Sep 3, 2009

Mt. Whitney

Mount Whitney is the highest peak in the contiguous United States. It rises from the Owens Valley on the eastern border of the Sequoia National Park, where the majesty one would expect from a mountain of its standing is significantly abated by its position in a crowd of steeper, more formidable high peaks. Still, Whitney is a popular ascent, and its superior height becomes much more apparent from its summit. Interestingly, the highest point in the lower 48 states is only 85 miles from the lowest, Badwater Basin (-279 ft.), located in Death Valley. The distance is somewhat longer by scenic highway, but still requires little more than two hours of travel time. A trail leads to the summit of Mount Whitney, and a toilet has been installed to accommodate its crowds. Registration is required to climb the mountain, and daily restrictions have now been placed on the number of climbers allowed. There is a very popular 8.5 mile trail to the summit via the Pacific Crest Trail.

Friday, July 12

Dear friends and family,
Well I wanted to write that "we made it" but we didnt. I am referring to climbing Mt Whitney, which is the tallest mountain in the lower 48, at 14,497ft. The weather has just not been cooperating. It is hard to be prepared for everything. Anyway we leave Kennedy Meadows after a 3 day recovery, we had got caught in the terrible rain storm before that. The weather forecast did not look good. Chance of snow all week with highs in the 30s and lows in the teens. Winter advisory was sent out for the Sierras. But of course we set out. The first two days was fair and with donated long johns and a sleeping bag liner, I was quite warm sleeping at 9,600ft. Then we got a major snow fall, within 2 hours there was a whiteout making the trail almost impossible to find. We continued walking to stay warm. What peacefulness. The silence and serenity. We are now walking amongst beautiful mountain scenery that is so spectacular. Sequoia an Kings National Forest and Park. High snow covered peaks and ancient sculptured trees that look like the postcards. Because of the snowfall, we didnt make it to Crabtree Meadows the next day which was where we needed to leave from for the accent up Whitney. We hiked into this incredible meadow seeing a family of deer, marmot, many little chipmunks, and trout in the creek. We left the packs there and headed up the trail to Whitney, we made it as far as Guitar Lake at 11,000ft or so. The weather was moving in and we felt it was prudent to turn back. As soon as we got back to the meadow it began snowing. We would have liked to have waited another day but we didnt have enough food. The trail is all up and down mountains now. For the next 2 nights we camp at 11,000ft, quite cold. It sure felt like winter up there, as I sit here in a nice warm hotel. But the best is still to come. So the next day we had to climb the highest point of the whole PCT trail, Forester Pass, at 13,200ft. It was the most scenic and most difficult day yet. The mountains were all covered in snow and there was no trail to be seen only a few footprints. We have no techinical equipent, no ice axe, and no crampons. We were only hoping the weather would hold and in fact the day was sunny and mostly clear. It was challenging to say the least but it was such a high to reach the top that all the effort was worth it. We didnt stay long on this tiny pass between towering peaks since we still had to get down the other side which had even more snow. Of course there was no trail to be seen but we knew it was down. After hours of trudging through the snow the feet were rather numb so we really didnt stop to eat or drink because I was too cold. After the snow it turned into running rivers of snow melt. We were very happy to find the trail finally. It was a long day and we made it to the Kearasarge Pass Trail which leads us up and over another high pass into the town of Independence. So with almost no food left we start hiking this morning at 5:45am, reach the pass at sunrise, another amazing feat which brings tears to our eyes, and we see the lowlands far far below. Lots more snow on the decent but we catch a hitch into town and are now recovering.
Thats is all for now.
Alicia and Alfredo

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