June 18th, 2016 ~ Day 85
Today is the day! Ever since Sam, Melanie and I talked about entering the lottery for Whitney in February, and for the past two times I tried as well, the day had finally come. There are eleven of us about to hike Mt Whitney. I’m so excited just to be here. This is an awesome opportunity!
Waking up at two am, driving to the trailhead twice, because we were only allowed one parking pass, we finally got started at 3:30 in the morning.
It was dark as we stared the hike. Everyone kept a good pace and soon, all but two, left me in the dust. It was scary in the dark. Especially since it was bear country. My anxiety was high, but Eric have me a bear bell and even though I was the only one on the trail with one, it made me feel a little better.
The sunrise was amazing. To be out there on the Whitney Trail watching the sunrise. I couldn’t ask for anything more. The reds and oranges are like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Truly a spectacular sight!
I kept a decent pace and took short breaks as I climbed. Once the sun was up I wasn’t as scared of running into a bear. I could see where I was going and Whitney was always in my view. It looked so massive, but I was determined and kept going.
The landscape was amazing. I have never been to the Sierra Nevada. I have such a fondness for being outdoors. There is so much beauty all around. California is amazing.
The higher I climbed the harder it became. The hike is a total of 11 miles. It seemed so much longer than that. I didn’t know the trail and I didn’t read too much on it. I only know it is the tallest peak in the continental United States at 14,508 feet. I’m just grateful to be here. Once I made it to the switchbacks, I wanted to turn around. There were still winter conditions on the trail and I didn’t bring an ice axe, because I have no idea how to use one. I couldn’t save my life if I tried. I had micro spikes with me for the ice and hoped for the best.
Climbing the switchbacks made for more breaks, but I kept going. Once I made it to the cables I put the micro spikes on. There is a portion of the cables where you have to climb on the outside. So basically your hanging off the side of the mountain on a trail of ice and snow. I wasn’t scared and it was easy for me to get through. Once on the other side though, I got a bloody nose. It scared me and at that point I decided to turn around. I was somewhere around 13,000 elevation at this point and 7-8 miles up the mountain.
Going down was definitely much easier. I ran into John and Jill, two people in our group who were behind me and let them know I was heading back. I was a little disappointed, but grateful in the same moment. I will be coming back to do this again. I just think I need more time to acclimate to the elevation, so sleeping on the mountain is the best option. I’ve done a fourteener before like that with no issues.
Coming down I ran into what I will forever refer to as my angel. There was a woman sitting on a rock. She had nothing with her but an empty bottle. We filled her bottle and I have her some iodine pills, along with food and sunscreen. She got altitude sickness and was waiting for her friends. We decided to hike down together and wait for all our friends at the bottom. Such a blessing because I was no longer alone.
Overall this was one of the greatest experiences of my life. All the planning and preparation can never prepare you for the reality of an experience. I am just so grateful to have the opportunity to climb one of the tallest peaks in the US.