|Day||Miles||Point A to Point B||Elevation Gain||Elevation Loss|
|June 6||7.33 miles||Whitney Portal to view of Consultation Lake||3,323 feet||67 feet|
|June 7||11.27 miles||Consultation Lake to the summit of Mt. Whitney to just below Guitar Lake||2,815 feet||N/A|
Before I get into my blabberings of the trail; check out my vlog of the 1st couple of days.
Date: June 6, 2021
Whitney Portal to view of Consultation Lake
7.33 miles | Elevation Gain: 3,323 feet | Elevation Loss: 67 feet
We found ourselves driving up the same day we were starting the trail; 4:00am the alarm went off. Everything was fully packed in the car just needed to pick up my sister and her boyfriend as they were going to drive my car back instead of having it parked in one place for 3 weeks. I was having some issues with getting my permits emailed to me (note to self, don’t try to get them last minute), so we decided it was best to show up at the Ranger Station when it opened. Closest ranger station is the Eastern Sierra Visitor Center right before hitting the small town of Lone Pine.
So there’s this thing called a wag bag. “Wag bags are basically dog bags for humans”. You can purchase these ahead of time or when you pick up your permits can get a free on at the permit pick up center (in the Whitney zone, you have to use the wag bag). Upon receiving my permit, I was handed several papers of all the rules for each of the forests/parks we would be entering during the trail (can we please be mindful of these, there’s a reason they are in place!!!). Instead of carrying all of it, I took photos on my phone and used it as reading material on some of the nights!
I remember getting to the trail around 9:00am, the only thing left to do was put on our boots, add water into our 1.5 L Hydrapak, say goodbye to our puppy and put our backpacks on and set out. I had the luxury of my sister who was going to take care of our puppy during our 21 day adventure. Big shout out and thanks to her!
At 9:30am after a picture with the trailhead sign (I guess that’s a thing), we headed up the steep mountain. Our goal for the day was to hit Trail Camp or Consultation Lake. The one major hard part of this leg of the trail was that our packs were at their heaviest, mine was 41 lbs. and Joe’s was 48 lbs. We had 10-11 days worth of food in our packs as we wouldn’t be resupplying until Muir Trail Ranch (120 miles away).
Along the way up, we probably took way too many breaks; though now I would say that wasn’t an issue as we were acclimatizing ourselves. Multiple times we would run into the same people, mostly people day hiking Mt. Whitney or overnighting it. About 3 miles in, I changed my shirt to the long sleeve and never wore the shirt again while hiking.
Before we left for the trip we downloaded an app called Guthook; this app has a full map that can be used offline for the John Muir Trail. It shows water sources, good camp spots, photo opportunities, passes, etc. Pretty solid source for the entire trip! I recommend anyone going out on the trail to download this and use it as a resource, make sure you download it for offline use, because obviously almost the entire John Muir Trail there is no cell service.
*my attempt at a night shot; needs a lot of work!
I didn’t feel nearly as ready as I’d hoped to be physically, mentally I was completely ready to tackle this endeavor. We had set out to do this trip 3 years ago, but the fires insisted for us to stay away; this was ok because the trail wasn’t going anywhere. The knowledge and practice I attained over these 3 years waiting I believe made me mentally stronger to reach this ultimate goal of hiking the entire John Muir Trail.
I was ecstatic to find that there were several cool ledges open for tent spots with a view of Consultation Lake and it’s vast towering walls above it. We did a little over 3,000 feet in elevation gain and my calves were feeling it. We still had about just the same the next day; so straight to bed we went after dinner.
I knew our packs would be a little lighter the next day since we had eaten some of our food; that definitely brought up my spirits of having to summit Mt. Whitney the next day. I also remembered that we get to drop our packs 1.9 miles from the summit at the junction.
I enjoyed our breaks and taking in the moments we were living through; after all we had an entire day to get to our next destination. We were in no hurry; we had 20 days left to finish the trail and we weren’t even in the double digits yet, ha.
Date: June 7, 2021
Consultation Lake to the summit of Mt. Whitney to just below Guitar Lake
11.27 miles | Elevation Gain: 2,815 feet | Elevation Loss: N/A
No alarms, because nature was the alarm (well or people around waking up early and making noises). We set out around 8:30am with full pack and with no breakfast. That was the worst plan ever; all we had was our coffee and hot chocolate which honestly was the best thing every morning, but after passing Trail Camp and filling up our water, you hit the infamous 99 switchbacks. I’ve done it before and know how grueling it was, but now I was doing it with a full pack.
I could have let it get to me mentally when people were passing me, but there was no one with a full pack except us as far as I could see. No excuses, I needed something to eat as soon as possible as the elevation and the hungry side of me was giving my body a hard time to move forward. After we finally ate and took a long break, the rest was history; feed yourself when you need it. I recommend eating in the mornings at least something to get you through the first few miles of the day (another note to self).
I remember when we finally got up to the cables portion of the trail; Trail Crest would be so close, which means we were just around the corner away to dropping our packs to head to the summit. Up till this portion we hadn’t even been on the John Muir Trail yet; the John Muir trail actually ends on Mt. Whitney. Officially we decided it ends at Whitney Portal because you have to get down the mountain at some point (we’d like the mileage for the JMT to be updated ha)!
