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61 by photographer avatarsyoung
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Mount Whitney 14,505Sierra Nevada, CA
Sierra Nevada, CA
Hiking avatar Jun 19 2016
Hiking23.20 Miles 7,966 AEG
Hiking23.20 Miles   10 Hrs   11 Mns   2.68 mph
7,966 ft AEG   1 Hour   32 Mns Break26 LBS Pack
 no routes
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Well, I won an overnight pass (finally) and still didn't manage to sleep on the mountain. Let me tell you, that drive out there sucks. So much so that by the time I got there I had used all of my "lets be alone on a mountain" energy in keeping myself company on the 8 hour car ride. When I picked up my permits I started questioning what to do. After a few back and forths I decided that I'd just try to take a nap and hit the mountain as a day hike as I have previously done. I set my alarm for 12:30 and eventually passed out sometime around 8 or so.

Rise and shine! It is 1:38AM. Crap. I hurriedly got everything in order and made my way up to the portal. Thankfully parking wasn't an issue. If you aren't aware, CA DOT is redoing the road up to Whitney Portal. As such, they give you one parking pass per group and there is no on road parking during construction.

Upon starting up the trail I wasn't feeling the most confident. Teaching summer school has really put a clamp on my hiking. Generally, I don't teach summer school and that allows me to hike every morning early. But with a wedding to pay for I figured the extra cash would be nice. However, the tradeoff is that I have to motivate myself to hike at night. It doesn't work very well for me. I like being physically active early. Lateness is time for sleep. And that is what makes this day hike so hard for me. I was on the trail at 2:25.

I breezed through the first 3 miles to Lone Pine lake. This is where self doubt came to the physical world. I started to get a slight headache. It wasn't from the elevation but more a combination of not sleeping more than 9 hours combined the past two days. The self doubt began to creep into my mind. I tried to shrug it off but resigned myself that a more plausible goal would be just to reach Trail Crest. I know my body pretty well and how it reacts to elevation. It doesn’t typically discomfort me until around 12,000 feet. Sure, I feel short of breath and such but I don’t display any other symptoms generally. I felt the headache was going to exacerbate that, however. Thankfully, it didn’t really ever become anything too overwhelming.

There really weren’t any navigational blunders except somewhere past mirror lake (I think, it was still night) where I ran into a group of 3 guys. They had no idea where the trail was. In stopping and chatting with them, I lost the trail too. It took us several minutes of poking around to find that the trail was covered in snow but it was to our right.

My first time doing Whitney in 2013 I hit a proverbial wall right before sunrise. I think now, almost 3 years later, I have a better understanding of how I react and thus aren’t surprised (and needing to take a short nap like I did in 2013) I hit Trail Camp right around the time that the sun was making is daily appearance over the peaks in the east. It was heavenly. I am not much of a spiritual person but watching the sun crest and then the alpenglow is the closest thing to any spirituality that can be found for me.

Making my way up to Trail Crest I just focused on my breathing. It is something I do at elevation now and it helps immensely. Just deep, consistent, breaths no matter my exertion level - and it expunged the CO2 from my system; thus mitigating the symptoms. Or at least that is how I think it works. I just know it works for me.

I spent a lot of time on the summit (for me anyways). I usually do a quick turn and burn but I lingered for roughly 15 or so minutes just taking it all in. It was beyond windy. It was the strongest winds I have ever felt on a mountain before. I was being tossed around by the gusts and it flat out got dangerous at a few times as I was walking around.

The descent down is gorgeous at times but more often than not, mind numbingly long and boring. Those last 4 or 5 miles were just a blur of “when will this trail end” and “holy hell, I still have to drive 8 hours home after this”.

Overall it was an enjoyable experience. It is nice to push yourself to your limits and see how your body responds. It was my third trip to the top but my first completely solo.
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