Today was the best day yet on the PCT. We woke up as planned at 12:50am and headed out from the campsite at 1:20am. The moon was so bright that we didn't need to use our headlamps as we traversed across the snow with Kahtoola micro spikes on our feet and ice axes in hand up the valley to where the switchbacks (snow-covered) began. Since the trail was mainly covered in snow, we followed when we could, and otherwise scrambled up the bare rock sections to get to the next switchback. After a few of these sections, we made it up to where the trail was walkable with only minor amounts of snow and continued up the trail past where the Whitney Portal joined our trail. The views as we climbed up the slope were amazing as the moon slowly set changing from bright white, to yellow, and eventually red right before setting over another granite ridge.
The last 2 miles if the trail to the top were pretty good and went quickly until we ran into one final snow field before the top, which was rocky with little snow. Light and color from the upcoming sun shown on the horizon and we all got in our sleeping bags and waited and watched for the sun to rise as the surrounding mountains began to might up as well, giving us a nearly 360 degree view of snow capped peaks. The exception being east where the mountains drop sharply into the desert with the town of Lone Pine far below.
We hung out and napped a little at the top before starting our descent at 10am. The views were much different in the daylight than they were when we were hiking up in the dark.
When we reached the bottom of the switchbacks we ran into Annie, Jimbrick, Drop Dead, Pellet, and Huff'n'Puff who were hanging out on a rock outcropping. We sat down with them for a while to catch up and then they pulled out the five bottles of wine (in platypus') they had been carrying in anticipation of celebrating at the top of Mt Whitney. Since they didn't make it up that day, they shared with us!
After the wine, we were feeling a bit lackadaisical so back at camp we ate some lunch and rested for a while before heading out around 4 to get in a few more miles to Wallace Creek. The miles went pretty easy since it was mostly downhill or flat. We decided that rather than cross the creek in the morning it would be best to do at night, so we crossed and set up camp. That is some ice cold water, literally.
Everyone was exhausted by the previous two days so we ate dinner and headed to bed so we could wake up at 4:30am in order to get to and over Forester Pass before the snow gets to soft.
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