High Sierra Trail

August 11-18, 2011

This is part 4 of my 2011 vacation (see parts [1], [2], and [3]). The High Sierra Trail runs west-to-east, across the Sierra Nevada mountains, from Crescent Meadow in Sequoia National Park to Mt. Whitney, which is the highest point in the continental U.S. I don't know when I first heard of the High Sierra Trail, but I know it was in the early 1970s. How do I know? Because I still have an old trail map produced by the Los Angeles Area Council, BSA, which I would have acquired at that time. So if I was 14 at the time (and that's a good estimate), then it was 40 years ago. That's a long time to want to hike a trail!

Prior to this trip, the last time I was in Sequoia National Park was 1969. My dad and a close family friend, "Uncle" Jerry Teltoe, and I went to Sequoia and backpacked from Lodgepole to Twin Lakes.

This trip was not without its mistakes on my part. But I learned a lot and walked every step of the trail. Each day was full of emotional highs and lows. It was a wonderful experience and I wouldn't change a thing. And 40 years later the dream is complete. Bring on the next dream!

This is the brochure produced by the LAAC, BSA in the 1970s. I've hung on to it all these years. [001]

My cousin Bob drove me to Visalia. We stayed in a hotel there, and the Visalia-to-Sequoia shuttle picked me up in the morning. [291]

This is the shuttle. Cost is $15 per person. If I had driven to Sequoia (logistically impossible since my hike would be one-way, 70 miles, across the Sierra Nevada range) park admission would have cost $25. [292]

An example of the scenery on the drive from Visalia to Sequoia. [300]

Road construction shuts down the highway. They open it to traffic every hour on the hour. Another reason to take the shuttle! [307]

Passing the Four Guardians which "guard" the sequoias of Giant Forest. Spectacular. [310]

Sequoias. [311]

Sequoias. The shuttle drops you off at Giant Forest, from which you take a park service shuttle to Lodgepole to get your permit (previous reservations are required as access to the backcountry is limited), and then another shuttle back to Giant Forest, and finally another shuttle to Crescent Meadow or -- if you so choose -- Moro Rock. Use of shuttles was much more convenient than it sounds. [312]

I took this picture for my Elders' Quoroum President, John Lippincott. [313]

I hadn't planned on stopping at Moro Rock, but I heard some people talking about it, and it is a shuttle stop between Giant Forest and Crescent Meadow. Highly recommended. Only problem was I had no safe place to stow my pack, so I had to carry it up the almost 400 steps! [316]

The steps are built into the rock. If you have a fear of heights, it might be too much for you. I usually have height issues, but didn't have a problem this time. [317]

There are interpretive signs along the way up the rock. My hike will take me over Kaweah Gap on day 3 after 20 miles. [318]

The real thing, to accompany the sign. [319]

On the way to the top of Moro Rock. [323]

At the top of Moro Rock. [329]

Me at the top of Moro Rock, with the range I will cross in the background. [330]

On the way down from the top of Moro Rock. [338]

Other people on their way up Moro Rock. [339]

Kiosk information about Moro Rock. [341]

Kiosk information about Moro Rock. [340]

Kiosk information about Moro Rock. [342]

The beginning of the High Sierra trail at Crescent Meadow. For those who don't know, Mt. Whitney is the highest mountain in the lower 48 states. The trail officially ends there, but you have to get down off the mountain, so it's ten more miles to the trailhead at Whitney Portal. Total distance is 70 miles. OK, this is it! Ready, go! [346]

The trail begins with a short walk through Cresent Meadow, with lots of bracken fern and tall trees. [348]

I think it was less than a mile to Eagle View. If you are ever in the area, even if you can't hike the whole trail, take this short walk. The view is wonderful. [354]

Audrey Adler took my photo at the trailhead. She and her husband Ben accompanied me to Eagle View. I told them that this hike was my mid-life crisis. Audrey said that for her mid-life crisis she took up long distance cycling. "How long?", I asked. "800 miles", she said. Then she asked her husband, "Ben, what did you do for your mid-life crisis?" to which Ben replied "I let you go on your bike rides." Smart man. Nice couple. [351]

Moro Rock from Eagle View. [349]

Moro Rock from Eagle View. [350]

From Eagle View. [352]

Me at Eagle View. [355]

Unusual tree. [363]

Columbine. A personal favorite. [366]

