Day 61: Knocking on Whitney’s Door
Sunday, May 20, 2018 8:37 pm
Location: Crabtree Meadows (767.0 miles)

It was cold outside, and with a short day to Crabtree Meadows to summit Mount Whitney tomorrow, I wasn’t inclined to get up early. I was eventually forced out of my tent at 7 to get breakfast.

Rock Creek was still flowing very well, and it was still not possible to cross at the trail crossing without getting my feet wet. So, I scouted out alternative crossings both up and downstream, and found two potential crossings about a minute or two from my campsite. Downstream, there was a crossing to an island where the creek split, but from my vantage point, I couldn’t get a good look at the far side of the crossing. Upstream, however, a trio of fallen trees looked to provide a suitable bridge across. Successful in finding a dry crossing, I returned to camp and got back into my sleeping bag for a short while to warm up.

The sky looked mostly clear, and the sun finally began to make a presence around 7:30, but in the pine forest, not much sunlight reached the ground near my tent.

While I was puttering around camp slowly packing up, a pair of women from Australia who had also camped at Rock Creek last night crossed the creek. I told them of the dry crossings I found, but they were insistent on crossing near the trail crossing because where I suggested was “too far”. Separately, they both tried a log near the crossing that went all the way to the other bank, but since it was pretty thin (barely wider than one's foot), it flexed quite a bit. The first didn’t even try and cross via the log; the second made it about a third of the way across the creek before deciding it wasn’t going to work, and backed up to shore, a fairly impressive feat I thought given the narrow flexible log and her pack. Ultimately, both of them just waded across the creek in their underwear, as did a third guy who hiked up shortly after they crossed.

I finally left camp around 10 am via the crossing I found upstream, which was popular enough that there was a clear trail on the far side that connected back to the PCT. The PCT then began a steep uphill up the side of Mount Guyot. Being in no rush, I took it pretty slowly.

After a brief lunch break about halfway up the climb around 11:30, I continued on, taking my time and enjoying the mountainous scenery.

Around 2, I reached the crossing of Whitney Creek, and accidentally got my feet wet after misjudging how deep the water was. I took a longer than expected break to dry my feet off, before continuing uphill to the PCT’s southern junction with the John Muir Trail.

The PCT and JMT follow the same route for most of the JMT’s length. From their south junction, the JMT heads east, to summit Mount Whitney, the tallest peak in the US mainland, roughly eight miles from the PCT/JMT junction. About a mile from the junction is Crabtree Meadows, the closest to Mount Whitney PCT hikers can camp.

I made it to the Ranger Station at the Meadows around 3:15. Sassy K and company were there eating dinner, having just recently returned from summiting Mount Whitney. The weather was perfect, and while there was some snow on the trail, conditions were still very good, and no one in their group needed to use an ice axe or microspikes. Assuming the weather tomorrow continues to be good, that’s excellent news for my summit attempt.

I joined them for dinner, and then left the ranger station and moved closer to the meadow and the trail to Whitney after they left, heading a few miles up the trail to get a start on Forester Pass tomorrow, the high point on the PCT.

Flowers and Ninja Fabric had also made it to Crabtree Meadows while I was eating dinner, and we decided on a 5 am start time. The conventional wisdom is to start early because bad weather on Whitney tends to be in the afternoon. Also, an early start allows walking over snow frozen overnight, rather than postholing through snow softened by the sun. Later, they decided on a 3:30 am start time, which I was a bit dubious about (mostly because I didn’t want to wake up that early).

Crabtree Meadows
Crabtree Meadows

Quoi also caught up, though Dylan is behind somewhere, and should catch up later today (though, it’s already getting on into the evening and he’s not here yet). Also, today was Quoi’s birthday! Quoi is waiting for Dylan to arrive before deciding on a start time for her Whitney summit attempt.

I set my alarm for 4 am, for a 5 am departure for the summit. Leaving at 3:30 would require waking up somewhere around 2:30, and that just seems far too early to me.

Either way, I’m managing to get to bed before 9, so I’ll have at least some sleep tonight before having to get up really early. But, tomorrow should be exciting, so it’ll be worth it.