Whitney Portal Campground
At 2:40AM the next morning, after an extremely fitful sleep, I stepped onto the trail under a bright full moon. I hiked for about three hours by moonlight, only turning on my headlamp in a few spots. However, all of the other hikers I encountered had headlamps on full blaze, which was very annoying, in part because it undermined my night vision.
Sunrise above Trailside Meadow
Mt. Muir (not Mt. Whitney) dominates the scenery above Trail Camp.
On the 99 switchbacks, looking back down to Trail Camp Lake
Hitchcock Lakes from Trail Crest
There were a lot of people on the trail, which actually turned it into an enjoyable social experience. I hummed along at a decent pace until Trail Crest (~13,800 feet), but the final 2.5 miles to the summit were a real grind. It rained intermittently for the last mile or so, which also added a wearying element of uncertainty. It rained hard enough at one point, that I had to stop and don my rain jacket. Not setting any speed records, I arrived on the summit around 10AM. Though the summit was crowded initially, I stayed long enough to savor a little alone time.
Looking north from the summit to Mt. Russell and Mt. Williamson
Looking west from the summit past the summit house
Taking a slight detour from the summit, I located the exit to the Mountaineers' Route, which I had ascended twenty years ago. I hollered down a few times for a friend who was supposed to be coming up, but heard no response. Then I began plodding back down. Unfortunately, the 2.5 mile return trip to Trail Crest also involves a fair amount of upward plodding, which seemed to take a lot out of me.
Since I was spending another night at the campground, I was in no hurry to get down. So I took a nice long break at the 23rd switchback to purify water and another long break at Lone Pine Lake to soak my feet. Finally, by 6PM, I was enjoying a burger and possibly more than one beer at the Whitney Portal Store.
Heading back down the switchbacks
Mirror Lake and the southeast face of Thor Peak
Waterfall at Outpost Camp
Lone Pine Lake
The Whitney Portal Store
For whatever reason, I had another really crummy sleep that night. I just couldn't find a comfortable arrangement of sleeping pads and smoke seemed to be pouring into my tent from a nearby campfire. How ironic: we go to the mountains for fresh air, but then make camp fires and breath smoke instead.
The following morning, I awoke to the surprising sound of raindrops on the tent fabric. Within minutes it was raining steadily, which meant that everything got a little wet before making its way into the car. Although my stiff and sore body protested all the frantic rushing around first thing in the morning, it was nice to be eating a breakfast burrito with coffee in Lone Pine at 7AM and to be back in Orange County by noon.