Towards the Great Western Divide and Kaweah Gap. [368]

Towards the Great Western Divide and Kaweah Gap. [369]

The first of three bears. I saw this one just a few hours into my hike, and two more the next morning. I have said before that I have what I recognize to be an irrational fear of bears. But that all went away after this trip. I traded my fear for sympathy. What you have here is a huge mammal who spends his whole day looking for calories. He doesn't want to hurt you. He just wants food. Most days I feel the same way. [381]

Random view. [383]

Random view. [384]

I'm not sure, but I think the granite formation in the foreground left is Little Blue Dome. [387]

Looking towards the Great Western Divide. [389]

Sign on a tree next to a creek. Turns out that creek was Mehrten Creek. I was totally demoralized when I found that out. I have only gone 5.8 miles. I'm not sure how far it is to the next campsite, and it is getting late in the afternoon, so I decide to stop here. But only 5.8 miles? Really? Am I going to be able to complete this hike? Problem is I didn't bring a watch. I don't even own a watch anymore! I use my cellphone as my watch! So I don't know when my hike started or how long I have been hiking. I start to doubt myself.... [390]

Despite my self doubts, the beauty of this place is not lost on me. [391]

I make camp up the hill from the creek, next to the bear box. Boxes similar to this are located at most of the popular campsites. Of course, you are still required to carry your food in a bear-proof canister. It really is an inconvenience, but it is an inconvenience that is worth it. I had never used a bear canister before. When I got my permit I asked the ranger, "Do I need to be careful where I put my canister? Will the bears bat it around in the night and I not be able to find it in the morning?" and he told me, "No, they know what they are, and know they can't get in them, so they probably won't even bother it." Indeed, if a bear ever came into any camp, I didn't know it. I think they have just learned there is no point in going into the camps as there is no food available there. [393]

Dinner the first night was beef stew. I usually like it, but it left me unsatisfied. Indeed, I packed the wrong kind of food. Rather than the traditional dehydrated meals, I should have packed more calorie-dense foods and more variety. For example, instead of four servings of dried eggs, I should have packed a dozen whole wheat tortillas and a jar of peanut butter and nutella. Instead of the nasty pemmican bars I bought at REI, I should have packed dried fruit and nuts. Or Snickers bars! I had expressed my concerns to the ranger at the permit desk about not having enough food. He told me, "Most people take too much food. People will probably be giving you their food." While I was relaxing after dinner, a man came up to the bear box. He said he and his wife were out for 16 days, and that they were camped two miles away, but there wasn't room in his bear canister for all of their food, so he hiked here (four miles round trip!) to drop off his food. He pulled lots of food out of his pack, including what had to have been five pounds of white cheddar cheese. My eyes must have been as big as saucers, because he offered me a generous slice, which I took without heistation and with much gratitude. So began my life as a Yogi'er. This same gentleman told me that he lived in Fresno and that he usually goes to Yosemite, but that he likes Sequoia because it is less crowded. He told me, "If this was Yosemite, there would be fifty people camped here." As it was, there was just me and two couples. [395]

Another glance at the Great Western Divide. [396]

I made a small fire -- pinecones were sufficient -- to boil some water for hot chocolate. Hot chocolate always raises my spirits. [398]

The next morning -- a glance back to Moro Rock. [401]

I always take pictures of trail signs for future reference. Here I am reminded of how little distance I have covered. Only 6.3 of 70 miles. [403]

Random morning view. [404]

Random morning view. [407]

This guy was coiled on the side of the trail. I had stopped to get a drink when I saw him. I almost stepped on him. I'm not sure, but I think it is a rubber boa -- at least that's what we called a similar snake we would sometimes find in the San Bernardino mountains. Very, very passive. I think they are rare. [413]

There are a lot of deer between Crescent Meadow and Hamilton Lake, and they are not shy. One camper at Hamilton Lake told me he had to run off a deer that was trying to steal his t-shirt which he had draped over a limb to dry. The deer want the salt from the sweat. [417]

I think this is the bridge at Buck Canyon, which I think is also called Upper Nine Mile Creek. There is a campsite here. [422]

Having been emboldened by last night's cheese, I decided to ask people who were hiking out if they had any food they could spare. I yogi'ed this. Shameless. [424]

