June 24 – Summit Day
Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.
~ John Muir
Guitar Lake to Whitney Portal
WOW…WOW…WOW. Today was full of lots of BIG shouts (some awe-inspiring, others well… terrifying )! We were very thankful for our ice axes and used this important piece of equipment in traditional ways and new creative ways, like the side slide with one constant self-arrest down a long snow chute.
Arrow and I started summit day at 7:15 AM from Guitar Lake to climb Mount Whitney (elevation 14,496) from the west side. The weather was clear and cold… perfect conditions. Most of the trail was snow free except a few hard, icy chutes that we crossed easily with microspikes and ice axe. We summited about 11:30 AM and the views were amazing! I had been to this summit before, but this time with snowy mountains on every horizon it was breathtaking. We then left the summit to climb down the east side route to exit at Whitney Portal trail head outside of Lone Pine. The east side trail has 99 switchbacks at the top of the trail that are usually very doable, but today they were snow-covered with soft, deep snow. With full backpacks and a steep slope, one had to use special skills and each climber today had a unique style. Arrow and I after much trial and error, decided to glissade down on our sides with ice axe planted in the snow to control our speed. It was long and tiring.
I am thankful tonight for a safe journey, burgers at the Whitney Portal Store, a kind man who gave us a ride to the campground, and for an available camp spot! I am also thankful for my friend Arrow for sharing this section of the journey with me.
Resupply will be coming tomorrow and my new hiking partner, my husband. Arrow and I came out a day earlier than planned and I have not had cell service for quite a few days. We will be visiting the ranger station in Lone Pine (one of my favorite places) tomorrow and hopefully they will have snow and river crossing information for north of Tuolumne Meadows.
I have just completed 220 miles in 12 days of this adventure. It has been more than I had imagined and I have learned a lot, observed some great sites, and met many new people. I am truly blessed!
Thank you for your comments and encouragement as I enter the decisions for the next leg of this journey.
Snow chute crossing on west side
View of Hitchcock and Guitar Lakes
View of Whitney on left while climbing
Smithsonian Hut at the top of Mount Whitney
Rockin’ on top, view north
View south from the top
West side snow chute we glissaded down