Thursday, June 12, 2014

PCT Diaries - Day 22

It's been two weeks since I last had cell service aside from a brief signal at two high places.

The highest and highlight of those high places was atop Mt. Whitney, the crown of the contiguous USA at 14,505'. 

Some friends (Polar Bear, Beacon and Wild Card) and I decide to summit Whitney for sunrise. There is a trail to the top and we began our 3.5 mile and 4000' ascent from Guitar Lake at 2am. 

This was the view from my tent...


And this is the more famous view from the other side of the mountain (via http://marlimillerphoto.com/Ig-01.html)


A couple other hikers spent the night on the summit, including our crazy Aussie friend who brought along a bottle of rum which tasted pretty good at 6am from the top of the world. 
(L to r: Polar Bear, Solstice, Aussie, Beacon)

The top of Mt. Whitney is the southern terminus of the 210-mile John Muir Trail which is the reason I'm out here. It begins the stunningly gorgeous hike through the Sierra Nevada mountains including Sequoia, Kings Canyon and Yosemite National Parks. These photos will not do it justice. 

Guitar Lake from where our Mt Whitney hike began...


Wild Card hiking among the Kings Canyon cathedrals...


In the photo below see that notched low point? The one with the little slab of snow in it? You might need to zoom in to see the snow. That's Forrester Pass and we are hiking up and over it. The trail carved out of the near vertical face felt like something out of Lord of the Rings. 


Atop 13,200' Forrester Pass that's me (Cut-Out) on the left, then Beacon, Wild Card and Polar Bear...


Today I write from the town of Lone Pine, CA where I'm picking up a resupply box. 
It was fun to hit the bar last night and my feet are appreciating another full rest day. 
Last nights bar where I watched game four of the Stanley Cup with some Kings fans and had latenight beers with Wild Card, Beacon (both sisters from WI) and Polar Bear (from AK). 


Summary
I'm feeling good and getting into the groove. Most days I hike around 20 miles and the next week will be defined by more idyllic mountain scenery and several difficult climbs up and over mountain passes. The passes are tough because the north side of each still has snow. It's important to get to the snow early in the day before it softens up too much. So some logistical planning is required. 

One challenge I'm facing is that my 35-degree sleeping bag isn't really warm enough for the cold mountain nights. Most nights are fine because I'm now sleeping in my tent and wearing many warm layers of clothes to bed. But I've had two nights so far that were a bit too chilly. I'm learning not to camp near water  or in a depression in the land that would collect cold air. Sometimes camp options are simply limited. 

Many hiker faces reflect the ecstatic and exhausted trials of the trail. 
(oldest to newest clockwise from upper left)

That's it for now. Not sure when I'll have communication connection again but it could be another couple weeks. 


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