I moved to California this summer and between not having climbing friends here, the difficulty of these mountains, the distance to the mountains, and no 14ers.com to get partners/carpool I didn't think I'd accomplish my not too ambitious goal of climbing 1 CA 14er this season. Fortunately this site came to the rescue with headkaes asking conditions and volunteering her extra permit spots for access to Whitney. Thanks again headkaes - I truly appreciate it.
The drive to and from Lone Pine was long but the scenery was top notch. I was taken aback by the number of huge granite playgrounds Yosemite has to offer.
Half Dome 'from behind'
I got to Lone Pine and picked up my permit. I then went to town and grabbed some buffalo wings and a beer, Sierra Nevada, in preparation for my first foray into these mountains. The warm temps, my desire to get high, and a crystal clear night jam packed with stars (and a very uncomfy car) convinced me to leave in the late pm early am to try and summit Whitney for sunrise.
As I hiked I saw a few shooting stars and my first real meteor (with a decent tail and it lasted a few seconds) while singing random song lyrics to let any and all bears in the area know I was approaching. I was more relaxed and stress free than normal because I knew the trail was all Class 1 and lasted forever (11 miles to the summit). My plan = plod in the darkness and enjoy the hike out. I was very surprised to see people (4 different groups) hike out while I was ascending - one group had been going at it for over 22 hours and still had at least 3 miles to go before they hit the trailhead. On the approach in I could make out the silhouettes of the surrounding mountains in the starlight. I assumed they were tree covered and I was guessing tree line and using that to try and mark my progress. I did not expect to see white granite walls on the return.
One by one the checkmarks on the trail map were passed - sight unseen in the darkness. I was thankful I didn't have to see the 99 switchbacks as that would have been very demoralizing. 2 quick notes on the trail - It was very well constructed and maintained and the builders could have shaved so much distance off if they made it Class 2. If you've hiked with me you probably know my only rule and that I hate long slogs (why can't everything be class 3/4 ridges???). Anyways I failed in my effort to make the summit by sunrise - I was maybe .5/1 mile away but I did get to enjoy the view from 'windows' on the ridge. Now that the sun's up I'll use my pics instead of words to show ya what's going on.
Morning Colors and a blurry ridge
The last stretch to Whitney
At the last 'window' looking at the final push to Whitney
Mt Muir from Whitney
They call that guitar lake... I wonder why
A representative shot of the trail after hitting the ridge
After climbing Whitney I wanted to go for Muir. It was early and the 300 ft or so to Muir from the Whitney trail should have been a welcome relief as it would provide some scrambling after 12-14 miles of trail hiking. It took me entirely too much time to actually find Muir. As much as researching it more would have helped I didn't really mind being lost and scrambling on the ridge crest as it was early in the day and the weather was perfect and the rock solid. I climbed 2 other points on the ridge and was on some really fun/tough terrain. The final summit push to Muir is rated as California Class 3 - but I'd venture its probably closer to a Colorado 4 - this is my first time seeing the rating difference between the 2 states.
Mt Muir from a random point I climbed
The Whitney trail (soo many switchbacks) from Mt Muir
Whitney from Muir
The hike out was pretty and uneventful. I got to enjoy the lakes and scenery I missed on the way in.
Starting the hike out - and taking in the views for the first time
Some snow and rock walls
Mt Muir as seen from the descent hike
One of a few hanging valleys
Some green in the sea of white rock - and a great place to pump some water
Waterfall on the way out
Blue skies and granite walls
Now time to start planning my next trip to these mountains. After driving through Yosemite its hard not planning a return trip to explore some of the areas I passed in a bit more detail.