Thursday, June 14, 2012

Day 48 - By The Light Of The Moon

Wednesday morning, if you could call it that, I had my alarm set for 12:45 am.  I rolled out of bed after not quite 5 hours of sleep, just before 1:00.  I tossed my bag of warm clothes and a few other things into my pack, along with a bag of snacks out of the bear box, just up the trail.  In all it probably weighed less than 10 pounds, hardly noticeable.

The full moon was the night before, leaving me with one that was still pretty much full.  The trail followed the creek up through the woods, but enough moonlight was getting through that I didn't really need my headlamp much, just in real shaded areas and for a few creek crossings.  While hiking I ate a balanced breakfast of Pop Tarts and a Snickers.

After a couple miles I reached the treeline and had the moon giving me all the light I needed.  There were a couple lakes along the trail.  I probably could have made camp a bit further up, but with such a light pack now, I didn't mind.  A few others had camped up there.

The trail goes way up a valley where it turns and climbs steeply up, with a bunch of long switchbacks.  It reaches the top of a ridge, where it joins the trail coming up from the East side; there are a couple towns and a highway on that side and it's where people would come up if they didn't want to backpack in.

From there it follows the ridge North for a couple miles.  Most of the time the ridge rises way up on the right side, with a very steep drop on the left, but occasionally it has a gap where you can see down.  Near the top was a patch of snow about 100 feet across, that's about all there was the whole way.  I got to the top just after 5:00, 3 hours and 36 min of climbing, up 4k feet over 8.5 miles.

I immediately put on my rain coat to block out the wind.  The wind wasn't bad, but it was 22 degrees up there.  According to the chart on the back of my tiny thermometer, a 15 mph wind at that temp is a wind chill of 6 degrees.  Enough to make my fingers go numb anytime I took my glove off to take a picture.

Sunrise was at about 5:25, so I bundled up the rest of my warm gear for something to sit on besides the freezing granite, and waited.  There was a line of clouds above the distant ridge of mountains in the East, but it broke up enough as the sun was coming up to make for a pretty awesome sunrise.  I took a few pictures and enjoyed the view for a while.
I wasn't really all that cold, just my hands and feet; I did't want to freeze my fingers further by untying my shoes to add some warmer socks.  It was mostly the thought of being at ovr 14k feet, in freezing wind, with the sun barely even up that made me shiver.  After taking a few more pictures of the surrounding mountains and the stone shelter, I packed up and headed down.

On the way down I remembered most people actually get cell service at the top.  I tried it at one of the gaps along the ridge and sent out a picture and text to my family.  It was still pretty early, dad may have been up but I was getting too cold to call and brag about my accomplishment.

I got to brag on the way down though, to about a dozen other hikers who were going up now that it was morning, when normal people climb mountains.
These aren't of Whitney, just the meadow at the bottom where I camped.


  1. We did get your text and picture that you took at the top of Whitney that morning - and surprisingly, I was even up. I was so impressed that you had reached the top of Whitney in time to see the sun rise. There are probably not many who have done that. Amazing.