Wow, where do I even begin?? This weekend we hiked the highest mountain in the continental United States! Talk about exciting! I'll warn you now this post is going to be a long one :)
We started our hike at 3:30 AM on Saturday morning. Most people do an overnight trip and hike to base camp the first day and then the second day summit but we decided we liked the idea of a day hike better. I was a little nervous about hiking in the dark with headlamps, but surprisingly it wasn't bad. It actually made the first few hours go by pretty quick because you have to focus so much on where you are going in the dark.
Past this sign is "Whitney Zone" its required to have a permit or else you will be fined. We were luckily enough to snag a cancellation.
The sun finally started to come up at 7:00am. It was so nice to put away the headlamps after 3 1/2 hours of hiking in the dark. Even though it was still SO far away it was nice to finally see our destination Mt. Whitney in the light.
The temperature during the hike was constantly changing. One minute we would be cold then the next minute sweating. If you plan on hiking Mt. Whitney wear lots and lots of layers. I probably changed jackets 15 times during the hike.
We reached the cables at 8:00 am. Luckily there was only a tiny bit of snow and ice covering the trail so we didn't need to rely too heavily on the cables but I was still grateful that they were there.
After the cables we reached the infamous 99 switchbacks, a 2.2 mile stretch of Mt. Whitney trail that rises 1,738 feet to trail crest. If you look close in the top picture you can see the 99 switchbacks zig zag back and forth.
We read some horrible things about these supposedly brutal switchbacks, but I honestly didn't think they were too bad. They had a very gradual incline and it was quite a relief from the rest of the trail. Definitely recomend bringing some headphones and good tunes though, we didn't need it but it would be helpful for some.
We brought lots and lots of food with us. I ended up eating two cliff bars, an italian wrap for lunch, a bagel for breakfast, and 4 shot blocks. The shot blocks were my favorite, they taste amazing and I love the little boost of energy they give you. We also brought 2-3 liters of water each and one gatorade each for the hike down. A lot of articles we read stressed the importance of having a water filter. We ended up buying one before the trip at REI which we of course forgot at home so we bought another water filter when we got to Lone Pine and of course we never even needed the water filter.
The trail was pretty intimidating at some points, scrambling over big rocks when you're dizzy from the high altitude is really scary especially with the steep drop offs. The picture above is the trail, hard to believe its even a trail by the way it looks.
We could see the tin roof of the summit house bobbing in and out of sight as we continued to get closer to the summit. It seemed so far away and with the air getting really thin we were exhausted by this point. We passed a group of hikers coming down from the summit and they told us we had a half hour to go, we were surprised but really excited! 15 minutes later we passed another hiker who also told us we had yet another half hour to go.. a bit disheartening since we were told a half hour 15 minutes ago but the real heartbreaker came 45 minutes later when yet another hiker told us we STILL had a half hour to go. Apparently a half hour is the magic time here, really upsetting when we were completely exhausted and tired of getting our hopes up but its funny now looking back that we were told a half hour so many different times.
We finally reached the summit at 12:00pm for a total of 8 1/2 hours of hiking and an elevation change of 8,365 feet.
We signed the log book, hit the "easy button" and decided to pass on the Jim Beam bourbon that a fellow hiker left for everyone to share. As appealing as a shot sounded at this point, a shot + another 11 mile hike to reach the bottom did not sound like a good idea!
We stayed on the summit for over an hour enjoying the stunning 360 degree view from the highest mountain in the continental United States.
I could have spent way more than an hour on the summit but I was starting to get a minor headache from the air being so thin and we knew we would be chasing sunlight on the hike back. So at 1:00pm we began our 11 mile hike back to the portal, finally reaching the bottom at 7:00pm for a total of 15 1/2 hours of hiking.
Words cannot describe how amazing it felt to stand on the top of Mt. Whitney. I've never felt so proud of myself before. All the hard work that lead to this moment was completely worth it to see the beauty from the top.