Mount Whitney Summit
Wednesday night we drove up to Lone Pine, CA, ready to embark on a a backpacking trip that culminated with the summit of Mount Whitney – the highest mountain in the lower 48 states.
We not only screwed up the dates on our wilderness permit (missing 2 work days instead of 1), but we also mis-estimated the mileage. I was expecting a ~33 mile trip, but several weeks ago we realized it was more like 43 miles. In four days. I much prefer more relaxed trips, with 5-7 miles a day and plenty of time for chilling at the campsite. Please don’t be impressed with these long days. They were hard, they were not the original plan, but we did them.
But life is short and this was our opportunity, and I wasn’t going to let it pass by. Like a lot of things in life, you can do it if you just keep going. Don’t quit, and you’ll make it.
The first day was about 12 miles. We somehow missed our turn on the trail TWICE and got lost for about 30 minutes. (I blame the altitude – I seriously could feel it affecting my brain before we adjusted.) The sunscreen cap fell off and squirted all over T’s pants. Our packs were heavy with 4 days of food and all of our stuff. We didn’t get to camp until nearly 6 and barely had a chance to catch our breath before collapsing into bed. It was hard.
The second day was hard too – another 12 miles. The river crossings were unusually tricky and we both got at least one wet sock. We made it to camp a bit earlier and had a little time to relax.
The third day, everything came together for me. It was a fun day. It was an awesome day. My body had adjusted to the rhythm, the pack weight, and the work. We climbed up and up and up all morning, reaching the final junction just before noon. We dropped our packs and walked the final two miles from about 13,500 feet to 14,505. We were light headed and easily tired, but after slowly putting one foot in front of the other for over an hour, we reached the summit.
Going down was easier and welcome. My stomach was a little nauseous and I knew descending would help a lot. We camped a final night at 12,000 feet and had plenty of time to rest and watch the steady stream of hikers coming down. (A lot of people do it as a ~20 mile day hike from before dawn.) The last day was steady descent, mile after mile.
It was really hard, but I’m sooooo happy we did this!