Mt. Whitney July 2003
We started off on Friday at about 4:45pm from San Jose. Earlier, we debated for a while on which route would be faster, through Yosemite or down I-5 then back up. It was decided to go for the longer distance but possibly shorter drive time. After being held up on HWY 152 for about an hour, we got to the campsite at Whitney portal at 12:45. We drove around randomly trying to find an empty campsite. It started to sprinkle around 1am and luckily it was just brief droplets most of the night. I ended up sleeping in the back of the rental Taurus, while Patrick slept outside on a mat with an emergency blanket wrapped around his sleeping bag to keep dry. I actually felt the thinness of the air even though it was only about 8000ft. I had to force myself to take deep breaths and the back of the Taurus was not the most comfortable place to sleep.
We awoke Saturday around 8am and drove down to the Ranger Station in Lone Pine, where we successfully obtained drop in permits(which were free). We also picked up some food and grabbed a quick breakfast at McDonald's. I had a mild headache and was slightly concerned, but I took some ginkgo biloba and a couple of Advil.
We finally got back up to the trailhead around 10:30am where we rented a Bear Canister at the Whitney Portal Store. Incidentally they sell them for the lowest price in the nation (~$49).
At 11am we set off for Trail Camp. Trailhead(8300') to Trail Camp(12,040') took 4 hours and 45mins in fairly mild weather. However, we could see the top of the mountain was enshrouded in fog and clouds that looked rather ominous. When we got to Trail Camp there was a ranger checking permits. I was glad we were able to get the drop in permits, though our back up plan was to summit Mt. White if we couldn't get permits.
From 4pm-8pm we setup the tent, ate, rested, hydrated, and took shelter from thunderstorms. There was a brief period of light showers and mild thunder. (We took refuge in the tent). At Trail Camp there were 10-15 tents set up in random locations. At this point, I still had a mild headache but walking around and drinking water helped a lot.
We got to sleep around 9:30pm. It was sweet slumber for me but Patrick had to endure my snoring and inadvertent elbows to the ribs. That was until 4:30am when he got his revenge by giving me some of his own elbows to wake me up.
After struggling to get in my contacts we left Trail Camp at 5:30am. At night at altitude really helped and my head was feeling fine. We each went our own pace. I preferred to stop to take pictures and rest often while Patrick liked a steady non-stop pace. The trail heads downward after Trail Crest but then heads back up to the summit on a narrow rocky trail. To the left was a valley and a bunch of small lakes while to the right was the ridge. Every so often there were chutes that seemed to drop into a bottomless chasm. When I summitted at 8:45am, the hut was barely visible as it was so foggy at the top. The plaque at the summit reads 14,496.811'. It was pretty cold, foggy and visibility was really poor. While taking a brief rest in the hut, we met a runner who took 4 hours and 20 minutes to summit from the Trailhead.
9am-11am Summit to Trail Camp. The way down was much faster, only about 2 hours. After packing up, I saw Patrick sitting with his head between his legs. When he looked up his face was all red, apparently his head exploded with a pretty severe headache. After giving him some Advil, we decided to go down quickly.
12pm-3pm Trail Camp to Trail Head. The way down from Trail Camp seemed long and as I dislike hiking downhill I was getting a bit aggravated. It was also getting quite warm. I did manage to stop for a few minutes at the lake to enjoy the scenery. After hiking for 10 hours I was glad to be back at the trailhead. I just wanted to sit back and relax for a few minutes. Patrick decided to stash his stuff in the car and grabbed my pack as well. Had I known he was going to use this to concoct a story about how he had to carry my pack all the way back to the car, I never would have let him touch my pack. ;) Patrick's headache went away and he took a brief shower at the portal store to get cleaned up.
4pm-10:45pm - Lone Pine to San Jose with a stop at In n Out was pretty uneventful.
It was a long hike but not any worse than Half-Dome since we spread it out...besides we really did need to take shelter during a brief thunderstorm.