Climbing Mt Whitney – HE

Thursday, June 22

YouTube video of the day-

Although not directly on the PCT route Mt Whitney is only about 8.5 miles off the trail and is a regular climb for hikers on the PCT trail. 

With the weather set fair with a stable weather system, clear nights and hot days so perfect weather to head up to the summit at 4421m. Highest mountain in the lower 48 states.

After the winter snows I certainly wasn’t sure how much snow would be on the trail but you can only give it a go!

Set off at 5 AM to Crabtree Ranger station along the trail up to the mountain. Not quite first light but twilight enough for there to be an army of mosquitos biting at my heels. 

The valley was beautiful, Ponderosa Pines set against alpine mountains and as I walked higher and the trees diminished the valley opened up into a broad glacial trough with lakes at its base and steep exposed rocky slopes.

Walking steadily up the valley but not gaining much altitude it was hard to imagine how you were going to climb out of the steep rocky amphitheatre.

There was lots of snow in the valley base which was fairly easy to walk on and quite crunchy at this early hour. There were plenty of footprints from those that had gone before so there wasn’t really any route finding problems (good job as I didn’t have a map!).

At the head of the valley the steep back wall turned into a good track but on a long series of zig zags.

The switchbacks were hard work and I started to feel the altitude and slowed down significantly. However it provided a great way to slowly climb and gain altitude.

Once on the top of this stone shoot of switchbacks it was about 1 1/2 miles along a slow ascending ridge to the summit of Whitney. 

It was a beautiful clear morning with around 10 other people enjoying the great 360 views of the whole Sierras from the summit. The summit hut must have had its door blown off during the winter as it was full of snowdrifts.

After about 40 minutes on the summit I started back down the mountain reversing the route up. As always going down hill at altitude you can feel your sucking in more oxygen on the descent which was almost a jog. Came down fairly quickly, final valley snow fields were slightly slushy but no post holing.

Bouncing along. Back at tent by 2:30 PM.


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