Distance hiked today: 8.5 miles + 16.2 side trip to summit Mount Whitney = 24.7 miles / 39.7 km.
Mount Whitney: the highest peak in the lower 48, at 14,505 feet. We didn't plan on summiting today… but we went for it!
We made our way 8.5 miles to the base camp, taking it slow as we planned to have a long rest there anyway before a night hike. Normally people aim to hike up in the night to summit for sunrise.
But when we arrived, hikers who had sumitted that morning warned of the forecast for tonight & tomorrow morning - higher winds on the summit and a very cold wind chill at -15C. I'd seen this in the forecast, but the day of the cold front kept changing so it was hard to plan around it.
So we made a game-time decision to go for it this afternoon instead, before the weather hit. We quickly had lunch, set up camp, and head off at 2pm with just a few essentials and all our warm layers in our packs.
It was a scenic 8 miles to the summit, passing alpine lakes and a lot of marmots. It was slow going with steep trail and big rock steps on the switchbacks, and I was amazed at the work that went into building this trail in the side of the mountain. There was only a small patch of snow near the summit, which looked super cool as the sun had started to melt it into little spikes.
We reached the summit just after 6pm, and the wind was picking up. We took quick photos and peeked into the shelter which was full of snow so we couldn't go in. The views were amazing, on top of the world! We didn't get the sunrise, but I appreciated the warmer hike up and we got the sunset on the way down.
It's pretty cool to be able to summit Whitney which our PCT thru-hiking permits allow, whereas otherwise you have to enter a permit lottery and it's hard to get. It's also less elevation gain from this side of the mountain from the PCT, vs the other side of the mountain where day hikers come up all the way from the bottom of the valley from Lone Pine.
We finished the hike down in the dark, getting back to camp just after 10pm. An 8 hour side trip all in all, and we went to bed exhausted without having dinner, snacking on bars and nuts instead.
Total trail mileage: 767 miles / 1234.1 km