PCT mile 771, Whitney

Up at 3:30 today to climb Whitney. Yesterday’s terrific (in the sense of terrifying) storm left me with a strong desire to avoid being caught above timberline should there be a repeat.

Although there had been stars out when I answered nature’s call earlier in the night, the sky was filled with unpromising low clouds as I brewed my coffee and packed away my gear.

I started out by flashlight at 4am, following the summit trail in the dark.

The clouds were clearing, not building, and as I passed Guitar Lake there were enough openings to admit the first rays of dawn.

Guitar Lake at dawn

The trail is an 8 mile/ 4000 foot climb from Crabtree Meadows, the closest point at which PCT hikers are allowed to camp. I gained the summit by 9, leaving me plenty of time to enjoy the spectacular views as the clouds began to build again. It was also the first spot where I had phone service in a week, and so I was able to make some overdue calls and texts – as were many other hikers.

The climb up Whitney

The view south from Mt Whitney

Whitney is likely the last 14er I’ll climb. With it, I have now climbed the highest peak in the lower 48, the highest in my state (Mt Elbert in CO) and the highest in my county (Long’s Peak in Boulder). I much prefer walking to climbing, so this seems like a good place to end my list of 14ers.

On the walk down I was joined by Woodpecker, an engaging young Frenchman who lives and works in Oakland. Apparently hiking the PCT makes him the sensible one in the family- his father has sailed around the world and finished the Dakar desert car race, his mother goes hiking for weeks in Sahara. We had a lively conversation that made the miles back to camp pass much more quickly and enjoyably.

My plan on returning to camp was to nap, but it began raining again, so I saddled up and made a few miles of progress toward tomorrow’s objective, Forrester Pass, at 13,200 ft the high point of the PCT.