnacles. Only a few days earlier, while roaming the streets of Lone Pine, I had used these features to pick out Mount Whitney.
On top of Whitney.
Here is proof that I made it to the top of the highest point in the lower 48. After hiking a few thousand miles, I must truly be in great physical shape, because I was never out of breath for the entire climb. I arrived before 8 am after hiking 7.5 miles in less than 4 hours. It did feel great not having to carry a loaded backpack.
The pinnacles next to Whitney.
A view looking down toward Guitar Lake.
On the return trip to Crabtree Meadows, I was able to see by sunlight that which I had seen by moonlight. Here is Timberline Lake. I climbed on the rock you can see in the photo centered among the reeds. From this rock, I pushed off for a short swim in this very cold lake. When I stepped on the rock I saw that a snake was already there enjoying that sunny spot. Snake number 19? 20? Not sure.
Another view of Timberline Lake.
After a nap in my tent, I broke camp and hiked further on the PCT. Here is a late afternoon view.
Here is my tent set up on Big Horn Plateau. It was a cold spot with frost all over the next morning. Also, a great view of Whitney in the distance. At the end of the day, it’s nice to see where you have been.