Day 31, May 25
Start: creek at 732
End: chicken spring lake, mile 751
Miles hiked: 19
Best sleep on the trail so far. Although my new ula pack is heavy and I much prefer my small pack, it does carry the weight much better. This 5 degree bag I sent is amazing. I slept sound and so warm straight to 7 am, and wasn’t on the trail until 8.
I expected to see my sister Monica and her boyfriend Joe fairly soon. They were supposed to start hiking yesterday, and starting around mile 750. I imagined I would see them in the first 4 hours. Soon it was after noon. Then 3. I was only 4 miles from cottonwood pass when I asked a couple if they had seen anyone there. They hadn’t. I began getting very anxious in my head. Could I have passed them? Would they be wise enough to know not to get off the trail without leaving me a clue so I didn’t blow on by them? Could they have gotten lost? I began playing all of the scenarios in my head. Having no service is great, but right now it was making me very nervous not being in contact with Monica for several days.
Less than three miles to cottonwood pass and we finally ran into eachother. I was SO happy to see them! We hugged, laughed about how smelly and dirty I was, and then decided to hike to chicken spring lake to camp. It was a beautiful site, with high mountain walls surrounding half of the lake. We made dinner by the water, shared stories, and soaked in the scenery while we ate spaghetti-O’s and ravioli. The three of us cowboyed a bit above the lake, waking up a few times to a grande showcase of stars splashed by the Milky Way.
Day 32, May 26
Start: chicken spring lake, mile 751
End: guitar lake, 4 miles past mile 767
Miles hiked: 20
Much out of character, Monica was up and happy to be hiking at 5 am. She’s never been a morning person, but she was at it this morning. Packing up, eating, and hitting the trail fast. It was great!
We talked of the sub-culture of long distance backpacking and all of the very strange things we do. Call each other by crazy nicknames, share gross stories, and brag about our foul odor and dirt bag appearance. Monica talked a lot about how her first year of teaching was, her summer plans, and what mountains in Colorado she should climb. I really enjoyed hearing all of her stories of teaching and how she felt about it all. She has such a positive attitude, and has really grown into a wonderful person, caring so much about others. I’m extremely proud of her, not just for what she does, but by her perception and outlook on life, and what is important. She is truly wise beyond her years.
It was great hiking with Monica and Joe. We took long breaks, hiked slowly, and really enjoyed our time together. I told them so many stories of my friend on the trail and described each personality when we took breaks. They brought fresh fruit on the trail, which is a huge luxury. The oranges were sooo good!
We had planned to hike mount Whitney, where they would then descend to Whitney portal and hitch back to their car at horseshoe meadow. So at the split off to mount whitney, we decided to push to guitar lake. I had camped here twice before, and I knew they would love the spot. They were both troopers doing such a long day. There were no complaints from them at all, yet I knew they were exhausted. Such great attitudes. Just happy to be out here enjoying the scenery and getting a glimpse into what my life has been like.
Soon not a chance caught us, and we all camped at guitar lake. It was empty. Only one other couple was there. We cooked food all together and went to bed when it was still light. We were all very excited for Whitney. Monica and Joe were really getting a great section here in their three days out.
Day 33, May 27.
Start: guitar lake, 5 miles off the pct
End: Wallace creek, mile 770
Miles hiked: 17
We woke up at 4:40 to not a chance taking off. We could see a light up on the ridge to Whitney, some 3,000 feet above. Someone wanted a sunrise summit!
We quickly packed our things and headed up. It was slow going, as the altitude was affecting all of us. We got amazing views of the alpenglow on the mountains to the west over guitar lake. It seemed to get more and more beautiful as we ascended Whitney, with more colors and shadows being cast as the sun continued to rise. It was a beautiful morning! About a mile from the summit we were passed by not a chance and big sauce coming down the mountain. Big sauce had the light we were seeing early in the morning. He told us excitedly of how he was huffing and puffing trying to beat the sun to the summit. Sounds like he did by about 15 minutes. He said he was almost in tears when he saw the sun rise, as it was so beautiful. You could tell he was on a high from his accomplishment, and it was great to catch his enthusiasm.
Soon the three of us were at the summit. Greeted with views of snow capped mountains in every direction. No longer did it matter that my feet were wet and cold from climbing through the ice and snow. All cares melted away with the warm sun. It was gorgeous! We snapped some pictures, snacked, and napped. Not more than an hour and a half later came coughee, Sherrif, tiny, carrot, Sherpa, the boss, Guthrie, dolphin the space traveller, Mack, and rafiki. The whole gang! It was so great to see them all after three days. I had missed them so much, and hiking without them, especially by myself, made me realize how much this trip has been about friends more than anything. It’s just not the same without them. So happy and full of positivity, constantly lifting each other up. Much better together.
Everyone hugged, mingled, and took an insane amount of pictures. But why not? This is an amazing place. We could see big horn plateau, forester pass, the palisades, and the entire sierras to the north. We could see lone pine and the Owen valley, band the desert to the south. We could see the great western divide and Kaweah gap to the west, protecting the giant forest. These are the memories that will last forever. We snapped a few group pictures, including one where we all mooned the camera. The altitude must have gotten to us.
Before heading down, Sherpa and I decided to try mount muir. It’s a separate 14’er close to Whitney, though it is much different. Whitney is a class 1 walk up. Extremely easy, with a path to the top. At the top it is a giant plateau with plenty of room on the summit the size of half a football field. Mount muir, on the other hand, is a class 3 scramble with no trail, and a summit block big enough for no more than two people. It is often overlooked by those searching to climb the tallest. We couldn’t pass this up. So while others hiked on back down to camp, we started to scramble up the large boulders, finding our way up the ridge to the peak. We had no beta on the route, so I found us what appeared to be the safest route. It was exposed, airy, and had some sketchy moves, but Sherpa and I made it to the summit. With a jolt of adrenaline and exitement, we moved swiftly over and around the exposed sections, and let out a menacing yell when we finally reached the summit. We felt so accomplished! Some serious terrain to get there. I used my gopro, and will upload a YouTube video of the footage when I can get the memory card to Nathan so you all can see what it was like to climb. A true joy of a mountain. 10 times out of 10 I would choose to climb muir over Whitney. What an amazingly fun climb. We set back down and out, and I found myself hiking alone again as the others packed up at Crabtree meadows. I sat by a seasonal stream eating to get my energy back up when they all came by. They wanted to camp in just half a mile, at Wallace creek. Fine by me! We all ate dinner together and shared pictures as we reveled in what was our most memorable day on the trail yet. It’s great to be in the sierras. And even better to be back with friends.
“Venture on, your sketch is not completely drawn. Travel wide, it’s out beyond the great divide” – Nick Hexum