Hi, my name is Isko Salminen.
I'm an adventure seeker and I love exploring nature with my camera and Australian Shepherd called Fire

Day 55: Climbing Mt. Whitney

IMG_1150.JPG

Date: June 23, 2017
Miles: 15 miles (24.2km), from Crabtree Meadow to the summit of Mt. Whitney and back. 
Health: Very tired from the sun and climbing.

I slept poorly again last night. I kept waking up thinking I had slept late and missed our start. Once my alarm clock finally went off I felt tired and anxious. Today was one of the days I had been waiting since the day we started from Campo almost two months ago.

Our original plan was to make it to the top for the sunrise, but as we got to the camp so late, and everyone was feeling really tired, we decided to just get up there and forget the sunrise. It still meant we had to get up really early.

Once my alarm went off I got out of my sleeping bag and was immediately hit by the cold air. This was my least favorite moment of every day. I got out, threw some food, warm clothes and some other extra gear into my pack and collapsed my shelter as I needed the trekking poles for climbing. I put some rocks on top of the tarp just to make sure it wasn't flapping in the wind while I was away.

We all walked out of the camp in a long line with our headlamps on. The trail was at times hard to find in the dark as it was either on a plain rock and you couldn't see where it was going, or it was under snow or water.

Approaching Guitar Lake in the dusk.  

Approaching Guitar Lake in the dusk.  

Once we started approaching Guitar Lake we hit the snowfields and the microspikes came out. Up until this point the climb had been very gradual, we just climbed up from the valley. From here we'd get up on the rock face and start climbing the actual mountain.

All microspiked up.  

All microspiked up.  

As everything was covered in snow, we kind of made our own tracks, or followed old ones where the sun hadn't yet melted them away. We hit few interesting traverses but nothing too bad. I felt like I was pretty confident with my ice axe skills. 

Sunrise over Guitar Lake.  

Sunrise over Guitar Lake.  

After few hours of climbing the snow ended and we got on rock and sand and had to take off the microspikes. At times the snow and ice had completely blocked the switchbacks and we had to climb straight up on the rock and sand. This was a bit sketchy as it was on a steep climb and the surface was very loose. There were few rock slides and we had to be very careful not to be behind or under others when they were climbing.

IMG_1136.JPG
Early morning break.  

Early morning break.  

I soon got left behind as I was doing a video at the same time, and taking photos of others ahead of me, so I found myself climbing alone. It wasn't bad as I could see others ahead and the trail was clear. Otter and Flicker also caught up to me and soon passed me.

Hikers for perspective.  

Hikers for perspective.  

After a long climb the trail finally leveled up a bit and I was hoping we were about to reach the top. Oh how wrong I was. The trail moved sideways across three peaks, and behind them, far in the distance and up above us, I could see the summit. After all these hours of climbing and we were still so far?

Author traversing.  

Author traversing.  

I took a small snack break to gain my motivation back and then continued. I caught up to Fyre and we crossed the three peaks while enjoying the views down to the valley floor far below us. I stayed back to take photos and use the cellular reception we had for a short while.

Switchbacks.  

Switchbacks.  

Flicker climbing loose rock.  

Flicker climbing loose rock.  

Climbing behind S&M, Fyre, and Fire Ant.  

Climbing behind S&M, Fyre, and Fire Ant.  

After crossing the peaks the trail again started climbing. My legs were hurting and I felt so out of breath. I had a new appreciation for those who actually climb high mountains, and decided that it was not for me.

Looking between peaks. Desert is visible far below.  

Looking between peaks. Desert is visible far below.  

Summit visible but blurry far in the distance.  

Summit visible but blurry far in the distance.  

At the bottom of the last push up to the summit I found Roadrunner and Fyre taking a break. We started pushing up together. As the switchbacks up to the summit were under snow, we had to climb up on rocks. Going straight up at this elevation was really tiring and we stopped to gather our breath like every ten steps.

Fyre doing the last push to the top.  

Fyre doing the last push to the top.  

Roadrunner waiting for us.  

Roadrunner waiting for us.  

Once we got to the top part, we only needed to do the last climb up to the summit. Once I finally saw the hut at the top I was so happy, almost there. I made the final push and met others who were sunbathing at the rocks at the top.

Made it! 

Made it! 

After a little celebration I opened the summit beer I brought up with me and sat down with the others. We spend few hours just chilling at the top, enjoying the views, and taking tons of photos. One of the rocks we took photos on was so sketchy. When you got on it, you were looking down on a huge drop straight down to the bottom of the mountain. I'm not a fan of high places so getting on it was quite interesting.

The mandatory summit group shot.  

The mandatory summit group shot.  

Fyre, Dandelion, KB, and Fire Ant being sassy.  

Fyre, Dandelion, KB, and Fire Ant being sassy.  

At the summit.  

At the summit.  

KB looking down from the Summit.  

KB looking down from the Summit.  

After all the photos, it was time to start heading down as it would still take us half a day to get back to camp. Everyone went on their own and I soon stayed back because I just had to stop and wonder the views. I couldn't believe we climbed up here, or that we were fortunate enough to be here looking at this gorgeous scenery. Even though I was tired I was smiling from ear to ear.

Fire Ant on the way down. 

Fire Ant on the way down. 

Once we reached the snowfields again, I saw few people doing a long glissade down the mountain side, and others practicing their self arresting technique at the bottom. After I did the glissade, I borrowed my ice axe to Fyre and headed to the camp. My eyes were hurting from the sun, and being on the snow made them hurt even more. I can't believe I was dumb enough to go up without my glacier glasses today.

Switchbacks at high places.  

Switchbacks at high places.  

The last part back to the camp was a long one. We hiked it with Fire Ant and Dandelion and lost the trail at one point. We had to climb quite a few rocks and cross a stream to get back on the trail.

Once we got back to the camp I was so tired that I just collapsed to the ground. Others were eating around me but I couldn't muster enough energy to get my bear can so I just slept on my sleeping pad.

Looking down on the way back. Guitar Lake on the right.  

Looking down on the way back. Guitar Lake on the right.  

KB and the girls were continuing on to get few more miles out as they wanted to get closer to the river crossings and Forrester Pass tomorrow. I was so tired, and as I already had all my gear setup, that I didn't want to pack everything up only to hike few hours and then setup again.

I said goodbyes to the girls and promised to catch up to them the next day and then crawled inside my tarp and fell asleep. Today was a good day!