PCT Day 46: Sierra Day 4: Mount Whitney

Miles Hiked: 22.8

Total Mileage: 774.1

This morning I woke up at 4am and started packing up for Whitney. I hardly slept last night and was feeling extra tired. It was nice to only pack what I would need for a day hike and leave the remaining items behind in my tent. I made sure all my food and smelly items were concealed so a ground squirrel wouldn’t munch on any of my things while I was gone. Yesterday one was very brave around us at dinner time trying to steal food.

I left camp with Pinch, Gopher, Lumber Jack, and Sunshine. Pippin decided to stay behind because she gets severe altitude sickness. She has been on a medication called Diamox to help deal with the sickness for the past few days and she definitely feels sick still around 11k feet. Mount Whitney is the highest point in the lower 48 states at 14,500 something feet. I’ve been looking forward to this mountain for so long! At first glimpse I honestly didn’t think the mountain looked that pretty. It looks like it’s almost completely granite with no green vegetation to be seen.

We left Crabtree Meadows and immediately crossed a creek. I had to go to the bathroom a mile in. I was glad I was able to go then because once you get into the Alpine zone you have to poop in a bag and pack it out since it can’t be buried to decompose. My stomach ended up hurting the whole way up. I have been eating a ton of chia seeds lately and I think my body isn’t used to it yet. I mostly hiked with Sunshine the whole way up. We talked all about the CDT and trail experiences since we are both Triple Crowning this year. I really like her a lot. I kept a steady pace but definitely felt winded the higher we got. Before the trail turns completely to granite and leaves the valley below, it passes by guitar lake which lives up to its name because of its shape. The giant stones were pretty up close and the view of the surrounding mountain valley kept getting better and better. Near the top there were some exposed sections once it joins up with the Whitney Portal trail. The trail was very wide but the rock wall on one side would fall away for a brief moment so there were steep drop offs on either side of the trail. I walked these parts quickly and stared at my feet to avoid seeing the drop off. The Whitney Portal trail comes up from the Eastern side of the mountain. Apparently it is significantly longer, more elevation gain, and has a notorious section of 99 switchbacks. I was thankful to be going up from the PCT side where the trailhead for the climb starts from a much higher elevation.

We got to the top of the mountain at 8:30. It took us 4 hours to hike 7.5 miles. That’s just under two miles an hour! I usually hike about three miles an hour but the Altitude and sleep deprivation definitely slowed me down. The top was stunning. In three directions you could see the towering peaks of the Sierra and the deep valleys below them. In the fourth direction you could see the desert floor where the Owens Valley is with the trail towns of Bishop, Lone Pine, and Independence. It was surprisingly a very pleasant temperature up top and not windy at all. I brought my sleeping bag with me expecting to be absolutely freezing. We all took pictures with the Mount Whitney signs left up top. All of us got nude pictures as well. It was really funny. Sunshine packed up a bottle of wine in a water bottle. I had two sips and could definitely feel it. I also saw Vulture and Doggone on top of the summit as well. Vulture has severe altitude sickness symptoms like Pippin. He is taking the same medicine to deal with it. I was stoked to see him on top and feeling well. It seems like the days of acclimatizing and meds worked well for him. Doggone was doing Mount Whitney as a day hike from the Eastern side via the portal trail. He said he started hiking at 1am and even got lost on the way. I was happy to see him up there as well. I headed down the mountain with Sunshine around 10:30am. We both had to go to the bathroom so we were hiking very fast all the way down. I absolutely did not want to poop in a Ziploc bag today. Luckily I made it down to the exposed open air privy in Crabtree Meadows just in time. It doesn’t have any walls it’s totally out in the open. I think we went up Whitney at the perfect time. There were not very many people on the summit, the weather was amazing, all the sunrise people looked tired, and the temperature started to get really hot on the way down. I did not envy the people going up in the late afternoon heat.

Once I got back to my tent at Crabtree Meadows, I laid down exhausted. I was hungry so I cooked some cous cous with mushrooms, sweet potato, and marinara sauce. It tasted so good. After almost two hours of resting, I hiked right more miles with Pippin, Lumber Jack, and Gopher. On the way to camp I met Tex who I crossed paths with on the CDT last summer. We had a great time talking trail. It’s nice to connect with people over shared experiences. Just before camp we passed through an absolutely gorgeous wide open plateau with amazing views of Whitney and the surrounding mountains. I think that Plateau has been one of the best views in the Sierra. Ashlee camped on it. I was jealous of the view but not of the potential wind. One mile later we set up camp near Buffalo Roy and Booster Seat next to Tyndall Creek.

I had my left over cous cous for dinner which tasted amazing cold! That says a lot about this trail food. I also made two delicious chocolatey chia seed protein shakes as well. I set up my tent tonight since it is so buggy out. I have been using it quite a bit lately which makes me happy!

Happy Trails!

-Early Bird

Published by Deserrae Potts

Thru Hiker Blogger

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