Climbing Mt Whitney was one of the hardest things I've ever done. It wasn't the hardest trail I've ever been on but the combination of the distance and the altitude made it a challenge. 14, 494’ doesn’t sound that high but it sure feels like it when the lack of oxygen robs you of energy and mental clarity. The 22-mile hike was supposed to take us 14 hours but it took longer than expected. I felt great up until 12,000’ - after 13, 000’ we slowed down significantly. But we made it- not bad for people that live at about 20’!
‘Do you feel LUCKY?’ While LA posted the highest temps on record (110 degrees) we experienced 60-degree temps even at our start time of 3 am. The warm desert air rose in gusts and throughout the day we were blessed with clear skies, mild temps (40’s-50’s) and a few wispy clouds providing a perfect scrim to ward off heat stroke. In comparison: two weeks before our climb the temps were about 13 degrees and 3 days after brought thunderstorms! It’s also not uncommon for it to snow in September. So yeah- we felt very very lucky.
The views were STUNNING. After you pass over the saddle at 13,500’- King’s Canyon and the Great Western Divide are suddenly revealed below. To the north is Yosemite, to the south Sequoia. The mesa-type mountain formations resembling eroding sandcastles were in stark contrast to the sharp vertical monoliths of the rock formations at Trail Crest. ‘Wotan’s Throne’ really does look fit for the deity. Further still are the aptly named ‘Needles’- appearing sharp, unfriendly, and potentially injurious. Against a solid blue sky they were beautiful with their raspy, crags emerging defiantly. The range appears almost violent from a distance like a massive rip in this dimension as they try to escape. They are sheer on one side and slightly sloping on the other as if a giant snowplow had pushed the rocks aside. Occasionally the sun would cast a spotlight onto the whitish rocks below in a playful game of Searchlight Tag. When we were on the summit, it illuminated an area just beyond a razor-like rock wall: a massive stone curtain setting an enormous stage? Perfect for modern descendants of Dionysus re-emerging in California.
As always, the moon went with us. It was nearly full on the ascent- we hardly needed our headlamps as she brightened our path. The sunrise cast the white rocks in hues from pink to orange…. as she winked from above.
You can only prepare for so much in life- sometimes you just have to jump in. We made it- with a little help from our friends: Doug, Warren and Beth thank you so much. The Sierras will continue to inspire me even more now that I know them intimately.