Jon’s former roommate Tracy secured permits for Mount Whitney Labor Day weekend of all times. How perfect to get-away on a long weekend! As soon as I heard we got permits, I booked us a campsite in Lone Pine. Whitney Portal was already sold out, of course, but at least Lone Pine campground got us up to about 6,000′ elevation. We would have two days to acclimate before the BIG DAY.
Jon had done Whitney previously back in 2015 and knew of a good acclimatization hike. So on our first day, we headed up to Cottonwood Lakes (10,000′ elevation!) for a warm up hike. It was a beautiful hike, and you definitely felt the elevation! Unfortunately, we missed a turn somewhere so we kind of just hiked out for a long time and eventually had to turn around since we didn’t want to over-do it. Jon had even brought his fishing supplies for the lake we were supposedly hiking to, bummer!
Hike Details (total estimates because I forgot my watch!)
Distance: 7.5 miles
Time: 4 hours
Jon’s childhood friend, Chris, joined us later that night and the next day Jon, Chris and I headed off to hike from Whitney Portal to Meysan Lake while Tracy (unfortunately) had to get some work done. With another lake destination, of course Jon brought his fishing supplies but was skunked again when we AGAIN miss-judged the distance and had to turn back before our destination. (We thought the hike was 5 miles round trip… it was 5 miles one-way).
Distance: 9.44 miles
Time: 3 hours 56 minutes
It may look like we were SO CLOSE when we turned back, but we had hiked at least an extra mile from where we parked to the actual trail head, so we were still at least another 1.5 miles away from the lake.
Also, Jon did get to catch some fish at Whitney Portal, so he was happy!
THE BIG DAY! We were in bed early because we had a 4 am start to our Mt. Whitney hiking day ahead of us. It was pretty cold out, and so very dark. Jon hiked with me while Tracy and Chris hiked ahead of us. It was so quiet and you could see the headlamps high up ahead of us. Just before 6 am the sun started to rise, and at 7:30 we met up with Tracy at Trail Camp (6.7 miles into our day). Chris was nowhere to be seen since he had run off to climb Wotans Throne or somewhere near there.
As we started the switchbacks, Chris caught back up with us and the four of us headed up, up, up. I saw a “switchback” version of the 99 Bottles of Beer song, but it was 99 switchbacks ahead of me… it helped pass the time 🙂 By 9 am we reached Trail Crest, woohoo, only 2 miles to go!
By this point the sun was shining and it was a beautiful clear day but the wind was blowing. We had all of our clothes on and were still cold, despite the uphill climb. Poor Jon was wearing shorts, and eventually had to borrow Tracy’s extra windbreaker.
We reached the summit about 10 am and hid down among the rocks to eat our lunch. The wind was SO COLD. Although the temperature outside was in the 60’s, with the wind it easily felt in the 30’s. It was not enjoyable outside, which was unfortunately because we didn’t really get to enjoy being above everything else. We just got a cursory look around and high-tailed it to the shelter to get a break from the wind for a little while.
After a little break, we ran down towards Trail Crest, trying to get to the lower elevations and out of the wind.
Hike Details (I only clocked the way up since I didn’t have enough battery power for up and down)
Distance: 9.82 miles (interesting since all documentation says that it’s 11 miles one way. That’s quite a difference)
Time: 6 hours 8 minutes (moving time, up only)