June 13, 2015
Tentsite near Mulkey Pass junction (744.6) to Crabtree Meadow Ranger Station (1.3 on Alternate)
21.7 PCT miles, 1.3 Alternate miles (Mt. Whitney Summit)
780.6 miles total
Today’s Elevation Gain/Loss: + 3,306 ft, – 3,372 ft
As I write this, rain is pouring down on our tent and any would-be views of Mt. Whitney are cloaked in thick dark storm clouds. It was another wonderful day, and even this downpour can’t get us down about our time in the mountains. We hiked well into the High Sierra today, spending nearly the entire day above 10,000 feet, and at least 5 miles of the day above 11,000 feet. We saw our first alpine lake, hopped rocks over two separate rivers, and watched deer and marmot frolic and play in grassy meadows. So if we have to put up with yet another rainstorm, we don’t mind. We’ll go through anything for the Sierras.
The rain didn’t start until after lunch today, and we had already pumped out a respectable 15 miles which had made us feel strong and well-conditioned. It started as rumbling thunder, then an innocent drizzle, but before long it turned into another full-blown hail storm. We geared up just in time and didn’t stop walking, afraid that if we stopped we might start to freeze. We had just crossed a gushing river and started up a steep 2-mile climb when the storm let up a bit and we were able to take off our rain gear.
The sky looked menacing for the rest of the afternoon, but it didn’t start raining again until after we had a chance to fully admire Crabtree Meadow, at the base of our Mt. Whitney climb. Crabtree is a gorgeous meadow, with everything picture perfect and intensely inviting. There was the backdrop of 14,000 foot mountains (one of which was Whitney), the river that flowed right through the center, the kelly-green grass that looked freshly mowed, and to top it all off, a family of deer grazing in the center and dozens of marmots scurrying around. We took our time walking around the perimeter, and then veered off the PCT when we got to the spur trail up to the summit of Mt. Whitney.
Whitney is the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States, at 14,505 feet. From the PCT, it is only a 17-mile round-trip hike to get to the top, so Pickles and I had long planned to make it happen. We love climbing mountains and are having a hard time believing we are already here at Whitney. We only hiked 1.3 miles up this evening before setting up camp at the Crabtree Meadow Ranger Station (just as the rain started back up), but we’ll be up first thing in the morning for our summit. We can only hope that the storm has let up by then and we can get up and back down with blue skies overhead and unobscured views all around.