I didn't get a picture of my second bear. This is third (and last) bear I saw -- between Upper Nine Mile Creek and Bearpaw camp. Just like the other two, he acknowledged my presence, then went back to doing what bears do, nose to the ground. [426]

11.3 miles into my hike. At this point, it seems surreal to me to see signs indicating Mt. Whitney. [427]

Ranger cabin at High Sierra camp, Bearpaw Meadow. [428]

License plate on the door of the ranger cabin. [429]

Dining tent at the High Sierra camp. [430]

Tent for use by High Sierra camp guests. With beds and gas lights. Cost: $375 per night per person! That's IF you can get a reservation! Too rich for me. And you still have to hike about 11 miles to get here! [431]

The view from the porch of the dining tent. [432]

I asked if I could take a picture of the kitchen for my wife. She is quite the baker, and I could imagine the camp guests dining on her giant blueberry muffins. [433]

Another view of the kitchen. I would gladly spend a summer here washing all the dishes my wife could dirty! [434]

View from High Sierra camp. [435]

The porch on the dining tent. Hikers are welcome to sit awhile unless guests are present. [436]

Pretty cool, huh? [437]

Parting shot of High Sierra camp. [438]

Between Bearpaw Meadow and Lone Pine creek. [439]

Between Bearpaw Meadow and Lone Pine creek. [440]

Hamilton Lake and Kaweah Gap are up that canyon in the center of the picture. [443]

Random view. [444]

Hamilton Lake and Kaweah Gap are up that canyon. [445]

The bridge over Lone Pine creek. [447]

Picture doesn't adequately show the depth of this canyon. It's a long way straight down! [448]

Twisted wreckage of an older bridge is still at the bottom of the canyon below the current bridge. [449]

This was one part of the only scout troop I saw on this hike. I think they were from the Norwalk and Cypress area. I quickly determined that they, too, were Latter-day Saints (Mormons). Last night I was wishing I had asked for a Priesthood blessing before leaving home. I asked these two brethren if they would be willing to give a blessing to a stranger. They consented, and I was blessed. Here I am a couple thousand miles from home and about 12 miles into my trek and I was able to get a blessing. Pretty amazing. [451]

I was further blessed by these good men in the form of a bag of gatorade mix and a handful of homemade beef jerky! [452]

Another trail sign. By the way, the next 2.4 miles is kinda tough! [453]

Between Lone Pine creek and Hamilton Lake. Spectacular. [455]

The trail to Hamilton Lake goes right over that waterfall. [458]

Towering granite walls. Probably a thousand feet high or more. [461]

Hamilton Lake. Wow! [465]

Pit toilet about a quarter of a mile from Hamilton Lake. This is what passes for creature comforts in these parts! [466]

Some Berkeley boys enjoying the lake. I went for a swim -- twice. It wasn't as cold as I expected, but it was cold enough! [469]

This is where I dropped my pack when I arrived, and this is where I spent the night. That rock at the end of my sleeping pad proved to be just the right height to serve as a comfortable pillow. [470]

Two nice hikers I met at Hamilton Lake: Michael Guerin and Andrew Kirkwood. They shared their no-bake cheesecake with me, and gave me some granola, a packet of swiss miss, and two packets of tapatio sauce for my nasty dehydrated eggs (two of the four of which I never ate). Shameless yogi. [475]

Sunset at Hamilton Lake. [473]

Sunset at Hamilton Lake. There was almost a full moon that night. It was gorgeous. [474]

Leaving Hamilton Lake early the next morning. It is 2500 feet elevation gain over the next 4 miles to get to Kaweah Gap. [481]

One of my last glimpses of Moro Rock. [482]

Precipice Lake is up there, feeding that waterfall. [486]

Gaining altitude. [487]

Steel cables left from long ago, when the builders of this trail thought they would build a bridge across a steep gorge. [488]

The trail builders nixed the idea of a bridge and blasted this tunnel through the rock instead. We struggle to hike this trail: I can't imagine the kind of men that built it! This is one of only two pictures that show my SPOT transmitter. I always carry this when I hike alone. If you are not familiar with it, you register email addresses on the SPOT website, and when you press the OK button on your transmitter, an email goes to your registered recipients indicating your location and that you are OK. If you press the 911 button, SPOT notifies the nearest search and rescue group. I told my family I would send an OK signal every morning and every evening. It was a great comfort for them and for me. [493]

