Evening at the PortalMy son Daniel and I were fortunate enough to walk into the Lone Pine Ranger Station on August 15, 2005, and score two permits for the Whitney Trail as a result of cancellations. The only way I can account for several cancellations during perhaps the busiest month on the Whitney
Trail is that there had been a severe storm the previous night and into today. But by this evening, the skies had cleared and those that cancelled were probably wishing that had hung on.
We spent that night at the Whitney Portal hiker's walk-in campsite. The photo below is a view from the portal in the early evening.
We turned in early as we planned on an early start in the morning. Around 10 p.m., I got out of our tent to ask a group of high volume campers to moderate their voices so we could get some sleep. Fortunately, they were apologetic and indeed complied with my request.
Start Before the Dawn's LightWe awoke to a very cold August morning. We finished preparing our packs, filled up our water bottles, and had a cold breakfast of power bars and bananas. I vacillated about whether to take crampons and ice axes. I finally decided that I'd never forgive myself if we couldn't make the summit because we had encountered slippery terrain where crampons would have fit the bill. We left the portal at around 4:30 a.m. feeling eager and energetic.
It was enjoyable hiking in the dark morning, but we did have to use our headlamps. Halfway to Lone Pine Lake, we caught two deer in our headlamps. They took their time moving away from us so we had a relatively long encounter with them. We were glad to be in their kingdom.
At sunrise, it was awesome to see our destination in the distance with the adjoining needle peaks in the dawn's early light. Below are some photos of views along the trail. As you can see, we had some cloudy vistas and some very clear vistas. On the whole, we had a clear day until we neared the top.
We hiked at a moderate pace, but stopped alot for photos and simply to admire the views.
Switchbacks, Summit and ReturnThe switchbacks and the section past Trail Crest will challenge you in case you thought up to now "this isn't so bad." On the switchbacks, we encountered this tough little guy:
The last 2 miles past Trail Crest were taxing. On this stretch, the clouds really started to roll in.
We reached the summit before noon. While the day had been relatively clear up to now, the clouds rolled in on us with a vengeance when we summited and obscured about 270 degrees of vista. The trail had been clear all the way so we never needed our crampons.
I don't mind admitting I was feeling pretty fatigued on the way back down. When we got down to Lone Pine Lake, my brain went on autopilot knowing the end was only a couple of miles away. Brains on autopilot keep the legs and arms moving methodically until the destination is reached. Once back, you can disengage the autopilot so your brain can savor your achievement.