Ray left Sunday night, and after floating in Mono Lake on Monday after work I met up with another SNAP member Bryan, who would be hiking Mt. Whitney with me. On Thursday at 10:24am we were the tallest people in the continental US. I now have ‘hike Mt. Whitney’ checked off my new To Do in 2012list hanging prominently in my 70’s wallpapered room.
On Tue. after work we met with Casey and Kelly, two enthusiastic volunteers from ESLT and drove to Whitney Portal to camp at 8,000 ft. Wednesday morning we “scenic hiked” our way up 4,000 ft. past guardian trees and landscapes that make beautiful seem plain.
I ripped open the wag bag around Consultation Lake and later we set up camp under a blue blue sky.
I snapped many a photo, including some professional looking ones that I got lucky with at twilight at our second night camp – Trail Camp at 12,000ft.
Our slow steady tick tack of hiking poles got us there by 2:30pm, plenty of time to prepare a salmon quinoa dinner a la jet boil stove while watching the sun set behind the wall of rock we would be on top of the next morning. 5am came early, but welcoming, and I captured a few shots of the sun rising through the V of the mountain walls before we undid our marmot proofing of all things smelly and loaded up a pack with materials for the ascent.
The “99 switchbacks” were not as painful as anticipated, but at one sketchy point near the cables where the rocks were slicked over with ice Kelly sat down and did not want to continue. She and Casey decided to wait to see if she changed her mind and Bryan and I pushed upwards.
At trail crest we took goofy, celebratory shots marveling at the epic vistas on both sides of the granite ridge. The 4 windows were some of my favorite places in the Sierra, looking out over everything – a slice of clarity amongst a focused mission. They reminded me of a quote on my vision board “At 10,000 ft. you also get a beautiful view of who you are.” We summitted (which apparently is not a word) at 10:24am, #8 and #9 that day and after Bryan finished giving Whitney a golden shower we ate some tortillas, took ridiculous videos and slapped a few high fives. The only thing that could have made it better happened – Kelly and Casey showed up. We enveloped them in a group hug and everything felt right, and cold. The thermometer read in the 40s but the wind chill made me second guess its accuracy.
We flew down, chatting without gasping. At Trail Crest Bryan and I decided to put the ice axes we had hauled up to use and we glissaded down a snow gully. Glissade (verb) – to incur wedgies of epic proportion while digging an ice axe and your heels into the snow; also, a mountaineer’s version of a water slide engineered by Mama nature. We thought we would save a lot of time on the descent by glissading, but we did not take into account that we would have to cross a boulder field at the bottom. We saved about .5 an hour and “99 switchbacks” of downhill on our knees, which would experience 17 miles and 8,000 ft. of elevation change by the end of the day. We packed up and started the trudge down, down down. This might be oen of the only hikes I’ve ever done where the descent seemed longer than the ascent. The last 3 miles took about an hour and 31+ lbs on my back became uncomfortable around Lone Pine Lake. Bryan and I chowed on some burritos from my new favorite taco truck and we uploaded the great photos on facebook.
For those so inclined we have provided a side dish of dirty jokes to go with your read:
– Whitney was hard to get on top of, but totally worth it
– I could hardly stand after doing Whitney yesterday
– It felt so good to slide down Whitney
I look forward to when Bryan uses one of these lines on a chick named Whitney he meets at a bar.