Here's the SPOT signal from my campsite on the edge of Hamilton Lake. It is very accurate! [004]

Gorge. Red lines show where the bridge was supposed to go, but didn't. [497]

Looking back at the tunnel. [499]

Lots of water. As I got closer to Precipice Lake, the wildflowers were particularly abundant. [503]

This marmot thinks he owns the place. [506]

A dense bunch of columbine. [511]

Looking down at Hamilton Lake, where I had spent the previous night. [512]

It's mid-August, and Precipice Lake was still frozen. [516]

Precipice Lake [517]

Between Precipice Lake and Kaweah Gap. There were isolated patches of snow which weren't particularly large, but hid the trail and were frustrating nonetheless. [521]

Looking down the other (eastern) side of Kaweah Gap. I spent probably 45 minutes here, pacing, doubting. Do I continue? If I do, will I be able to make it? What if I can't. I am 21 miles into my hike, and there is a long downhill stretch after this, so this is like the last chance to bale. Keep in mind that I am hiking alone. I cannot bounce my feelings off someone else. Finally, pride got the best of me and I went on. [525]

Just below Kaweah Gap, on the eastern side. [526]

Just below Kaweah Gap, on the eastern side. [527]

First big water. Since I am hiking alone, I just walk through the water. I don't even attempt to keep my feet dry. I think jumping from rock to rock is the easiest way to get hurt, and I need to be especially careful since I am alone. [531]

There were four other hikers at the first big water crossing. I don't know why, but I always try to find some connection, something we have in common. And I was lonely. Well, this is Bob Muleady, who stood up in the wedding of Dan McMillan, who was my cross country team co-captain in high school. (I successfully yogi'ed two Ritz crackers.) [532]

Another trail sign. Now there is a long uphill climb. It isn't particularly steep, but it is long and it was unexpected. [533]

Climbing out of the Big Arroyo to the Chagoopa Plateau. [534]

Climbing out of the Big Arroyo to the Chagoopa Plateau. [540]

Small unnamed lake on the Chagoopa Plateau at about 10,500 elevation. Earlier I had passed two other hikers at a water crossing. It was here that one of them, Wayne, caught up with me and we had a pleasant conversation. I expressed my concerns to him about my ability to complete this hike. He asked where I had started the day and I told him Hamilton Lake. He was impressed as he and his partner had started at Precipice, so I had done the climb from Hamilton to Precipice today, as well as all they had done. His encouragement was a real boost to me. Maybe I can do this? [545]

On the Chagoopa Plateau above the Big Arroyo. [546]

On the Chagoopa Plateau above the Big Arroyo. [547]

On the Chagoopa Plateau above the Big Arroyo. [549]

On the Chagoopa Plateau near the Moraine Lake trail. [557]

Trail sign. Trail to Moraine Lake was a gentle downhill, but after twelve hard miles today, it felt like a lot more than 2.2 miles! [559]

On the Chagoopa Plateau at the Moraine Lake trail. [560]

Moraine Lake in the early evening. [562]

Moraine Lake in the early evening. [563]

My foot after 14 miles and as many creek crossings. [564]

I've earned this hot chocolate. [565]

When Wayne and his partner Mike arrived at Moraine Lake, I asked them to join me and they did. We quickly realized all three of us were Latter-day Saints. These good men became my companions for the remainder of the hike, and proved to be the answer to the blessing I had been given just 24 hours ago. Indeed, I believe that when God blesses us, he usually does so through other people. This time He used Wayne Dill and Mike Bailey of Fresno. I was done hiking alone. [567]

Me at Moraine Lake. [569]

Wayne and Mike mixing some kind of no-bake dessert. It was a little runny, but I offered up the granola I had been given the previous day for use as a topping and it turned great! [570]

Moraine Lake the next morning. This lake is at 9302 elevation, but it is not particularly deep, so it is much warmer than most. I swam for what had to have been half an hour. It was the most sensational feeling, floating on my back and enjoying the surroundings. Ah, God DOES love me! [572]

Wayne checking the bear box. [576]

Sky Parlor Meadow. [577]

Sky Parlor Meadow. [578]

Sky Parlor Meadow. [580]

Trail sign [581]

Now we begin the rather steep descent into the Kern canyon. [582]

Descending to the Kern. [584]

Kern Canyon from the Chagoopa Plateau. [590]

