There was no bedtime reading tonight. We were just plain too tired to listen even if Scout had brought one. This day’s events will forever be seared in our collective memories. It all started at 0400 this morning when we exited our tents to begin the final packing for a 0430 departure to the top of Whitney from Guitar Lake. A string of lights hung like slow moving fireflies against the backdrop of black that was the mountain we were to climb. Bright stars stretched to the horizon. One could see the Milky Way overhead. The air was brisk and electric.
Today was the day. With excitement, and dare I say a little anxiety we began our climb in the slowly waining dark with headlamps lighting the way. As we reached our first water collection opportunity, it was time to utilize our Microspikes as several stretches of now crisp snow fields lie ahead hiding the trail from our view. Better to walk up and over the snow and in the general direction of the trail than to wander about looking for each twist and turn.
This was not an easy task, and even though the snow was still crisp and strong, an occasional post holing could not be avoided. Jody was the “winner”. She must of hit every possible post holing opportunity there was, and even before we reached the Whitney Trail junction she was “gased” …and with good reason. This trail (the final leg of the John Muir Trail…JMT) from Guitar Lake to Whitney is not the best marked, nor the easiest. I don’t recall a sign or any semblance of a trail marker anywhere past the turn off for the ranger station just past Crabtree Meadows. Maybe they were there, but just covered in snow. Today’s trek, with the added feature of snow (icy) and terrifyingly steep faces and drops made for a harrowing day.
I think I can speak for all of my compatriots, not only were we physically drained, but mentally as well. 100% supreme focus was required at all times, just so you wouldn’t plunge to your death, or at least a serious traumatic injury, in which case you’d probably wish you were dead.
As we marched up the trail, stopping at regular intervals to BREATH, the 700 miles in shape PCT thru-hikers sprung (and I do mean sprung) past us like they were walking on a fast moving treadmill. And then there were those who had already finished. They “tagged” Whitney and would probably be to Forrester Pass even before we reached Whitney. It would have been nice to slack pack (carry water and a snack) like the PCT hikers, but we were going over the other side and out at Whitney Portal so we had to bring all our gear with us. It took us a whopping FIVE hours to make it to the trail junction of the Whitney Trail. We were told by many a PCTer that the rest of the way was “easy” and not as “sketchy” as it was coming up to this point. And the funny thing, is that we believed them! Had we known what we know now we would have stayed in Lone Pine and bought a post card, Googled photos from the internet, or turned around a went back from whence we came, but no we had to be adventurous. Goal #1 reached. Now to Goal #2.
…to be continued