Mount Whitney 

Day 13    18 miles

The storm rocked our tent all night. Wind, rain, hail, battered down on us.   But the most concerning was the thunder and lightning.  Many times occurring simultaneous.  The storm was right above us!  In this alpine there are no trees and the conductivity  of our carbon tent poles was on my mind.  The tent would illuminate with the lightning and the floor was lifting off the ground around us.  It was the wildest storm I’ve camped in.

In spite of this unsettling weather, we felt cozy and warm.  However,  I did worry that we would be unable to summit Whitney in the morning.   The PCT is about 7.5 miles away and many PCTers do a side trip and add Whitney to their trek.   Last year while hiking the PCT,  I didn’t get to attempt mount Whitney as there was a snow storm while I was passing.   Will I be shut out again due to this wild weather?

Peek out the tent.  Blue skies.  Sunshine.  Cold.  Beautiful morning.  Coffee and apple cinnamon oatmeal and we were packed up and on the trail by 7:45

This is it!   We are actually going to summit Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the U.S. lower 48 states.  At an elevation 14,505 feet, compare that to the peak of our local Whistler mountain at 7,165 feet.

The trail was built on sheer cliffs.   It was constructed by the National Parks Service in 1928 and completed in 1930.  It is mind boggling how they created this amazing  trail.

Looking down on Guitar Lake

It took us a few hours to get to the turnoff where we could leave our packs and hike the last 2 miles of scramble.  The trail was very icy in spots due to the hail storm last night.  Moving at a snails pace.  I am winded.  Stop and have a drink.  I am out of breath.  So slow.  Move one foot.  Move another foot.  You can do this.  Can’t talk.  Very long 2 miles.  So beautiful.  So excited.  Almost there.  It’s so good to stop and sit.  Must keep going. We did it!  Wow!  On our way up , a hiker on her way down, said to me, “the good news is it feels great going down”

Yup, much easier and it feels amazing.  I’m on a high that we summited and I can practically feel more oxygen in my lungs and limbs as we hike downward.

Whitney Portal is 9 miles of rock switchbacks to the valley below.  It is a spectacular hike past pretty alpine lakes and rivers, but I’m sad to report this is the most littered section of trail I’ve hiked in the U.S.A.  Garbage, TP, etc.  It’s a shame.  

Stop for Lunch

We arrive at the Whitney Portal parking lot and campground around 4:30.  There is a store so we buy a cold beer to celebrate. We are still on a happy high.

Thirteen days in the Sierras.   The John Muir Trail, covering some of the most beautiful mountains in the world, from glacier chiseled Yosemite to the jagged spires of the Minarets to the highest mountain in the contiguous U.S.

Far from civilization we hiked over high passes, passed ancient glaciers, crossed fast moving mountain streams all while surrounded by the most incredible mountain scenery.  I did it all with my favorite hiking companion, who also happens to be my partner, Paul.  It has been a wonderful experience.  It can’t get any better than this.

The end

…..well, not quite.

We stood on the paved road that would take us to the town of Lone Pine.   Waiting to stick our thumbs out to any…. any…. vehicle that might drive by…. Nothing.  Rain starts spitting.  I really want to get to town.  Food. Mmm.  Shower. Ahhh.

A white camper van is coming up the road. It slows down… the driver’s window roles down..

Ok, bare with me.   I have to go back a few years to fully explain.  In 2013 I started reading hiking blogs.  I didn’t even know what a blog was. I was hooked.  So much great information and really fun to follow others on adventures.

My absolute favourite blog writer is Carrot Quinn.  I also read her book Thru Hiking Will Break Your Heart.  I love and admire her writing.  Her PCT 2013 and 2014 blog posts inspired me to try and hike the PCT.  I always wondered if I might meet her on a trail one day.

So now you’ve guessed it.

She rolled down the window and I knew who she was immediately.

I took a few steps closer with a huge grin and said, “Are you Carrot Quinn?” She smiled back and said, “Yes.  I’m just going to pick up a few hikers and I’ll come back and get you.”

Oh my gosh, I was star struck.  I hope I wasn’t too gushy.  Oh.  I think I was too gushy… I was jumping up and down.  Paul had been on the phone finding a place to stay in Lone Pine.  He looked at me questioningly thinking I was overly excited about getting a ride.

It’s Carrot Quinn.  She is coming back to give us a lift!

In the middle of nowhere, we get a lift with my hiking/writing idol in a groovy van with a bunch of other cool hiker trash.  I think we all smell great.  We talk trail.  We are all happy and sleepy as we near the warm valley at dusk.

Best day.  

Ok.  The End