15 August 2022
Tarns above Guitar Lake to Whitney Portal
(14 miles, +2,900/-6,500 feet).
Well it happened again!
Half Cookie’s sleeping pad deflated last night, just like it did on our last trip. So I offered to swap with her to keep her warm. My body temperature was fine, but the ground was quite hard and I only got a couple hours of sleep.
Another cause of sleeplessness: we were camped near the switchbacks, where as early as 2am people were passing by, clack-clacking their trekking poles or chatting with other hikers.
It was all relatively polite until one passerby yelled at the top of his lungs: “Shit on my balls!”
I guess it was as good an alarm clock as any.
We decided to get up, pack, and do a pre-dawn start ourselves. By 4:45am we were ready to hike.
Just like the last time UltraShuffle and I climbed Whitney, we had decent light from the moon, and it was gorgeous watching the granite turn from black to orange to bright white.
By 7am we made it to the turnoff to the summit. We dropped our bags, bringing only one daypack with food, water, and extra clothes for the 4 mile round trip.
The trail to the summit is rocky but not techinical, passing several “windows” that give a view down to the eastern side of the Sierra Crest.
Inside the Whitney Hut, some jokester posted a prank notice.
There were only about 10 other people at the summit, and it was fun to chat with some of them. One of them even took our picture!
It was really wonderful spending time at the summit, but we had “miles to go before we sleep.”
We returned to the main trail and grabbed our stuff. Unfortunately, we had another climb ahead of us up to Trail Crest. But it was short and we made quick work of it.
So here’s a thing. Once you enter the Whitney Zone you are not allowed to poop.
Well, not on the ground anyway.
Whitney gets so many visitors that they have special rules for human waste disposal. You are supposed to carry it out instead of burying it.
Now, we anticipated this problem, and tried as best we could to take care of business where we were still allowed to bury our waste.
But now the clock was ticking! Could we make it back to the car before the bomb goes off?
It felt like it took FOREVER to get down to the first lake.
We actually passed a family decked out in MAGA gear with four small children along the way who asked us “how much further to the summit?”
“Um. It’s probably at least another hour up to Trail Crest and then a 5 mile round trip from there.”
Dad was not amused. A tense conversation between him and his wife ensured.
So we left them behind. I am very hopeful that everyone was okay.
At Trail Camp we needed water, which was unfortunate.
Because it smelled like poop.
Nothing some chlorine dioxide can’t take care of, but still….
You can really understand why they have such strict rules on this side of the Sierra Crest. We were clearly not in untrammeled wilderness anymore.
At the next stream the water seemed much nicer, so I dumped the water I collected above.
Well, as you might have guessed, Half Cookie didn’t make it. At Outpost Camp, she and I ducked into some willows for privacy and I helped her figure out how to take care of business.
We sealed everything up and were on our way.
Alas, the final couple of hours today I was pretty grumpy. Whitney Portal is quite scenic and I should have enjoyed it more, but it just felt so, well, spoiled.
I didn’t want to infect anyone else with my sour mood, so I hiked a few minutes ahead.
And all too soon (and not soon enough!) we were done.