Mike crossing a creek on the way to the Kern River. [594]

The Kern river. [596]

Kern River canyon. We will spend the rest of this day and evening in the canyon. [597]

Mike and Wayne resting at the bottom. [598]

Me resting at the bottom. [599]

Trail sign. [600]

The Kern river. [601]

Chagoopa Falls. [604]

Mike hiking up the Kern river canyon. At this point it is quite warm. The canyon floor and walls are like a reflector oven. [605]

Chagoopa Falls. [606]

Chagoopa Falls. [608]

Mike with Chagoopa Falls in the background. [611]

Mike on the Kern river bridge. [612]

Me on the Kern river bridge. [614]

Mike and the Kern river bridge. [618]

One of the walls of the Kern river canyon. Tomorrow we have to climb out of here! [619]

Looking south down the Kern river canyon. [621]

Wayne crossing a creek. [623]

Mike crossing the same creek. [626]

The much-anticipated Kern river hot springs. [629]

The trail builders built this tub. There is a wooden plug for the inlet and another for the drain. The metal can is for bringing cold water from the river to control the temperature. [632]

Feels sooo good. And, yes, I am. [635]

Wayne had done this trail many years ago (I think it was twenty years ago.) He suggested we relax until the sun went down over the Chagoopa Plateau, as it would be much cooler then. We could then walk for awhile in the shade, and ultimately with our headlamps. He and Mike then pulled out their bear canisters and invited me to join them for lunch. Here Wayne offers up a slice of life-giving salami. Yum! [636]

Mike offers up a slice of Colby Jack cheese! These good men were generous in sharing their food. They had planned carefully to have enough for the two of them, but their canister proved to be a metaphor for fishes-and-loaves: they shared freely and when the hike was done they still had more. [638]

We continued our hike when the sun went down behind the ridge, at about 3:30pm. The hiking was much more pleasant. [640]

The Kern river. We took out our flashlights when it got dark. I was tired. I felt like I was walking in a trance. It was two 14 mile days back to back. [641]

Crossing Whitney creek. I just forged across without thinking. Like I said, I was in a trance-like state. Wayne and Mike were more alert, and therefore more nervous. I didn't see it, but I guess Wayne had a slip which gave him a good scare. Here we wait for Mike to come across. [642]

Mike crossing Whitney Creek by headlamp. [648]

Made it. [649]

We continued for about three more miles to the crossing of lower Wallace creek. Just like before, I started to cross without thinking, but Wayne and Mike yelled for me to stop: they weren't willing to cross that one in the dark. So we looked for a place to camp. We couldn't find any level ground, so we set up our tents on the trail! [650]

Wayne and Mike having breakfast the next morning. This is the start of day five. We crossed Wallace creek. Just a hundred yards or so past the crossing we came to Junction Meadow campground. It is a beautiful campground, with tall trees, situated on a bend in the Kern. I want to go back! [651]

Trail sign. Almost to the John Muir Trail, and getting ever closer to Mt. Whitney! This would be a very short day for us -- only about 4.3 miles. At this point in the hike, you are trying to position yourself for the ascent of Mt. Whitney. [652]

Climbing out of the Kern river canyon, parallel to Wallace creek, up to the John Muir Trail. [655]

Trail sign. [656]

Mike, climbing out of the Kern river canyon. [657]

Me, with the Kern river canyon in the background. [658]

Looking south down the Kern river canyon. [659]

Wright creek. This one is one of the worst crossing. I guess it can be quite treacherous earlier in the season. I think Whitney and Wallace creeks were worse for us. [661]

Mike crossing Wright creek. [662]

Trail sign. For the next 3.4 miles we will be on the High Sierra Trail, John Muir Trail, and Pacific Crest Trail all at the same time. [663]

Campground and meadow at upper Wallace creek. [664]

We were all tired. [665]

Wayne napping. [666]

Mike napping. [667]

I thought the trail from Wallace creek to Crabtree was quite pretty. [669]

Mike on the trail from Wallace creek to Crabtree. [672]

Me on the trail from Wallace creek to Crabtree. [674]

Wayne and Mike on the trail from Wallace creek to Crabtree. [675]

Mike on the trail from Wallace creek to Crabtree. [676]

On the trail from Wallace creek to Crabtree. [677]

On the trail from Wallace creek to Crabtree. [679]

