This was the day we set out to approach Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the lower 48 United States. With that in mind, we didn’t dawdle, and were on trail before seven. A short burst up the ridge led us out of the valley. Here we met Michael, an elementary school teacher who had not seen anyone for a week as he wandered around the mountains. After a long chat about New Zealand, we continued along, gradually descending into thicker strands of trees. Here we found more flowing water, and with it the mosquitos. Some gorgeous looking campsites were tempting, but the mountain awaited. The first proper river crossing saw Sole Catcher plunge through, getting his shoes soaked. Rattles and I took the more sensible route, and boulder hopped across. After a short, intense, climb up, reminiscent of trails around Queenstown, we found a nice sheltered lunch spot adjacent to Lotus and Hermes. After restocking, we decided to head for Guitar Lake were we planned to camp. More rolling terrain finally led down into a beautiful valley. At the bottom was Crabtree Meadow, possibly the most beautiful area yet, which unfortunately was too far from Whitney for us to camp. Following on reluctantly, we began the gorgeous climb up into the rocky valley that housed several lakes. Some boulders made the trail a little more draining, but we reached the lake around half past four. It was at this point that we decided on a crazy plan. Already having hiked twenty miles, we decided to go for the summit of the highest mountain. While I set up camp, Rattles purified water. Not stopping to rest, we began the ascent. With only a light pack on, it made the climbing easier, but it was still tough. Feeling the effects of altitude I began gasping behind Rattles, who probably thought I was about to pass out. Soon switchbacks took us quickly up, with amazing views of the valley floor. Reaching a rocky outcrop, the trail got a little narrow for a small section, making sure one kept ones attention on the trail. Past this point, we wrapped around the side, and then up the final spur to the top. Both of us were shattered at 14,500 feet, but exhilarated to see everything below us. We managed to make it in time to see a gorgeous sun set, which set the mountain aglow. Photos with the three of us at the top were all Rattles and I hung around for, leaving Sole Catcher to Cowboy Camp by the hut. We descended quickly to make the most of the remaining light. Soon the head torches camp out, and we hiked the last hour and a half in the dark. Upon reaching our tent, we were too exhausted to do much but sleep. I then realized I had climbed the mountain on only a packet of skittles and a snickers bar. It was also the first day where we hiked 30 miles; we just happened to pick the hardest one.
Miles hiked – 30