Monday, June 2, 2014

Day 52 - Crabtree Meadows to Whitney and back

A day that started great, and ended not so good.
For the first time in our hike, we got up at 5:00. There was already plenty of light outside, but it was really cold. We packed our stuff, putting everything we don't need on the summit in the bear boxes at the campground. We planned to pick it up later, when we got down from the mountain.
The pack felt much better this way. I only carried a bit of water, snacks for the day, and my synthetic and rain jackets.
Early morning at Timberline Lake
We started climbing slowly up towards Whitney. After a short time we reached the first Lake - Timberline Lake. It was very quiet and serene. The wind hasn't picked up yet, so we could see the enclosing cliffs reflected in the water.
We carried on, and reached the famous Guitar Lake. It was even colder there, and we were happy we didn't spend the night in that spot. We got some clean, snow melt, water, and I tried eating a frozen Clif Bar.
Thawing ice in the morning sun
The trail kept going up (naturally), and we passed some more ponds. Some were even bigger than Guitar Lake. The snow patches followed, at first just several steps along a leveled trail. Later, when we got higher, we had to slowly hike across short snowy sections on the cliff side. They were all well traveled by the time we got to them, so we just took it slowly and stepped in the foot steps other hikers left.
One of many snowy switchbacks. Nothing too bad
After many switchbacks we finally reached the junction with the trail coming up from Lone Pine. Many day hikers climb up that trail to the top of Whitney, so from that point on we saw a lot of them on the way up.
The trail went up, and followed the crest of the mountain. There were some scary bits when the cliff to our left was quite steep. And even three short section where there were cliffs on both sides (on the way down, Idan found cell reception at one of those. That was awesome).
All along, we kept viewing the lakes we just passed, below us, and the cliffs around them, getting lower and lower below us, and the mountains of the Sierras appearing behind them.
The whole climb took us a long while, mostly because the lack of oxygen made us hike up slower. It was hard to talk full sentences while hiking up, and we kept having to stop just to cat has our breath.
The final section of the climb was much easier, and we finally got to the summit, next to the emergency hut. The emergency hut itself is just a tiny room, with wooden floor, to hide in, in case of bad weather. We had excellent weather, sunny all day, with winds up high (which did make it cold).
We took loads of pictures at the top, had something to eat, and even had a fighter jet (Yair says he thinks it was f-18) do a fly by about 200 meters from the summit. That was scary.
At the summit of Mt. Whiteny
We finally started down at 13:00, hoping to make good time down to Crabtree Meadows, get our stuff, and head out for 5 more miles.
The hike down was much easier, except for the sketchy parts, which were still sketchy.
Frozen Hitchcock Lakes, near the junction with Mt. Whitney Trail
At one point Idan told me he had twisted his ankle earlier, but he seemed to be doing OK, and still taking the lead. Later, I saw him stumble a bit, and that might have really hurt his foot. I took the lead after a short stop, and got down near the lakes, where I noticed they were not close behind me. I waited for them, and they stumbled in. Idan's foot got worse, and he was barely limping on it. We split his load, with Yair also carrying an empty pack up front. All plans to walk further than Crabtree Meadows were scrapped, and we just walked slowly the remaining 5 miles to camp.
We finally got here at about 18:00, and made camp. There are a ton of hikers here, planning to climb up tomorrow. We just hope Idan can walk tomorrow, so we might try to get over Forrester Pass, or at least get closer to it. We have dinners for only one more day, but if we take it slow, we might spend a day of hiking while eating on scraps, and without a dinner the previous night. Yay.