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mini location map2015-07-09
21 by photographer avatarazdesertfather
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Mount Whitney 14,505Sierra Nevada, CA
Sierra Nevada, CA
Hiking avatar Jul 09 2015
azdesertfather
Hiking21.05 Miles 6,900 AEG
Hiking21.05 Miles   13 Hrs   18 Mns   1.96 mph
6,900 ft AEG   2 Hrs   33 Mns Break
 no routes
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
EPIC day! And epic hike. I drove to California with a couple of friends the day before, and we arrived in Lone Pine just before the visitor center closed. We picked up our permit and came to find out that there was an 80% chance of snow and thunderstorms, mainly after 11am the next morning. Well, that changed things. We drove to our campsite at Whitney Portal, did about a 3-mile acclimatization hike up the Whitney Trail, then grabbed dinner at the store (burger & fries pretty decent). While hiking a little earlier we found out from some of the hikers coming down the trail that there was a good bit of ice above 13,000 feet, and we had no crampons. The owner of the Whitney Portal store was out of them, but he let all three of us borrow hiking poles. With the ice and snow we encountered, it was totally necessary!

With the weather forecast, I convinced our group to move our start time up from 5am to 1:20am. You might think we'd be hiking alone, but turned out, we weren't the only ones who had seen the forecast and had this idea. Beautiful night, the sky was clear and stars were just everywhere. As we climbed up the canyon we admired our view of Lone Pine below. By 4am, we could see clouds already starting to form. Around Trail Camp we found a little trouble trying to navigate the trail, this is the one area that it's not the greatest...so it was a little hard in the dark, but certainly doable still. By sunrise we were on our way up the 99 switchbacks, thankfully it hadn't been daylight to see what we were going up! WOW.

We made it up the switchbacks, stepping in some frozen water in places, but once we were up on the ridgeline over 13,000 feet, the snow and ice was plentiful. The trail was narrow at times with steep dropoffs, so ice in those areas made the hiking poles a lifesaver. Never used them before, but today I was grateful for them. The two friends I was with were having to stop a lot by this point due to the elevation, but because of the elevation I wasn't able to keep stopping and taking breaks, I needed to keep up a slow but steady pace. That worked for them and totally helped make getting to the top doable for them, but it was making it harder for me to stop. So I made it up to the summit at 8:23am, they were up about 20 minutes later.

By this point up on top, the weather was really starting to roll in. The views were fairly poor, clouds were everywhere below and above us. The first snowflakes started falling, and we heard the first distant rumble of thunder, and took that as our cue a couple of minutes past 9am to get out of Dodge. I started getting ahead (they were still struggling a bit by the elevation), and I would hang out and wait for them to catch up. On the ridgeline some random person came up to me and asked us if we had made it, and when we did, he handed us a sew-on patch that said "MAN PATCH -- I CLIMBED MT WHITNEY 13,500 FT". Odd, in a snowstorm for some random guy to hand us these, but oh well!

By the time we started heading down the 99 switchbacks, the snow was falling hard and heavy. I wasn't able to stop and wait for them, open and exposed with it coming down so heavy, so I stopped waiting for them to catch up and barreled down into the valley by Consultation Lake. I kept looking for a place to hide from the storm and allow them to catch up, but everything was really exposed. I wasn't able to find a decent place to stop until I was into the treeline, around 10500 feet. I found a big tree to hide behind as the wind blew snow against the tree, and I decided to just hunker down on the ground next to the tree and wait for my friends to pass by.

You'll never guess what happened next. I WOKE UP. :whistle: Apparently, even in a heavy snowstorm with lightning popping in the distance, I have the ability to sit down and fall asleep. Seriously? How does that happen? I woke up with ants crawling on me; the snowstorm had stopped, and I had no idea how long I had been asleep (once I returned home and looked at my track, I realized it was almost a half hour :-$ :oplz: ). Problem was, when I came to, I had no idea how long I had been asleep or if my friends were now ahead of me or behind me (the big tree I was hiding behind to avoid the snow also blocked me from view of people coming down the trail ](*,) ). At that point I had no choice but to just head down to Whitney Portal; I was hoping they were still behind me so that they wouldn't get there, not find me and worry that something had happened to me.

WOW that meadow was beautiful!! I hadn't been able to see it hiking in, but coming back out I could hardly believe my eyes. As I came really near the trailhead, I saw this family coming up and I just KNEW they were in trouble; none of them were fit, and they all had these super heavy and top heavy backpacks, every piece of gear they had was brand new. They were trying to cross the creek and were falling in because they couldn't balance themselves on the rocks.

Once I reached the bottom (just after 2:30pm) the precip had stared back up again in full force (rain not snow at the trailhead). I looked around and about 5 minutes later, there they were. If I had just waited a bit longer... We went in the store and enjoyed a brewski with some Double Stuf Oreos. :DANCE:

We made it back into Lone Pine, found a hostel with space still available, then took some BADLY needed showers. We walked down to the Merry Go Round for a Chinese dinner, milled around the Elevation hiking store there, walked further down to the ice cream shop for dessert, then headed back to the hostel and CRASHED :zzz: . Staying at the hostel overnight was totally worth the money, nice sleep and were able to drive back to Arizona refreshed.

After 20 years of hiking, I can honestly say this trip brought a first for me ... the first time I have ever fallen asleep on the trail. And in a snowstorm to boot. :doh: Although the distance and elevation by themselves weren't too incredibly difficult, that combined with the crazy weather and some serious heartburn I had the whole day (from just after I woke up), it was a pretty challenging day. I tried even drinking just plain water, but the heartburn was so bad I couldn't even get water down :oops: , so on the trip up and down I ate nothing and drank a total of about 3-4 oz of water, that was it. : rambo : I kept taking Tums but no dice; when I finished the hike I went in the Whitney Portal store, found Zantac for sale that expired in 2014, but I took one and finally, RELIEF!! :worthy: Small miracles!

It'll be a day I'll never forget ... in more ways than one.
Culture
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Benchmark
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Light

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 Consultation Lake 76-100% full 76-100% full

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 Lone Pine Lake 76-100% full 76-100% full

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 Mirror Lake 76-100% full 76-100% full

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max North Fork Lone Pine Creek Medium flow Medium flow
_____________________
"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." — Henry David Thoreau
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