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PCT 2015 Day 44: Whitney

  • Start: 767.1
  • End: 769.2
  • Miles: 2.1 + 16 on Whitney Trail
  • Camp: Near Wallace Creek

After a lazy morning, not wanting to summit Whitney too early whilst still icy and cold, we set off around 8am on a trail along the creek past a some small lakes. Again there were deer, ground squirrels and marmots. When we arrived at Guitar Lake, there were so many marmots that my by now traditional yelp of “I see you!” was almost constant.

After the last lake, we began some steep switchbacks to climb 3,000 ft. By that time it was pretty hot and exposed and I was grateful for the cooling breeze. We encountered ice and snow in the middle of the switchbacks where the trail was in shadow. The altitude started to make climbing hard, and after the junction to the summit the ice became more sketchy. Magically, after 12,500ft, I started to feel better, stronger. I put on microspikes and beat the ice and snow. I felt on top of the world.

We saw Double Step sitting waiting for Bad Camper and Shenanigans to come down from the summit; she had been too afraid of the ice without spikes. I can see why. It was passable in trail runners but barely, and would have been worse when she arrived earlier in the day. 

Resting on the summit, there was barely any wind and I found myself sitting in shorts and tshirt after taking off my rain jacket for being too hot. I was surprised by the number of people at the summit; not only PCT hikers, but John Muir Trail hikers, day hikers and people ticking items off their bucket list. It is the highest mountains in the lower 48, after all.

The downhill was fast, and my knees started complaining. I realised I’d forgotten to reapply sun cream and had gotten a bit of sunburn on my face. As we neared camp, I tried to remember the features I’d passed on the way up; the shady and muddy section under the trees, the uphill sections that should be downhill on the way back. I couldn’t find any of them! Our plan was to make dinner where we had camped last night then pack up and hike another couple of miles before sleeping. I didn’t feel like it, but dinner helped a lot and We needed up just a couple of miles past the junction to the ranger station. I think I’m going to be tired tomorrow.

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