Day 1: Kearsage Pass and Vidette MeadowWe were dropped off at Onion Valley by Mt Whitney Shuttle the night before, with our car left at Horseshoe Meadow, and started hiking at 8 am on Aug 4. Progress was slow at first because of my knees, but we managed to travel 9.5 beautiful miles to Vidette Meadow. I fell asleep that night altitude-sick, to my great surprise given the low elevation (9000'ish) and concerned my knees would not be able to handle the rest of the trip.
Day 2: Forester Pass and Tyndall CreekWe awoke early and I felt much better. We started hiking at 7:30 am in the hopes of making it over Forester Pass before the thunderstorms began. We made it over the pass, but not before the lightning began!
The afternoon held some of the most scenic moments of the trip. The weather was exciting, and the campsite we ended up at was the best one of the trip, with by far the most solitude, and with scenic beauty approaching that of the Whitney area.
Day 3: Tyndall Creek to Guitar LakeAnother 12 mile day, which is a lot when you're favoring your knees. Some sections were drier and less scenic than what we had gotten used to on the previous days, but no one kind of scenery persisted long enough for us to get bored. Everywhere we'd been on the John Muir Trail so far was completely unique. What a great hiking route! Our objective for Day 3 was to position ourselves for an early summit push the next morning. It turned out that we ended up at Guitar Lake, which is beautiful, but very crowded.
Day 4: Mt WhitneyOn Day 4 we didn't move camp; we just day-hiked to Mt Whitney with a very early start, and relaxed all afternoon and evening. We had a total of 22 hours contiguous rest before departing the next day! Despite the hordes, Mt Whitney was the highlight of the trip; the views from the upper mountain at sunrise are incredible, and the accomplishment was very satisfying.
Day 5: Crabtree and Rock CreekWith a 10 am start, we headed back to Crabtree, and then left the John Muir Trail to go towards Horseshoe Meadow. Past Crabtree, the landscape is dry and less varied; this was the first time I found the word 'slog' trying to escape from my mouth. Rock Creek, with its shade and nice stream, was a refreshing way to end the day.
Days 6 and 7: Chicken Spring Lake and Cottonwood PassDay 6 was one we were mostly just trying to get over with. Long monotonous dry sandy sections, which seemed unnecessary given Siberian Outpost as an obvious alternative through which the trail could have been constructed. We traveled nearly 8 miles between water sources. For a while in the morning, my knees were the best they'd been all week, but I burned out from enjoying that too much, and hobbled my way to Chicken Spring Lake. The lake was a nice place to camp; it was worth stopping there even though we were close enough to the trailhead to finish that night.
Day 7: 3.7 miles, mostly downhill, had us back at the car before 11 am.