Mike on the trail from Wallace creek to Crabtree. [680]

Mike and Wayne on the trail from Wallace creek to Crabtree. [682]

Me on the trail from Wallace creek to Crabtree. Did you notice I am wearing tennis shoes? As a young man I would never consider hiking in anything less than boots and wool socks. But I have a problem with my feet swelling sometimes. One morning, before this hike, when I was dressing for a training hike, my feet were swollen and I couldn't get my boots on. What would I do if that happened on my trek? So I hiked in tennis shoes that day, and decided I would do so on my trek as well. I also carried some Keens sandals in case my shoes gave out on me, but they never did. I am now a loyal New Balance customer! [683]

Meadow on the trail from Wallace creek to Crabtree. [685]

1952 survery marker on a tree on the trail from Wallace creek to Crabtree. [686]

Meadow on the trail from Wallace creek to Crabtree. [687]

Trail sign. Getting closer! [689]

Me. [690]

Our first glimpse of the west side of Mt. Whitney! [691]

Mike, Wayne, and I. [692]

Trail sign. Bin has "wag bags". From this point on, you cannot bury human waste. You must spread out a plastic sheet, drop or place your waste there, roll it up, put it in the enclosed plastic bag and carry it out. The three of us managed to "hold it" for the next 48 hours and never used our wag bags. After six days on the trail, there really wasn't a whole lot to "hold". [696]

On the spur trail to Crabtree. [697]

Crabtree. [698]

Crabtree. [699]

We planned to camp at Guitar Lake this evening, but there was no point in going there this early. It is above treeline, so there is no shade, and in August that means HOT. This is an example of Wayne's trail knowledge which proved invaluable! So we relaxed in the shade at Crabtree and ate lunch, which meant more cheese! [700]

And Werther's candies. Always reminds me of my daughter Hannah. [701]

Ranger cabin at Crabtree. [702]

Wayne and I at the ranger cabin at Crabtree. [703]

Ranger at Crabtree. I think his name was Ron. He's had this job for 22 years. Nice gig! He asked Wayne to mail a couple of letters for him. [704]

Pit toilet at Crabtree. That's right, no privacy. Nice place to sit and think... [706]

Wayne and Mike at Crabtree. Waiting for me to come back from the toilet so they can have their turn! [707]

When Wayne agreed to mail the ranger's letters, the ranger let us know where this spring was. It was sooo delicious! [708]

Mike and Wayne at the spring. [711]

At Crabtree. [713]

At Crabtree. [714]

Me on the trail between Crabtree and Guitar Lake. It's about 3 miles from Crabtree to Guitar Lake. [719]

Mike on the trail between Crabtree and Guitar Lake. [720]

Mike on the trail between Crabtree and Guitar Lake. [721]

The trail between Crabtree and Guitar Lake. [723]

Me on the trail between Crabtree and Guitar Lake. [724]

Beautiful Timberline Lake, about a mile and half from Crabtree. [726]

Me at Timberline Lake. That's the back side of Whitney, in the background on the left. [727]

Between Timberline Lake and Guitar Lake. [728]

On the trail between Timberline Lake and Guitar Lake. [729]

On the trail between Timberline Lake and Guitar Lake. [730]

Guitar Lake.[732]

I asked Mike to take a look at my neck; I thought it might be sunburned. This is what he saw. My pack had pulled my t-shirt down and this is what happens when you allow that to happen at high altitude! [734]

Guitar Lake. [735]

Me at Guitar Lake, with Whitney in the background. Tomorrow we go up. Will I make it? [741]

Guitar Lake. [744]

Guitar Lake. [745]

Whitney at dusk. Surreal, but so real. [749]

SPOT signal from Guitar Lake. [005]

3:45am. Rise and shine, boys. (It's not easy camping with apnea, nor is it easy camping with someone who has apnea!) [751]

Quick breakfast and pack up. On the trail at 4:30am. You want to be on your way down from Whitney by noon if possible in case an afternoon thunderstorm develops. [752]

Gaining altitude. Hitchcock Lakes. [755]

Hitchcock Lakes. [756]

Gaining altitude. Guitar lake is on the right. [757]

Guitar Lake. [759]

Approaching the Mt. Whitney spur trail. [760]

Flowers at over 13,400 feet elevation. [762]

So close! [764]

