(Eagle Cap Oregon)
It was just a bit before 3 a.m. when I started up the trail and I could see the headlamps of others who had already started and it ) and it always adds a special quality to see the flickering of the lights as others move on up. I passed a couple sitting on a rock, just off of the trail who were taking their first breather. They were a couple from Texas and had allotted themselves a pace of one mile an hour to do the mountain. I chatted with them briefly and continued on. I was intrigued by the water crossings and particularly the one outside of Outpost camp. I had no desire for wet feet so I picked my way carefully. I was about a mile from Trail Camp when the sun started lighting everything up and I could turn my headlamp off.
A brief stop in Trail Camp to grab a bite to eat and hydrate a bit and I was on my way again. I noticed several tents and the occupants either up and cooking breakfast or getting ready to grab their packs for their own summit effort. A few were also heading over to the solar latrine to answer another call. The trail then began the 99 switchbacks up to Trail Crest, which interestingly enough was one of the favorite parts of the trail for me. A few people on their way down passed me and I found that they had spent the night on the summit and had watched the sunrise before heading down. Before long, there seemed to be about 20 of us working our way up the switchbacks.
Finally, Trail Crest came into view and it was great to finally reach this point, that I had read about for so many years. Yes, I had wanted to climb Mt. Whitney since I first saw it almost 50 years before. I had read much and Trail Crest was always a place where people stopped and took pics and mugged the sign a bit. Yup, I had my picture taken with the sign and soon, with two guys from Kentucky, the remainder of the trail was tackled. As the trail got closer and closer to Whitney's summit, I began to encounter hikers who were returning from the summit (all with big smiles on their faces).
Finally I could see that the trail traversed to the west and then ascended to the hut from my vantage point of about a mile away.
I was having no problems with the elevation and I felt great so it was with a great joy that I finally reached the hut and signed the register. The usual summit pics were taken and it was very social up there since I found myself with about 70 companions who also were enjoying their summit. It was a perfect day with no threatening clouds in the sky. I spent a whole hour on the summit, taking pics and enjoying the company of other hikers. Looking down at Iceberg Lake reminded me that someday I'd like to come back and finish my MR climb.
It took me 8 1/2 hours to get up the thing but that includes a lot of chatting and rest stops.This turned out to be a very social trail with everyone I met friendly and fun to talk briefly with. I think the pace was perfect as I never once felt out of sorts with the altitude and by keeping fueled up and hydrated, I found the whole hike to be enjoyable. You know, after planning this one for so long, I really appreciated the chance to just kind of savor the whole hike, one that never got boring to me because around each bend in the trail, a new vista presented itself which often just took my breath away. An awesome area and unless the weather is threatening, a hike that shouldn't be rushed. The one negative was that I found I had run out of water and I had a long dry spell before I could filter water from a stream above Trail Camp. Five hours or so put me back at the Portal and I still felt good. The trail was different to me on the way down from Trail Camp since I had done a lot of it in the dark and so I think that made the descent enjoyable although I stopped often and gave my feet a breather. One thing I hadn't seen coming up was a gorgeous waterfall near Outpost Camp.
I passed lots of people with their tongues hanging out as they backpacked their way up to Trail Camp. The one negative about camping there is that I wondered where you could put a tent up when it looked like a hundred others were camping there as well.
Note: Thanks to all who have taken the time to read this far. Mt. Whitney was one of the most enjoyable hikes I've ever done. It fulfilled the ambitions of a 15 year old kid and made me feel like a kid once again. As Arnie said in his movies, "I'll be back"
heading up the 99 switchbacks on the way to trail camp
the very popular and populated summit
Excellent route description found here at SP. click here