There was no snow on the trail at all yet, usually the sketchiest part (being that it was still June) is when you get to the cables portion. I couldn’t believe how little snow there was; I wasn’t complaining because this would make our trek much easier, but definitely not a good sign for water pack in California.
Getting to that junction was just about the best feeling of that day; but wait we still had to summit. This was the first time we ran into PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) hikers going from the border of Mexico to the border of Canada (usually a 5-6 month journey). Joe didn’t have his salmon packet and mayo the day before and decided to offer it up to one of the people at the junction doing the PCT. I believe she was from Denmark and loved mayonnaise; how funny that exactly what she loved we were offering it to her.
After some energy food and rest, we pushed on to the summit; that 1.9 miles felt like it was 5. The only thing going through my head the whole time was you can do this, you’ve done it twice before. With working on my breathing and pushing along with my hiking poles it actually was feeling pretty good going on this portion of the trail. This leg of the trail is one of the most stunning (hard to say that because I felt like almost every moment was). Once you hit the Needles, I think it’s one of the more dramatic areas of the trail because as you look to one side it’s straight down and the same thing the other side.
I knew we were getting super close to the summit at that point and I feel like I got a whiff of energy that led me to the top. The last few steps once I saw the hut at the summit, I took in slowly as I wasn’t sure if I was going to be summiting this mountain again. A conversation came up at the summit and a few people agreed, that this is something you just do once. In my head I thought, wait I’ve done it 3 times now and I would be ok with doing it again. Although I know there are a lot of other mountains to climb; so maybe it was true for me too in a way. We will see I guess.
*Laundry room in the tent: every night!
Guess what was pretty awesome? I had cell coverage at the top, called my sister sent a photo of us to her and then put myself right back on airplane mode. My first initial thought was, why did I turn on my data? I mean wasn’t this the point of the hike to get away, but honestly why not try and get that phone call out that we’re ok and we made it to the top; this was the most difficult part of the trail we were to endure, so I thought. After the summit, we returned down to our packs at the junction where most would head back and we would head forward towards Yosemite, still over 200 miles away.
Packs were still there, check! Another break needed, check. Once we strapped our backpacks in we did not stop at all on the 4 mile gruesome downhill to Guitar Lake. What an insane trail; I think my most commented saying was “man I’m glad we didn’t have to come up this way”; this would stand true until the end of the trail ha.
Ran out of water on the downhill; there was nothing after Trail Crest and even before on the switchbacks that we could fill up on. We had left a few sips and took them slowly knowing we were getting closer to water. Recommending filling up on the switchbacks or before with more water than you would ever think you need. Altitude does that.
As we were descending into this new valley I have never been in before, our goal was to make it to Crabtree Meadow area. The descent and ascent that day felt like enough at some point that we found Whitney Creek just beyond Guitar Lake and went south until a huge rock emerged into our views. One of the many times I said, “what a perfect campsite” the entire trip. 6:30pm struck and it was time to hide away and relax as that felt like one of the hardest days hiking (I thought that every night ha).
We were so tired, we didn’t even have dinner (mind you we did have a very late lunch around almost 4:00pm). Cornuts and jerky all the way and we were the happiest people in the valley, I think. This was the first night where we came up with our so called “cocktails” that we would make every night for dinner time. I packed a ton of electrolyte tablets in both our packs and 1.5 L of water and a tablet or two of Nuun Vitamin Tablets did the deed for the evening. Those of you thinking actual cocktails, no, not actual cocktails; just some lovely electrolyte tablets that happened to have a good fuzzy feeling after a long day of hiking.
I hope you guys enjoyed my blabbering’s, tune back for the next few days as I finally gather my thoughts and such for this trip.
That sounds pretty hard with big packs – I’m good at hillwalking but just can’t carry big packs – only on the flat.
How narrow is the Needles section? sounds pretty scary!
It’s pretty narrow! It’s spectacular when your up there. Here’s a Google search of what it looks like from farther away 🤓 https://www.google.com/search?q=needles+near+mt.+whitney&rlz=1CDGOYI_enUS846US910&hl=en-US&prmd=minv&sxsrf=ALeKk02hcOSJJE470-MCCN2JKywl0nQv2g:1628809066523&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjG-cPOyqzyAhViFTQIHSVxCaoQ_AUoAnoECAIQAg&biw=390&bih=669
Thanks for that link – I’ve just spent a great half-hour reading ‘timberline trails’ website with aerial photos and great descriptions! And that old lady one of the pinnacles is named after who was still climbing them at 91! wow! Wish I still would be but I don’t think I will somehow…
I’ve ready so much on timberline trails too 🙂
Hmmm – thought I’d left another reply but can’t see it.
Thanks for that link, I spent a great half hour reading ‘Timerline Trails’ aerial photography post and info on Mount Whitney. And about that old lady who was still doing the peaks at 91 and has a pinnacle named after her. Hope I’m still that fit at 91 (but don’t think I will be)!
I think it came through at least in my comments! I’ve spent a good deal of time on Timberline Trails too!