Day 37: Whitney Trail Ranger Station to Tyndall Creek CS (23.5 miles - 774.6)
Updated: Aug 25, 2019
June 13, 2016 - That was a cold night, probable dropped below 30. I wore everything I had in my pack and that didn’t seem to help even with my 20 degree bag. I had a hard time sleeping as I was shivering all night long. It didn’t help that my tent was still wet from the previous morning so my rainfly had a nice ice coating when I woke up, it was all shiny.
Got up at 4am in order to get on the trail to the summit of Mt Whitney as early as possible because didn’t want to be hiking on melting snow and potholing. I was the first of the group out of my tent and ready to go. I just sat outside in the dark/cold morning waiting for everyone to get ready. The plan was to see if the sky was clear when we woke. Had it been cloudy we would have moved on, no point going up Whitney in cloudy and possible thunderstorms. Sky looked clear so we decided to go summit Whitney.
Right as we started I started to feel sick but that went away after about 5 minutes, I almost turned around and went back to sleep. The group I was hiking with, 8 of us in total, took out fast. It almost seemed like it was a race to see who could get to the top first but think everyone was just going fast to warm quicker as it was still cold.
Since it was so cold I basically had all my clothes on except for my sleep ones. It didn’t take that long for me needing to taking off most of it. So I got behind the group but caught up once we hit the thick snow.
From camp to the summit it was 7.5 miles of all uphill gaining 4,000ft. It started off not so bad but it got steep quick and the snow didn’t help much. The only nice thing was I left all my gear back at camp so I didn’t have to carry much, a little food/water, some clothes, ice axe and micro spikes. I didn’t need the axe or micro spikes until the last 2 miles right at the turn off for the Whitney Portal.
The climb up took a lot out of me but should be expected when hiking in thick snow as it appeared Mt. Whitney got hit with a lot of snow yesterday, over a foot. Also I had to be real careful about my steps because one slip and you are sliding a long way down and there were plenty of rocks to hit.
Took us a little over 4 hours to get to the top but it was worth it. It got a little scary the last 100 feet as it was very steep. Once on top I had the best view on trail so far, 360 degrees of the surrounding mountains almost as big as Mt Whitney and could see the hot desert below.
At the top is a little hut that some brave people will sleep in it but if it was sub 30 at 10,500ft so no telling what it was at 14,500ft last night. There was a guy that had to sleep there last night as he tried to hike up in the storm the day before with no gear. He was really out of it and some other hiker found him as they were hiking up after the storm hit. It was a good thing they found him when they did as there were able to get him up to the shelter but they basically had to carry him as he had no strength. The guy was in real bad shape when I was there and was going to need a helicopter rescue. I wanted to hang around to see how the helicopter was going to get this guy but didn’t want to hang around too long at the top while slowly the snow on trail was melting making a more dangerous hike down.
Went down a lot faster, only 3 hours back to camp. Once there I ate lunch and rested up as we were heading out on the trail later so that we could be closer to our attempt up Forrester Pass in the morning, the highest point in the PCT (Mt Whitney isn’t on the PCT but a side trail).
Those last 8.5 miles seemed to take forever as I was so tired from the little sleep and the hike up Whitney. Plus we had several creek crossing and with it being late in the day more snow was melting causing the creeks to rise and moving faster. Only 2 of the 4 did I have to get my feet wet.
I was happy when I arrived in camp. Pretty much everyone set up their tents and went straight to bed.