June 1st Day 67 We awoke at 3am to hike Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the contiguous US. It was only 6 miles to the summit and we were only carrying daypacks so I figured it would be easy. Ha! I could not have been more wrong. The first thing we had to deal with was the altitude. We still hadn’t acclimatized so it was like hiking drunk while having an asthma attack. Plus, there had been a fair amount of recent snowfall, on top of older snow. Then add that to the fact we left without eating breakfast…. pure exhastion. And for the icing on the cake thunder storms were expected at 11am so we couldn’t dawdle.
Thankfully the views were amazing. The higher and higher we climbed the more enormous snowy mountains appeared beneath us. Massive rock walls to steep to hold snow, peak after peak glowing pink in the sunset and far far below green specks which we knew were mighty pine trees. The last 1.9 miles after we’d reached Whitney Portal were the most difficult and required our ice axes as we crossed steep icy snow patches. The path was cut into the steep ridge and occasionally we’d have a break in the rock and take a terrified glance east at the clouds and valley far below.
Towards the end I felt like I was going to pass out and was having to take a break every few steps. I wasn’t sure my legs were capable of taking me back down the mountain, but thankfully gravity did most of the work. Soon after we arrived back down the mountain thunder boomed around us as hail peltered our waterproof jackets. Not bad timing, eh?