My eyes opened to a glorious morning. The air was cold yet still and there was a gleam of daylight even though the sun wouldn’t peak over the ridge for awhile. There was a musical lake in front of me and a rocky mountain waiting to be climbed above me. We would be coming back to this spot after the climb to get back to the PCT so slackpacking to the summit was the obvious choice. Since my tent uses my treking poles, I packed up everything I didn’t need into a trash bag and stored it in Baro’s tent, safe from all the marmots. The trail went up to another plateau with a couple more small lakes followed by another flat spot above at which point the switchbacks started. The trail went up off the side of the summit and would come back near the top. The sun was still not over the ridge, providing a perfect temperature for climbing thousands of feet in a rain jacket. Up the numerous switchbacks, I could see Baro on one ahead of me, Mouse two ahead, Jangles one behind, etc. At about 13,700 ft, there was a perfect campspot at the point of one of the switchbacks. If I knew it was there and that it would be a calm night, it would be an amazing site, overlooking the entire rock arena. Just past this the trail joined the trail from the east side that day hikers take to the top; being Sunday, we ran into a lot of traffic on the wat back down. The trail became more strenuous as it made its way back towards the summit and crossed only one small section of snow. Man I’m glad that this is a low snow year, it makes these things a lot easier. The trail flattened out reaching the top which is a big pile of rocks with a shelter built in 1909 at the top. The views from the tallest point in the contiguous United States were amazing and unlikely to be justly described. Owens Valley was towards the east with a large drop off and deep blue snow melt lakes scattered around. The Sierras circled the rest of the horizon with thier brown peaks and spotches of snow. At 14,505 ft, I called my dad, wished him a happy father’s day, and set the bar high for my brother to top. We spent about two hours at the top before heading down.
Down was easier than up, with the exception of the day hiker traffic I mentioned but that cleared up after the trail junction. After nine miles and ninety pictures, we were back at Guitar Lake where we relaxed for an hour or so, surrounded by the unreal beauty of this place. I thought about swimming in the lake but could only bear the cold water up to my ankles.
Finally, we packed up and headed back towards the PCT; my pack is much heavier now. We went back through the beauty that lead to Mt Whitney and I watched a family of deer graze on one of the green meadows. Back on the PCT, we put in three more miles to Wallace Creek which would set us up nicely for Forester Pass tomorrow. The trail descended now into a valley where the creek was somewhere within the millions of mosquitos flying around. These tiny flying blood-suckers were everywhere! All of us set up our tents as fast as we could and didn’t venture out the rest of the night unless absolutely neccessary and clothed in rain gear, bug hats, and insect repellant. Lesson quickly learned: don’t camp near water.
(We found the sign H-bomb is holding at the top and it is wrong; Whitney is 14,505 ft tall)