Guitar Lake – Summit Mt Whitney (14,505 ft!) – Whitney Portal – Casa De Luna!!!
11,480 – 8,330 (+ 3,455 / – 6,175) – 15.1 miles * Mt. Whitney!!
Free Maps Online – Day 26 – Map 2 and 1
I did wake up very early, but went back to bed until about 5 AM. I was moving about and making preparations before 6 AM. It was a beautiful morning, though quite cold. Jake got up soon after and actually hiked out of camp before me. The ascent to Trail Crest gave us our first real views of Guitar Lake, and while misshapen, it does strongly resemble a guitar when viewed from above.
The final ascent from Trail Crest to the summit of Mt Whitney was breathtaking in two ways – more astonishing views, and some scary bits of trail. There were a few tight corners, a few short, but thin ridge walks with nothing on either side but a long way down, and a beautiful, but sketchy snow field.
But we made it to the summit and spent about an hour and a half taking in the different views, getting some pictures, and making phone calls.
Back at our parting at Onion Valley, Joe told us, “when you get to the top of Whitney call me. It is about 4 hours from my house, but I will still beat you to Whitney Portal trailhead.” We did not know for sure if that was something Joe said in the emotional moment of our parting and that a few days back in civilization might change his perspective. We had the number of another great guy we met at VVR who said we could call him from Whitney and he should still be in the area and would drive us back to our car in Yosemite. It is also not usually difficult to get a hitch from Whitney to the nearby town of Lone Pine, and I had researched the bus routes back to Yosemite from there. But we hoped Joe would be able to come get us, so after lounging a bit, we called Joe.
He told us that we would probably not get down to Whitney Portal until 8 PM, and he would be there waiting for us, probably by 7:30. Now that we knew that we would not have to camp on Whitney, or hitch to Lone Pine, and we would get to see Joe and celebrate the conclusion of our journey with him, we were in high spirits and ready to tackle the final leg of the journey – a 10.4 mile, 6,130 ft, descent.
Aside from a few snowy patches in the shadow of the mountain, the trip down was relatively smooth and easy – it just seemed never-ending. I did not stop one time from Trail Crest until a little past Outpost camp, about half of the distance and elevation. Jake caught up with me there and we rested together for a bit, but I moved on sooner than Jake. Not to long after, I met a guy asking for distances. I told him where we were and asked him why he wanted to know. He said that the last food and drink orders at the grill at Whitney Portal must be in be by 7:45, and he took off.
I am slower on the descent than the ascent, my legs were beginning to feel the burn, and I was getting tired. The only way I had stayed ahead of Jake on such a long downhill stretch so far was that I had not stopped at all. Jake soon caught me and I told him what the guy said about the grill. Jake decided to kick it into that weird other gear he has and make it down to the food. I yelled after him, “order me one of anything veggie and a beer! Whoop Whooop!”
I got down not too long before I would have needed to use my headlamp – just about 8 PM. I found Jake and Joe and it was a glorious reunion. We ate our veggie burgers and fries and drank a beer and some fresh gatorade. In true Papa Joe fashion, he not only ran into someone else he knew there at the grill, it was his neighbor! We were so excited that Joe wanted to come and see us and that he was able to and that Terry let him go. That’s when Joe told us “the catch”. “Terry said that I could only come and get you guys if I brought you back to Casa de Luna – tonight.”
So after walking about 240 miles, from Yosemite to Mt Whintey, we got in the car with Joe and headed further south to Casa de Luna, not but 45 minutes from LA.
“It’s a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no telling where you might be swept off to.”