Heck, yes! I have stood atop Mt Whitney, the tallest mountain in the lower 48!! How was it? Incredible! To think that my body was able to hike up to that elevation…wow! The view from the top of that corner of the world is, obviously, amazing but I was mostly just so proud of my body for its ability to function up there. I know I’ve been hiking for quite some time but it still astonishes me and I love that feeling!
Mt Whitney is a common side trip PCTers take. It’s about 17 miles, round trip, and the general consensus is that you’re so close and in excellent shape so…why not?!
I had been getting excited for Whitney for a few days now, not even counting the times I’ve been thinking about this iconic PCT moment, and so I had come up with a little ditty to write in the register at the top! But there wasn’t room: it was just a lined sheet! So it is here I present to you my intended entry:
*To the tune of On Top of Spaghetti*
On top of Mt Whitney,
Not covered in snow.
My poor heart is beating,
So fast it could blow.
My lungs are on fire,
My legs ’bout to die
But I’m on top of Mt Whitney
Way up in the sky!
This, of course, lead me to have ridiculously massive cravings for spaghetti. I just wanted to have a huge bowl of it with French crusty bread on the side. Imagine my surprise and appreciation when Firefox presented me with a bag of dehydrated spaghetti 6 days later! It’s those little things that can just make your day. (She found it in a hiker box at Muir Trail Ranch. A hiker box is where hikers will dump excess or unwanted food, gear, or other miscellaneous items and these boxes are common at “hiker friendly” spots).
After Whitney, the mountain passes begin: Forrester (the highest point on the PCT at 13,200), Glen (the steepest but most beautiful), Pinchot (12,139), Mather (12,096, and probably the easiest), Muir (11,973) and Seldon (10,800, lowest but gorgeous…except for the full on swarm of mosquitos!) all come before VVR.
Muir Pass was an interesting day for me. By this point, I was low on food and really struggling with the up. It wasn’t steep but I was quite low on energy. I came across an alpine lake just before noon and opted to stop for lunch. The sun was out and I was hoping some food and a dip in the lake would rejuvenate me. Let me tell you…a dip in an alpine lake around 11,000 feet definitely wakes you up! It sure did the trick, I got up the remaining 2 miles, realized that the Muir Pass was pretty much the “halfway through California” mark, and had a great rest of day, getting in the 17 miles I had hoped for!
Heading into VVR proved interesting. There are a few different ways to get there: hike the Bear Ridge Trail, hike the lake trail, take a ferry (fishing boat). I had always planned on taking the ferry but there were concerns it may not run due to low water levels. I was happy to find out it was running (the lake being at 20% of normal level – it was about 5% last year) so the plan was to camp on the beach and enjoy a shortish (14 miles) day in order to grab the first ride in the next morning. Well, my plan for an afternoon “beach party!” with Firefox, Skeeter Bait, and whomever else was there was an epic fail! The lake is a man-made dammed lake and with the low water level, you walked out about a mile across creepy, dead tree stumped sand before hitting water and then plunk down beside steep rock where there was absolutely no shade. It was kind of the most pitiful beach day ever, the three of us trying to decide if we should pitch camp, walk the trail (4 miles), or just sit there sprawled waiting for the wind and sun to abate! We did the latter and ended up scoring a free ride to VVR by a guest who was out fishing (thanks, Dave!). We managed to get our dinner order in 8 minutes before it closed and then set up our tents with happily full bellies after 12 days! We did it!
Upon reflection, I’m not sure I would do it that way again. Given the length of time without a proper rest, I would reccomend either skipping Whitney and having a full rest at Rae Lakes or doing a resupply at Lone Pine (which would cut the stretch into a 4 day and 8 day carry). But I’m stoked I managed it!