Monday, June 27, 2016

Day 53- If A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

June 24, 2016
Mount Whitney side trip 15 miles
Elevation 14,496.811 feet

Mount Whitney at sunrise was one of the best moments of my life! It was a humbling experience to be at the highest point in the continental United States. Zuul, Outro, and I woke up at 11:30 and started to hike at 12:45 am to make it to the summit before sunrise. The seven and a half miles went by quickly. The higher we climbed the colder it got. Ultimately I was glad to be going up in the dark. It was way less scary not being able to see what I was actually doing. I knew that some of the climb was really sketchy, but it wasn't until later when I went back down that I knew how scary it was. 
Sign 2 miles from the top

About half way up the mountain I looked back down and could see headlights bobbing in the distance from all of the other hikers making the pilgrimage to the top. The last mile was very difficult and scary. I had to cross loose rock and several snow fields. In the back of my mind I knew that one wrong step would spell disaster, but I had adrenaline on my side. I practically flew up the last quarter of a mile. Once I was at the peak it was freezing cold. I tried my best to bundle up, but I was soaked with sweat. No matter how many layers I put on I was still cold. I had to wait about thirty minutes for the sun to rise over the distant mountains. The longer I waited the more hikers that showed up. Most of the people at the top I knew and it was a great moment to share with each other. The sky turned the prettiest orange and blue I have ever seen. 
So it begins
The sun and moon in the same picture
Yoda and Outro enjoying the moment
Me and The Neighborhood
Yoda pose
The Sierra Nevada Range
Muir Hut
My sleepy face
Sprinkles, Me, and Outro
Summit sign
Sitting on the ledge

Mount Whitney has a special rule about pooping, you can't do it on the mountain. This forced most of us off of the mountain. We had been up there for over five hours so it wasn't a big deal. We took one last group picture before heading down.

Over the course of five hours my mind had me convinced that the trip off of the mountain was going to be a death defying ordeal. Since I couldn't see anything on the way up my imagination filled in the blanks in the worst way imaginable. In the end there was only a few scary moments and a whole lot of beauty. 

So cool

We were almost to the switchback section of the climb down when we came upon a section hiker. He asked if anybody knew who Yoda was. I told him that I was Yoda. He had heard I was running low on food from another thru-hiker and wanted to make sure I had enough. He gave me two bags of beef jerky and a pound of almonds. That guaranteed that I would have enough to make it until our next resupply. 
Thanks for the food Reed
Guitar Lake(because it looks like a guitar)

Zuul and I had four or five switchbacks left to go when we came across a rather large snow field. We decided to take the quick way off of the mountain and glissade down. Imagine sledding down a mountain, but without a sled. It was so much fun!
Zuul glissading down

After over twelve hours of excitement I was physically and mentally exhausted. By the time we made it back to camp I resembled a zombie. I got out my tyvek and sleeping pad and laid down in the shade to take a nap. Unfortunately, I was too keyed up to sleep. Everyone decided to cook dinner so I joined the group. We decided to wake up early tomorrow so we could attack Forester Pass before the snow got too slushy. Forester Pass is the highest point on the PCT and has many challenges. I am excited to see if I am up to those challenges. 

"Another glorious Sierra day in which one seems to be dissolved and absorbed and sent pulsing onward we know not where. Life seems neither long nor short, and we take no more heed to save time or make haste than do the trees and stars. This is true freedom, a good practical sort of immortality."
John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra


  1. What a glorious day with great pictures. Not to sure about the mooning one!! What "kids" do w/o adult supervision. I bet going down was much different in day time. The sunrise was just awesome. I can't imagine seeing it from top of mountain like that. Memories!!LY

  2. So that makes Reed a "trail angel"; very neat. Loved the glissading-what a great word. Your "sleepy face" looks like a happy face.

  3. What an amazing day Katie! Your pics are incredible!!


  4. So, so cool. I can't imagine hiking up a mountain in the dark!

  5. Ugh! I post comments, and they disappear!

  6. OK.....3rd try.......
    Amazing pictures! Thank you for once again taking us along on your epic journey!
    Hmmmmmm.......should the "Wolf Pack " be renamed "The Mooners"?
    Stay safe and healthy, and enjoy the beauty around you......while I enjoy the pint of coffee coffee buzz buzz buzz that somehow ended up in my shopping cart after reading your blog. I am usually not so easily influenced. Thanks!
    Kathy in NH

  7. Awesome!!! You are my hero! Love that you are taking me along.

  8. STUNNING pictures - what an amazing experience! Thankful for your true "Trail Angel and your safety going up and down Whitney! Such an incredible experience!!

  9. The sunrise, the kindness of strangers, butt sledding, a group "moon" rise...
    I have goose bumps, a tear in my eye, warmth in my heart and gratitude for your sharing you magical days
    Chris Nashville

  10. Love that orange and blue sky!

  11. Sooooo Exciting! And Exhilarating!! And great photoshop on the Wolfpack pic on Mt. Whitney!! Thanks for sharing Yoda!

  12. Great to meet you on the trail last week, Yoda! You PCT thru-hikers are an inspiration to us office dwellers everywhere. Many wishes for a safe and joyous journey.

    1. Reid!!! you too are an inspiration!!!
      Chris Nashville

  13. That is so cool! A once in a lifetime experience I am sure.


  14. Your own personal trail angel! How cool is that? Your pictures are awesome! Even your group shot. Lol. Good thing your words were strategically placed.

  15. Enjoy the almonds, I couldn't give them away on the AT.

  16. Amazing photos, the sunrise video was breath taking!!!