Monday August 2, 2021
Start: above Guitar Lake
End: Whitney Portal
After getting to bed around 7:45pm, I was woken up at 1am by a number of headlamps walking by. I tried to go back to sleep for another 20 minutes but finally decided to just get up. I packed up and was on trail by 2am.
I hiked by headlamp up many narrow rocky switchbacks to the junction with the Whitney Portal trail, where I dropped my bear canister. I brought my backpack with me, including my sleeping bag and mattress. With some gasping for breath interspersed with stopping to put on my shell, gloves, and hat, I made it to the summit at 4:45am, with sunrise well more than an hour away.
It had been perhaps 40-45 degrees at Guitar Lake, but at the summit, it was in the high 20s with windchill clocking in around 18 degrees. The emergency shelter was already fully occupied, so I hunkered down with another hiker already at the summit. I got out my ground sheet, air mattress, and sleeping bag, and taking off only my shoes, climbed inside.
I passed the time by chatting with the fellow hiker for a while and then just trying to relax. Five other people showed up to watch the sunrise, and most of them seemed to have many more layers than I did. It was so cold that my sleeping bag was covered in snow – any moisture automatically turned to snow. I did my best to stay warm but it was a losing battle with the wind stealing away any warmth I produced. I started shivering uncontrollably. Thankfully, the sun came up shortly thereafter, and slowly started warming things up.
I realized that if I wanted to stay functional (and rewarm my toes and fingers), I needed to get moving again. So I packed up, got my summit pictures, and headed back down at a quick pace. Between my numb feet and the technical rocks, I tripped a number of times, including twisting my ankle hard despite my canvas brace.
When I got back to the trail intersection, I retrieved my canister and tighten the laces on my brace to give my ankle better support. And then I climbed to the top of trail crest and headed down. I was glad for the sun’s heat, as it thawed me out and warmed me up. Within an hour, I was too warm and needed to put on sunscreen, but it was better than numb digits and violent shivering.
A little more than a mile from the Portal, I started smelling the Cafe. I was very excited and started walking more quickly. That was when I met Matt, an Inyo ranger. He talked to me for a few minutes and asked to see my permit. He gave me the typical rundown that folks get when they receive their permit, knowing that I was literally 1 mile from finishing my entire trip. It was frustrating, but I was a good sport about it.
After that, I rocketed down the trail and just after I’d been forced to sidestep around 3 men chatting in the middle of the trail, I twisted my ankle yet again. It hurt more than the first time and it didn’t stop hurting even as I continued walking. Most of the time, I can walk it off and the pain eases and goes away. The ankle is still uncomfortable, and it’s hard to tell with the dirt stains but there might be some bruising.
I slowed down and walked the hike into Whitney Portal. The Cafe had just shifted from breakfast to lunch (10:45am) so I got a burger and fries, along with two sodas and some skittles. The food took maybe 10 minutes to come out, and the fries were oily and undercooked. I finished the burger but only ate the crunchy half of the fries before throwing it away for the Steller’s Jays that patrol the garbage cans there.
I threw away my used WAG bag on my way past the bathrooms and found myself a nice rock to sit on in the shade by the traditional hitching stop sign. Since it was only 11am, there wasn’t almost anyone leaving. After 10 minutes, one car with West Virginia plates went by and wouldn’t acknowledge me. Perhaps 5 minutes later, an older man and his 12-year-old grandson picked me up. They were heading out to go fishing after wandering around Whitney Portal for a while. They were relaxed conversationalists and dropped me off in town just before they headed up north on 395.
It was around 12pm, and I figured I’d see if the motel would let me check in early. As it happens, they had a room ready and I was able to start getting settled right away. I decided not to do laundry, since it would only be a few items for me to wear on the bus tomorrow, and washed those by hand. I’ll be meeting up with a Reno friend at the airport tomorrow for my duffle bag, which includes some clean cotton clothes for the plane.
I got a smoothie at the Lone Pine Bistro, did a little grocery shopping at the Lone Pine Market, and ordered takeout from the Merry Go Round (one entree was still way too much food for me).
Tomorrow morning, I’ll hop on the EST 395 north bus and head up to the Reno airport, and from there, home.