The icy cold snow melt rushes past our tent. We both haven't slept, too anxious for what's about to happen- our first ascent on the continental United States largest mountain, Whitney.
When we arrived at base camp yesterday there was a lot of hype around the climb due to the heavy snow year, and the fact a girl was pulled via helicopter off the mountain yesterday. Trusting our instinct, terrain tends to get blown out of proportion out here, we knew we had to at least try.
At 5AM our alarms blared, but we were already awake. We rushed breakfast, forded the raging stream a few feet from the tent, put on our wet boots from yesterday and were off. Moving fast the first few miles were a breeze, the snow was crisp and our Hillsound trail crampons worked like a jem, easy to maneuver, but tough enough for the climbing later.
As we approached the mammoth stone faces they continued to rise like pillars in a cathedral. The beauty within the bowl of such a giant peak is inspiring. Still early in the morning we began the switchbacks, but only for a bit. Huge snow drifts created problems so there was about 1,000 feet of scrambling before the rock was too rotten and loose. Eventually the trail evened out around 13,250 feet and we walked down a nicely groom hallway with the occasional window into the massive valleys on the east side of the mountain.
As the day heated up we came to the final snowy ascent and toed in with our trail crampons till the drifts dissipated and we reached the most epic summit we have ever done. The deserts to our south and the snowy, almost impassible sierras to our north. It was truly an awakening feeling to look onto the white passes and huge summits for which we will toil for the next few hundred miles.
With a few more thru-hikers joining us on the summit we snapped a traditional solstice naked hiker shot and began a smooth descent back into the ping pong ball of a bowl.
Returning to base camp we said happy trails to our good friend pooh bear who wants to push it to vermillion valley resort, while we will stop earlier in Bishop, CA- a 65-mile hitch off the trail to resupply. It will be good to meet up farther north.
we go to bed proud of the summit, but humbled by the quick glimpse into what is to come.
::notes from an Ian::
As I laid awake last night, the question of why I do all this crept into my thoughts. The pain, and hardships we face on a daily basis is more than most are used to. Today, however, all the answers were made clear. The noise absorbing snow surrounding us with nothing but the stream trickling by and birds tweeting, wrapped in a ring of mountains taller than any others made me realize I deal with all of the difficulties for the one moment most will never know.
The determination to get to the top to the point where we just climb straight up the side and skip the unseen trail fueled the intrigue, excitement, and sense of accomplishment. Today, was an amazing day.