One of several "windows" on the spur trail to Mt. Whitney. [765]

At this point I am moving slowly. Altitude is an issue, but I think more than that, I have really psyched myself out. I want so much to do this (for forty years!) and I am afraid I won't make it. Speaking of altitude, you never really know when or if it is going to be a problem. We met a girl who was going up who had camped the night before at 13,000 feet with her boyfriend, but he got sick and started down without her, and he had already been to the top twice before! [766]

The smile belies the anxiety. [768]

There's the top. I will crawl the rest of the way if I have to! (The stone hut was built in 1909 by the Smithsonian Institute for weather studies.) [769]

Me, Mike and Wayne on Mt. Whitney summit. [770]

I had a cell signal on Mt. Whitney. I called my mom and then called home. When I talked to my mom I was so emotional that I started to hyperventilate in the thin air and had to call her back. This is the photo I took to post of Facebook. [002]

This is my Facebook post. [003]

Looking towards Lone Pine. [771]

Mike on the summit. [773]

View from Whitney summit. [774]

View from Whitney summit. [776]

View from Whitney summit. [777]

View from Whitney summit. [778]

Me at Whitney summit. Having climbed Colorado's Mt. Elbert a couple weeks earlier, I have now climbed the first and second highest (though not necessarily hardest) peaks in the continental U.S. in a single summer. [779]

Wayne and Mike on Whitney summit. [781]

View from Whitney summit. [782]

View from Whitney summit. [783]

Heading down. [784]

Hitchcock Lakes and Guitar Lake. [787]

Wayne and Mike on the Whitney trail. The summit is over Wayne's right shoulder. [789]

Whitney spur trail. Heading down. [790]

Me, Mike, and Wayne at Trail Crest, elevation 13,650. [791]

Looking back to the summit. [794]

Wayne and Mike, with Whitney in the background. [795]

Above treeline. This is why people who attempt Whitney from the east will start their hike at 2am. You don't want to be walking UP this in full sunlight! [796]

It's all downhill now. For 8.5 miles. Every step of it downhill. Which is a mixed blessing. The downhills are hard on my knees. After several breaks we told Wayne to just go ahead and get a campsite for us. He took off like a kid who had found a dollar and was running to the candy store. I walk in pain. I enter a trance-like state again. I knew I would either make it to the campsite, or pass out mid-step. [793]

I did, indeed, make it. This is what tired looks like. [799]

But I made a fine recovery by morning, thanks in part to powdered milk and Carnation Breakfast Essentials yogi'ed from a kind woman several days earlier. [802]

Wayne and Mike breaking camp. We stayed at Outpost camp. It was very pretty. Many hikers stay at Trail Camp, which is much higher. That's a good choice if you are on your way up, but not so much if you are on your way down. It is above treeline and so there is no shade whatsoever. I had slept only about ten feet from the trail. It was kinda cool, drifting in and out of sleep as I so often do, and watching many hikers beginning their hike, illuminating their way by headlamp. [801]

The waterfall at Outpost camp. [804]

The waterfall at Outpost camp. [805]

Our eighth day, and only about four miles to go. [806]

The first road I have seen in eight days. [808]

Me. [810]

Wayne. [811]

Mike. [813]

Wayne and Mike. [812]

Mike, almost to Whitney Portal. [814]

Me at Whitney Portal. There are some information kiosks at the trailhead, and a scale for weighing your pack. Mine was about 30 pounds. We were all within five pounds of each other. [815]

Wayne. He is a very accomplished backpacker. He has done the John Muir Trail, and now the High Sierra Trail twice. [816]

Mike. His first time completing the High Sierra Trail. [817]

Me at Whitney Portal. [818]

Mike's dad picked us up at Whitney Portal. We rode down to Lone Pine, where the Whitney Portal Hostel on Hwy 395 has hot showers, soap and towel for $5. Money well spent! [819]

Me, shaved and showered. [820]

Lunch at Alabama Hills Cafe. Wayne, Mike, and Mike's dad Jerry. [821]

Highly recommended. On the same street as the hostel but west of Hwy 395. [822]

Tummies full. [823]

The summit from Lone Pine. Before this trip, THIS was as close as I had been to Whitney. But not any longer. Dream realized. Thank you, God. [825]

Copyright © 2011 by Bill Qualls. Last updated September 5, 2011.
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