12 days of food weighs a lot. I left KM with a pack weight of 55 lbs and a sketchy shin. I knew that I very likely had more than enough food to get me through this 12 day stretch but I really didn’t want to run out. I remember last summer how Vicky and I essentially starved ourselves since we didn’t have enough to begin with plus ended up taking a couple of days longer than anticipated and I did not wish to have a simple tea for lunch on this trip! So I packed extra. My goal for this stretch from Kennedy Meadows (MP 702) to Vermillion Valley Resort (MP 878) was to do around 15 miles per day plus a side trip up Mt. Whitney (highest peak in the lower 48 at 14,505 ft). It’s a good thing I planned on lowering my mileage because between the weight of pack an the elevation, I was sloooow!
I actually had a rough first day out. I have written in my journal “I’m trying not to be negative but I feel like the universe is telling me to quit.” I had been having issues with things breaking; both gear and body. My water filter wasn’t working (still), my stove was giving me problems, my shin obviously sore, and at the time, my tent was acting up in the wind (there were 4 other tents of the same make as mine and mine was the only one nearly collapsing). But these things happen so all I could do was shrug it off and focus on the really cool things that day: entering the South Sierra Wilderness area, beautiful trail, first campfire of the trail, and lots of water!!
The next day we camped around MP 731 after doing our 15 miles by 5:30. It was quite nice having a fairly relaxing evening and being able to sit around and chat with people. The climb today involved going up around 10,400 ft and ending the day camping at about 9,000 ft. My pack is definitely heavy but, as it’s built for the weight, it really doesn’t feel terrible when it’s on my back. I’m still been enountering comments from other people about my gear and weight choices. I don’t mind when people are genuinely curious and want to know the options and the pros/cons behind my choices but what is really starting to irritate me are the judgements people pass. I’ve made it this far, right?! But there will always be people who comment so it’s mostly a matter of ignoring them…luckily it can be pretty easy to gaze at a mountain/lake/sunset and pretend not to hear!
The trail continued to climb and I found myself camping at 11,000 ft for the first time. The elevation was tough but not impossible. Mostly I just feel a bit sluggish and I’ve been grateful for not suffering from any altitude sickness like others have. I found myself getting really excited about Mt Whitney. The sunsets have been incredible and the views became more dramatic as I continued on.
One thing most of us have commented on or realized about this new section is the ability to take a break when we want and where we want. We are not forced into 4 hour siestas because of the heat and there is enough shade available that you actually have a choice of where to stop: you aren’t crammed under the single brush tree with 12 other people! Of course, it also means you become more spread out in the Sierras and it becomes harder to see the people you’ve become used to hiking with…but there’s always town!