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Mt. Whitney '08

76.51 miles; +18,753' elevation
July 29 - August 3, 2008
Dave Sholer, Jared Atkins


July 29th

Left Woodland ~4pm, had dinner in Fresno before heading to Kings Canyon. Arrived around 9:30pm, camped at Moraine (got to sleep by 11:15pm).

July 30th
14.32 mi, +6,444' elevation 
We woke up at 6:00am; got to the Road's End Permit Station by 7am (when it opened) and were hiking by 7:15am. Got to Juncation Meadows by noon, stopped for 40 min. Got to East Lake around 3pm (we found the trail was extended significantly with new switchbacks--true distance from Junction Meadows to East Lake is around 3 mi). We passed the turn-off for Harrison Pass and doubled back, only to get caught in a HUGE field of tall, dense plants. We went through the plants because it looked like we could get through in about 20 ft; it ended up being a field that was several hundred feet in each direction. And we lost our sense of direction due to the height of the plants, so we couldn't know the most direct route out. We were stuck in this overgrowth for around 30 min, literally struggling to free our hands and legs from the thick overgrowth with each step. Jared was stung by bees or biting insects of some sort in the process of getting through these plants. We celebrated shortly after getting out of these plants, only to start a couple of miles of steep uphill hiking. We were 95% percent sure we were heading up the right canyon, in search of the trail, but the nature of the terrain at the turn-off made us not completely certain. We were pretty out of energy after the literal bushwhacking experience, so progress was slow. After an hour, our uphill progress led us to a small pond that could confirm our location. We soon realized that the trail didn't actually exist. Back when we "missed the turnoff", there was actually no turn-off to miss. At about 7:15pm, we faced one last uphill scramble over boulders before reaching the upper lakes where Harrison Pass would be visible. We saw another hiker in a lush meadow and chatted for a minute. He said it had taken him 7 hours to get down off the pass that day (the pass was about 0.5 mile away at that point). He said the pass was extremely steep, loose rock, and that of course, there was no real trail. We decided to camp in that meadow since the sun was heading down. We quickly made dinner, had some couscous, and got to sleep at sunset.

July 31st
17.78 mi, +4,507' elevation 
We woke up at 5:00am, slowly broke camp, and got hiking by 5:45am, before the sunrise but when there was enough light to scramble up boulders. We got up to the upper lakes shy of the pass by 7am. We trekked over boulders, ice fields, and headed straight up to Harrison Pass. It was slow progress, literally crawling up the "pass" step-by-step, holding on to anything that could be found for a grip. We hung on to the sides of the rock walls when we got nearer to the pass, finally reaching the top at around 10am. (NOTE: Avoid this pass unless you just want added adventure--and you have the hiking time to spare!) We slid down the less-steep backside. We took the long route to Lake South America and up and over the next pass, through the meadows, and bushwhacked to lake before junctioning with the PCT/JMT (at 12:45pm). We took a 40min break at the creek. Got to Wallace Creek by 3:30pm and to the Crabtree Ranger Station around 5:30pm. We had planned to camp at Timberline Lake, but I hadn't realized that camping was not allowed there, so we hiked just past it (got there by 6:45pm).

August 1st
19.47 mi, +5,483' elevation
We woke up at 5:40am, left camp setup to hike up Mt. Whitney with daypacks. Got hiking by 6:15am, got up to Trail Crest by 9am and to the summit of Mt. Whitney by 9:45am. We stayed on top until around 11am, then got back to our camp by 1:20pm, rested, packed, and got hiking again by 2:40pm. We got to Wallace Creek by 5pm, made couscous for dinner, and got hiking again by 5:45pm, adding another 3.5 miles to our day before camping. We camped by 7:20pm, just past Bighorn Plateau, getting rid of some uphill from the next day's hike. It was windy up on the plateau, but we found a spot on the backside behind a big (natural) rock wall, which blocked the wind nicely. It appeared to be a nice meadow for camping, but the ground ended up being much less comfortable than it appeared. I don't either of us slept much that night.

August 2nd
18.62 mi, +2,295' elevation
We woke up around 6:30am and hiked towards Forester Pass, reaching the summit before 10:30am. We descending the backside of the pass and kept hiking. We could have gone all the way out this day, but decided to camp a few miles shy of the trailhead to enjoy another night. We spent a few hours at Junction Meadows, because there were no mosquitos and it was pleasant. We had some couscous, played cards, and sat by the creek before heading back on the trail. We stayed at Junction Meadow until almost dusk because we (correctly) figured that the mosquito situation would not be as pleasant at camp. We were hiking through bear territory at dusk so we wear making sure to make noise as we hiked through the sharp turns and overgrowth.  We saw a freaky-looking dear that wouldn't get out of the trail. It was acting very strangely and we couldn't figure out why, until it turned to the side and we saw a large gash mark on its side. Maybe the work of a nearby-mountain lion, who couldn't quite find the jugular? Either way, the deer was clearly in shock from some sort of recent attack, so we kept an eye/ear out. We camped at Charlotte Creek camp, where the mosquitos were pretty bad. We built a smokey fire at an established fire ring, which kept the mosquitos away pretty well. We got to sleep at dark and enjoyed the soft forest floor for a nice night of sleep.

August 3rd
6.32 mi, +24' elevation
We woke up at 6am and hiked out the last few miles to the trailhead, getting there before 8:30am.