Mt Whitney – I’m Coming for YOU! (Part 3)

Links to Part 1 and Part 2

Day 4 – Tuesday, 6/7/16

Unlike most who use Guitar Lake as base camp, which allows for quick departure and a light pack ascent, we are planning to continue our journey after ascending Whitney. Therefore, we must pack camp prior to departure. Packing in the dark is never fun and certainly not nearly as efficient but nervous excitement of my day negated the need for the snooze alarm and lollygagging. Selecting a departure time was challenging for our group. With temperatures barely reaching freezing at night, if that, and best practice to be off the snow by 10am to prevent post-holing and sloshy, sloppy dangerous snow walking. Most of the PCT thru-hikers were leaving camp between one and three a.m., hiking in the dark and reaching the summit 4-5 hours later, many with the goal of being there for sunrise. Since our group had little snow hiking experience and would be carrying full packs, we decided it would make the most sense to start hiking at first light. Safety First!

4:45am – We’re off . . . just about 15 minutes later than goal time . . . not bad for a group of 7.

5:45am – Great to watch the sunrise as we slowly climbed the snowfields in search of the magical switchbacks.

6:30am – YIPPEE, we found the switchbacks!

6:45am – We were told there were just a few snow/ice patches on the switchbacks.

8:15am – LIARS! (or maybe short-term memory issues, or maybe high-altitude deficiencies). There were plenty of steep icy snowfields to cross on these traverses. One slip and you can see what would happen . . . down, down, down . . . We were happy to have our microspikes and crampons.

I switched to my ice axe on some of the traverses. I have a history of slipping and wasn’t ready to take any chances.

8:45am – still climbing . . . you can see this trail would be nerve wracking for many even in the summer without snow.

Looking down at Guitar (right) and Hitchcock (left) Lakes from where we’d started just a few hours earlier.

9:15am – The final switchback before Trail Crest, which is the junction between the Mt Whitney summit and the Portal.

9:15am – We made it to Trail Crest at 13,519′! It took us about 4.5 hours to hike the 2.6 miles with nearly 2,000′ elevation gain. At this junction, we’d leave most of our gear and head for the summit.

10:00am – Once again LIARS! We were told no snow/ice on the trail. By now of course we were skeptical and prepared. I’m ever thankful I don’t have any height or ledge phobias.

10:00am – Does the lake look like a guitar now?

10:10am – Our destination is in sight! To the right of the top mound.

The roof the Whitney Hut marks the spot. Doesn’t look very far does it? Another 15-30 minutes? LOL

Peek-a-boo windows make for good distractions from the constant focus of one foot in front of the other . . . careful placement.

10:30am – definitely a guitar shaped lake

12:00 noon, SUCCESS!!! 14,508′ the highest point in the lower 48. It took me about 7.5 hours for these 4.7 miles with 2,960′ elevation gain. I was extremely pleased with my performance. My asthma didn’t seem to affect me and I didn’t have issues with altitude nor trail conditions.

12:45pm – Our happy team celebrates before heading back down. Oh how I wished I had all day to enjoy the views. Weather was perfect, winds were almost non-existent. I would have spent night at top. Sadly the group before us had been smoking marijuana in the hut so I couldn’t even take time for photos.

Descent time! (photo by One Speed)

2:00pm – Wait I thought we were going down? Just another example of our group’s stellar teamwork.

Top of the world! Ski time?

I preferred walking on the dirt or rocks, while others preferred the snow. I didn’t mind the ledges while others who were bothered hugged the inside edge. Pick your path, pick your poison, it’s a lot of that Type II fun.

Thanks to One Step (Dee), you walk a few moments in my shoes.

With it taking us 2.5 hours to hike the supposed 1.9 miles to the summit from the trail junction, we didn’t believe the sign so I tracked it on the way down. As it turned out we were just slow 🙂 But the good news was we made it down in a little over an hour, 1.5 hours faster than our ascent.

Little did I know that the hard part of my day was just beginning . . .

To be continued . . . .

Link to the rest of the story:

Link to 2 More Miles Related Posts:

Jan’s Tips:


6 thoughts on “Mt Whitney – I’m Coming for YOU! (Part 3)

  1. I’m most impressed that you hiked in a skirt in those conditions. Haha, I think the hardest part for me about camping and leaving from Guitar Lake in the dark was using that darn WAG bag. And having to carry it. We also carried full packs when I did it because we exited at the portal.

    • LOL my wag bag was still empty just awaiting that Oh shit moment. The skirt worked great. I was worried when selecting gear but I brought a pair of tights to wear when needed. But it was quite warm most of this trip.

  2. Pingback: Mt Whitney – I’m Coming For YOU! (Part 1) – Jan's Jaunts and Jabberings

  3. Pingback: Mt Whitney – I’m Coming for YOU! (Part 2) – Jan's Jaunts and Jabberings

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