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Tuesday, June 5, 2018

PCT - Day 46: 6/3/2018 - Mt Whitney

Trail miles: 4.5 from 761.8 - 766.3
Miles walked: 22.3 (side trip up Mt. Whitney)

We left camp early around 5:15 am with the goal of climbing Mt. Whitney.  The scenery was simply stunning all day long. It started to get really scenic a couple miles before Crabtree Meadows and continued to be amazing all day long.

We started our fun with two adventurous creek crossings a few miles into our day. All of us somehow managed to stay dry though barely.

crossing creek

Chilly Bin hiked with us past Timberline Lake but she had been ill much of the morning and she made the call to turn back. We were saddened by that, but I respect her for making a tough yet probably correct decision based on how she was feeling.

Snow Field
Kate, Ziploc, HoosierDaddy, and myself kept pushing up the mountain.  The trail meandered through large boulders, snow fields, Whitney Creek, and breathtaking alpine lakes. Marmots scuttled around digging into the tundra for whatever it is they eat.

I was feeling exceptionally strong today and moved up the mountain with ease. The altitude was barely noticeable to me. The others were also keeping a good pace, but my body has never felt so strong as it did today. I liked to race ahead just to be able to turn back to take photos of my friends. I would also stop to scramble on the occasional rock outcropping just for fun.

Kate, Ziploc, HoosierDaddy

We took a short break around 12,200 feet which was above the picturesque Guitar Lake which is aptly named since from above it looks like a guitar. Towers of granite rose from all around us. The sky was a pure blue with nearly no clouds to be seen.
Taking a break

Guitar Lake
We hiked across several snow chutes, some with dangerous run outs if one were to slip. Parts of the trail were under water from melting snow.

At 14,200 feet, I had stopped to wait for my friends after another burst of energy. I wanted to summit with this amazing group of people. We all walked to the summit together and pictures were taken. It was so nice on the summit. There was almost no wind, and it was even warm enough for me to walk around barefoot while drying my socks in the sun.


We had made it to the summit by 1:30 pm after leaving the Crabtree Meadows ranger station just before 9:00 am. We spent almost two full hours on the summit just enjoying the views, each other, and the perfect weather. It was much different than my last visit to this summit in November of 2014.

Circus Act with Kate on Mt Whitney
Around 3:00 pm, we finally began our descent. On the way down, I rolled an ankle. Ziploc post-holed in some snow and banged her knee on a rock.  Kate was feeling the effects of mild altitude sickness or possibly mild dehydration. 

HoosierDaddy even busted a trekking pole on the descent. Still nothing could remove the smiles from our faces. The day was full of humorous conversation, and some really touching sincere moments too. Ziploc even taught us how to curse in German.

back to camp
When we arrived back at camp, we were happily surprised to see Opera, Tapeworm, and Peanut Butter. We sang Opera “Happy Birthday” and Ziploc presented her with a birthday cake flavored protein cookie and a bow she’d been carrying since Tehachapi. Later Tapeworm put a candle in another cookie and we sang Happy Birthday again. Opera was clearly moved by this act as she choked back tears of joy.

Happy Birthday Opera!
Tomorrow Tapeworm, Opera, Peanut Butter, and Chilly Bin are going to climb Mt. Whitney. I hope they succeed. I worry a bit since I know each of them have experienced some recent struggles with altitude.

filtering water
HoosierDaddy has decided to take a trail zero day and just chill at Crabtree Meadows tomorrow. As for the rest of us, Ziploc, Kate, and I will decide what to do in the morning. The climb up and over the PCT’s highest point on Forester Pass awaits us, as does a potentially dangerous ford of Tyndall Creek. 

Ziploc and I are trying to find a tough balance between waiting for the rest of our trail family, and not running out of food and toilet paper. Additionally, I am having another related dilemma. I really want to enjoy the Sierra with my trail family. At the same time, I really enjoy hiking with Kate and would love the opportunity to do that.  She however cannot wait for my trail family since she has a fixed timeline on when she has to finish the JMT. All I know is that more tough days in the Sierra are ahead. Yet the toughest thing, for me at least, is making a decision on what to do with regards to my hiking plans.

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