Jun 24, 2015

The Way to Mount Whitney

Initial Failure
     I'm sad to say, I was unable to make it to Mount Whitney for the sunrise.  One of my great curses on this trail has been my inability to sleep.  I probably get less sleep than any hiker I know, and the reason eludes me.  Sometimes my restless legs  cause the problem.  Other times it's my restless mind.  Last night every part of me screamed out in pain and I wasn't able to fall asleep until almost 1 in the morning.  Such a bedtime is a damned near sin to a hiker like myself that takes pride in waking up early and getting my miles in before noon. 
     Needless to I was forced to dump my sunrise plan and attempt the summit of the highest mountain in the contiguous 48 states at more reasonable hour. 10 am.  Actually, to be honest that hour was a little too reasonable and I'd end up regretting it.   
     The first step to ascending the mountain was to veer off the PCT and follow the John Muir Trail to a place called Guitar Lake.  My legs were not there this morning.  They felt like lead bricks and the four miles to the lake were slow and painful.  These miles represented the first 900 feet of what would eventually be a 4500 foot climb, from 10,000 feet at my base camp, the the summit.  Although the miles came slow, the scenery was nothing short of spectacular.  Following a river through two meadows, I finally reached the first of several very charming and beautiful lakes I would see along the way. 
     I may have seen 40 campers between Timberline Lake and the trails pass at Guitar lake.  They all clump together here to prepare for their passage up.  Most of the hikers have arrived here via the John Muir Trail.  This Sierra-only trail s about 211 miles long and can usually be through hiked in a few weeks.  JMT hikers, once they've ascended Mount Whitney, can take another path, known as the Whitney Portal, all the way down.  The Whitney Portal, famously, has 95 switchbacks.  The downside of this is that the JMT hikers must bring almost all of their gear the entire way up the mountain.  But for us PCT hikers, we've got a long way to go and must come down the same way we came up, meaning we can trail along with the JMT hikers, but only carry half the load. It's pretty sweet. 
     But load or no load, Mount Whitney is no joke. After Guitar Lake, when all the trees have disappeared,  the fun really begins.  Switchback after switchback, rock jumping, and even traversing fallen off pathways were all on the menu for this hike.  Several times I could go no further than a few hundred meters before having to stop.  The air is so thin, and the body requires so much oxygen to work the muscles that moving up becomes a very slow grind.  I reached the summit of Mount Whitney, finally at 4:30 pm.  It took me 6 1/2 hours to go 9 miles. It was my worst mileage day since I began hiking the PCT.  Nonetheless I was supremely proud to have reached the top. 
     I didn't have to do it. It's not technically a part of the Pacific Crest Trail.  But I did it anyway.  And now for all I've done it for all time.  There's a theory of resonance that everything that ever is and ever was has a sound, a frequency.   The frequency vibrates throughout the universe, and essentially, goes on forever.  Everything we do lives on forever.  If you knew that everything you did would would live forever in the subtle vibrations of the universe would you act differently?  Perhaps what we do resonates for all time, or perhaps it only resonates through our lives.  Either way, I'm extraordinarily pleased with what I put out into the universe today. 

- j

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