Mount Whitney 2015

Sunday September 6, 2015
Hiking to Consultation Lake

Monday September 7, 2015
Whitney Summit

Tuesday September 8, 2015
Go home


I woke up way too early, but it was way too cold outside to consider getting up before dawn.
Ray was very eager to start hiking.
I wanted an early start, but I also wanted to take the tent down now when I was 'fresh' instead of later when I was tired and sore after summiting Whitney.


We refilled our water bottles at Trail Camp.
Ray was pleased to learn that the infamous 99 switchbacks started right after Trail Camp, he thought they were further ahead somewhere.

Just getting started on the 99 switchbacks - we're probably in the 10s or 20s here.
We noticed the smoke from the forest fire coming up from the valley towards us.
We were hiking away from it, I guess that was all we could ask.





Sierra Crest!
Looking east


Sierra Crest!
Looking west

From Sierra Crest you hike another 2 full miles north at altitude to get to the summit of Mount Whitney.
I warned Ray that this is the longest 2 miles you'll ever hike.




We were passing alot of people.
People were stopped and taking very long breaks before they started walking at a snails pace again.


The lady in the pink shorts turned out to be the only person who passed us on the trail that day.
Whitney is the peak in the right center, you can just see the top of the shelter on the summit.





We made it!!!


I asked Ray if he wanted to go find the top of the Mountaineer's Route. 
Ray has talked about the Mountaineer's Route for years, but didn't want to go find it.
I should have immediately realized something was wrong with Ray when I got that answer.
I went to find it myself.


Mountaineer's Route, looking straight out


Mountaineer's Route, looking down on the route.


Ray's heading back down.


Keeler's Needle and the rest of the Sierra Crest

I wandered back to the summit and quickly found myself on the southern edge of the cliff.
I then wandered back down the trail.
I was feeling fantastic.
I figured that I was behind Ray since I had seen him start down the trail.
I quickly got to the trail and was soon tempted to try to scramble up Keeler's Needle.
I wandered off the trail and eventually committed. 
It was fairly slow going up the needle, it is rated a class 2 / 3
I knew it was climbable but didn't know how long it would take me.. or if I could get all the way up.

As I was nearing the top I realized that Ray had been behind me the whole time, and he was slowly hiking past me on the trail below.
I yelled for him as loud as I could, but he never heard me, he kept going.
Now I had to hurry to catch up with Ray...

Eventually I reached a point near the top where I would not proceed.
The very top of Keeler is an angled boulder with sheer multi thousand foot drops on 3 sides.
No one knew where I was, and if I disappearred they'd never even find my body.
I did not summit Keeler, but I came really close.
I don't regret failing to summit, but I do regret that didn't take more pictures and video while I was up there.
I didn't take many pictures on this trip since there was smoke in the air and I'd already taken lots of pictures in 2013, but my failure to take lots of pictures and video from Keeler's is not in character.
On the other hand I recall at the time there simply weren't too many different angles to photograph....


South face of Mount Whitney from the (almost) top of Keeler Needle.


Ray is walking back down the trail.
Looking west, Ray is hiking south.


Keeler Needle summit.
I never seriously considered getting on top of this thing.


Crooks Peak (formerly Day Needle) from Keeler Needle


The trail down


Keeler from near the trail.

It didn't take me too long to catch up with Ray.
He'd been concerned that he hadn't seen me, but he was more concerned about his altitude sickness.
He felt crappy.
A little while after I caught up to him he hurled trailside.... and then felt somewhat better.
Fortunately Ray's altitude sickness always hits AFTER he summits instead of before, so he always get to see summit instead of being forced to turn around.

As we were coming down we noticed one guy on the trail we still hadn't summitted... and hadn't really moved that far.
Something was wrong... VERY wrong... with his pace.
The more I thought about him, the more I was convinced that he would never get off this mountain before dark.
He may very well be up here hiking all night at the rate he's not going anywhere.



The Pacific Crest Trail goes down the west side of the Sierra - on the right side of this picture.
Many people leave their packs at this junction while they summit Whitney.
Someone left food in their pack, and the marmots got a free meal...
They were freaking hilarious as they fought over the food they stole.
Unfortunately I missed the best part of their fight in my video.
Ray's video is better (and shorter, which can be a good thing!)

Ray's video

We focused on getting Ray down the mountain.
He still wasn't feeling very good.




One last glimpse of the shelter on top of Whitney






Once we got to Trail Camp I refilled all the water bottles and gave Ray my water so he could get back to our camp, make some tea, and rest for a few minutes.
Ray looked much better once I caught up with him again at our camp.
I took the tent and the bearbox downhill to give Ray a break.


We ran into a Ranger who was coming uphill.
I was leading, but he asked Ray for a permit, not me.
Ray quickly showed him his permit and turned back to me - my bright blue permit was right on my backpack against my bright blue shirt - they were pretty much the exact same color.
We got a laugh out of it.
Then Ray asked 'What's the craziest thing you've ever seen our here?'
The Ranger had seemed a little formal up to that point but that's the magic question - I'm going to use that from now on!
The Ranger quickly started telling us about 'Mount Whitney, the home of the 48 hour day hike', which was hilarious...
Many people are totally unprepared for Whitney and take forever to get up and down it.
We told the Ranger about the slow people we'd seen, he was unfazed, he sees that all the time.

One time he was helping guide some folks down that had hiked down overnight and were exhausted.
One guy stopped at a stream crossing and wouldn't move forward.
The Ranger held his arm, walked him through the stream, and said 'wasn't that easy' and moved on, leaving him to continue down in wet shoes.

The Ranger had seen, at various times:
- A homemade ice axe.  This is hilarious because an ice axe must be incredibly strong to be effective, and anyone trusting their lives to a cobbled together axe is asking for a Darwin award.
- An axe with a Jeep logo on it that apparently came with a Jeep, up well above the treeline where you would only use it as an ice axe.  Hilarious again for the same reason.
- A backpack with 7 flashlights inside it.. and not much else.  Seriously, who carries 7 flashlights?

We spent perhaps 10 minutes talking to the Ranger - time well spent.






We had dinner at the Lone Pine Smokehouse, which we assume is the best place to eat in town.

Sunday September 6, 2015
Hiking to Consultation Lake

Monday September 7, 2015
Whitney Summit

Tuesday September 8, 2015
Go home