:: Mount Whitney Trip - July 18, 2005 ::

This is the record of my hellish 22 mile day hike to the top of Mount Whitney and back on July 18, 2005.
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Forrest getting ready for the hike.
Sunrise in the Eastern Sierras.
A look at the area above Trail Camp.
The cables near the 96 switchbacks.
Looking back down at trail camp.
Some nice flowers along the way.
Welcome to Trail Crest.
Welcome to Sequoia National Park.
A look at Hitchcock Lakes.
A look toward the Great Western Divide.
Tom at the top of Mount Whitney.
The highest toilet in the lower 48.
A look at Mirror Lake on the way back down.

:: Sunday July 17, 2005 @ 11:00 PM::

I tried to get to bed early on Sunday so that I would be well rested when I woke up at 11 PM. We set up camp at Horseshoe Meadow which is set at 10,000 ft so that we could get somewhat acclimated before trying to scale Mount Whitney at 14,494 ft. The problem is that I slept like crap which means that I got maybe 2 hours of good sleep the whole day. This is going to be one really long day. We packed up our gear and headed toward the trailhead.

:: Monday, July 18, 2005 @ 2:00 AM::
We got to the trailhead in the dark and started to get ourselves ready for the long hike. Everyone got their headlamps and water ready and I even brought my iPod so that I could listen to some tunes on the way up there. I didn't expect that my iPod would last nearly the entire trip. We got on the trail a little bit after 1 AM. It was pitch black except for our headlamps all the way until sunrise.

:: Monday, July 18, 2005 @ 6:00 AM::
We were really trucking for a while. The group would take turns having different people drive the pace. I don't know how I ended up in front several times. The sun started to come up a little after 5 AM. Once it started to come up enough for us to know where we were at we could see that we had arrived at Trail Camp which is 6.3 miles from the trailhead. We decided to take a short nap here because everyone seemed to be tired. I tried sleeping on the cold granite but even after putting on all my warm clothes I kept shivering. I was not destined to get any good sleep today.

:: Monday, July 18, 2005 @ 9:30 AM::
After we had decided to get moving, we filled up our water and headed for the 96 switchbacks. About halfway up I, for some reason, thought we were almost done with them only to get another view of many more switchbacks to come. There was still some snow on the trail so we had to be careful in parts. We also had to go slow and steady since we were rapidly gaining in altitude. I kept asking Forrest if he had a headache because he has a propensity for altitude sickness. After a few hours of hard work and lots of breaks we finally maide it to Trail Crest (elevation 13,600 ft).

:: Monday, July 18, 2005 @ 12:00 PM::
After taking a quick break at Trail Crest we kept pressing on. Here is where our group really stated to get seperated. I ended up staying at the front with Chiang and Svetlana while Forrest and Lisa kept falling further and further behind. Jay had some problems with the altitude and had to turn back. At this point I was just thinking about the top and hoping that it would all be over soon. When I get above the tree line and see that nothing really grows on the tops of these high (relative term) mountains I inevitably wonder what I am doing there. It is not like this is a nice comfortable place to go and hang out. But I think what draws me to these places, or at least lets me tolerate them is that there is still something wild and edgy about them. There is no free pass for everyone and their stroller bound whiny kids to cut me off as I try to work my way down the trail. Another thing is that the people on the trail are friendly for the most part and we all share this common experience. Back to the hike though... As we got closer to the top I kept hoping it was all over only to be disappointed after each turn in the trail. After a while I relegated myself to just concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other, enjoying the scenery, and realizing that I would get there eventually. I did finally get to the top at 11:30 AM with Chiang right on my heels. We both signed the log, went to find the geological markers, and took a break. I ended up taking a nap and finally getting some decent sleep by the time the rest of the gang showed up.

:: Monday, July 18, 2005 @ 2:30 PM::
We stayed on the summit for about an hour and a half and it actually was hot up there. I didn't feel like eating because I had been snacking throughout the day, but I did eat a little bit of food at the top. On the way down I spotted the highest tiolet in the lower 48. It was pretty cool in that it had a wall of rock to protect the person from the wind and people looking. It was also a real toilet in the sense that it had a seat, but it was really just a hole in the ground with a nice seat over it. At any rate we made our way down slowly but surely and were back at Trail Creat by 2:30 PM

:: Monday, July 18, 2005 @ 7:30 PM::
After taking a few breaks on the way down we decided to go as fast as we could. The trip back down, especially going by Mirror Lake, was beautiful. It really made me wish that I had time to enjoy them on the way up. But I started to fall behind the rest of the group due to my knees not cooperating but I did manage to catch up with them near the end. They were like a bunch of soldiers marching at top speed. But we did eventually make it back to the trailhead by 7:30 PM. Our trip had taken roughly 18 hours round trip and we were worn and ragged, but we had survived. Now for the hard part.

:: Tuesday, Ju19 19, 2005 @ 4:00 AM::
I had to be back at work on Tuesday, and I still had to drive back home from Mount Whitney. I decided that the fasted way to get back would be to seperate from the group, since I had to drive over from San Jose by myself, and head straight for home as fast as I could. I ended up getting on the road at 8 PM and then stopped briefly for a bite to eat in Bishop before pressing on. I stopped in Yosemite National Park for another snack on the way back. The good thing about driving at such a wacky time is that there really are not many people on the road. I was able to make good time and made it back home by 4 AM.

:: Aftermath ::
Never again. When I say never again, here are a few things that I will never do again. I will never again drive over to the Eastern Sierras and back by myself. I will never again do a 22 mile dayhike with 6,500 feet in elevation gain (and loss). That being said I am glad that I made it to the top of Mount Whitney, but next time it will be done as a two day backpacking trip. Slow and easy is the way to go. This trip definitely quenched my thirst for an ass-kicker of a hike. And the drive back home was just dreadful. I hadn't had much sleep for the past few days but I had to get back for work. Never again...