Approaching Mt. Whitney
Pacific Crest Trail Quest '08 - Page 11
Two other hikers and I arranged for a ride around the fire with one of the locals this
morning. We looked over our packs next to a pregnant dog in his battered Toyota
Landcruiser and were off. We drove for about an hour on steadily deteriorating roads.
The last half hour was on a rutted jeep road that required four wheel drive and was
obviously our driver's favorite part.
The ride out was beautiful. We passed through shaded forests of giant pine trees, then
through bright sunny meadows. The pregnant dog laid in my lap the whole time and tried
to jump out of the car every time she saw a squirrel. We forded the Kern River and drove
on until we ran out of road. We thanked the driver and gave him some gas money.
I set out ahead of the other hikers across a sunny meadow littered with cowpies. An hour
later, I came to the PCT and headed north. I skipped 14 miles of trail and the fire was
burnt strongly only a few miles behind me.
I climbed and climbed into the Sierras. My pack is filled with 8 days worth of food and
weighs nearly 50 pounds. I was very aware of its presence on my back all day. Much of
the trail was above 10,000 feet today and I found it very hard to catch my breath. I had to
rest every 50 yards or so on the steep climbs. Hopefully, I'll acclimate soon. I'm only
going up from here.
I woke up this morning with a bad headache from sleeping at 10,000 feet. I took some
Tylenol and went back to sleep. An hour later, I felt better and was on the trail before 8:00.
The highest point on the trail today was 11,000 feet and it was hard on me. I couldn't
catch my breath, even climbing slowly. The view was wonderful up there, and all the
gnarled pine trees were like sculptures. I also learned that mosquitoes can survive at
11,500 feet above sea level.
Tonight's camp is at 9,500 feet and next to a nice little stream. Hopefully, I'll get through
the night without a headache.
Tomorrow I come to the side trail that climbs 4,500 feet in 8 and one half miles to the top
of 14,491 foot Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states. Most PCT hikers
climb it. The way I feel now, that sounds like a horrible idea. I also need a permit that I
don't have, but that's never stopped me before. I'll decide tomorrow if I want to go up or
not. If I don't feel better, I'm sticking to the trail. I still have to climb over a 13,000 ft. pass
whether I climb Whitney or not.
There's water everywhere up here. I cross a stream every five miles or so, and the water
flowing in there is cool, clear, and delicious. The water also brings mosquitoes. I didn't
have to deal with them in the desert, but they're awful up here. Even with the bugs, I don't
miss the dessert.
I'm hoping not to run into any rangers in the next 150 miles or so. I tried to get a permit for
this section, but didn't get on it in time. There is also a short section of trail where you are
required to keep your food in a bear proof container. Apparently, that's so the bear won't be
able to get at your food and will eat you instead. I don't have one of those, either. My
strategy right now is to hope for the best.