A few got there on Wednesday, but the most of us arrived on Thursday. When we went to pick up the permits from the National Forest Office, we were told that we would most likely only make it to "Base Camp", which was about 6.5 miles into the 11 mile hike due to the snow. We were told after "Base Camp" we would need crampons and an ice axe. Most of us in the group had never used crampons or an ice axe before. After hearing this I made the decision that if we could not summit I was not going to be disappointed. I was going to enjoy the hike, and learn as much as I can for the next time.
Friday morning we woke up at 2am. We started our hike up to Mt Whitney at 3am. We would stop every hour as a group to eat, and to "regroup". We all wore headlamps because the first 6 miles of the hike were in the dark. At about 11,000 feet of elevation, which was at about mile 6.5 was where the first person in our group got altitude sickness. They were throwing up, so we sent them back down the mountain with a partner. The moment someone throws up from altitude sickness, that means their body is dehydrated, and there is no way of coming back from that point. If they were to continue the hike, they could of got a lot worse.
Once we got to "Base Camp", we filled our water, put on more clothes, and ate for a little bit of food. From here on out we knew it was going to be colder with snow. I was wearing Brooks Puregrit trail shoes, so I put plastic bags on my shoes to help make it waterproof. We hiked a little past "Base Camp" until we got to the cables. For me, passing through the cables was the hardest part mentally. I am afraid of heights, and I always forget that until I'm in a situation where I am reminded! (The cables are shown in the picture above.) Once I got through the cables, with the help from
others, our group was then at a standstill. After the cables was where we realized what everyone had been warning us about with the snow. This was where the 99 switchbacks began, and there was snow everywhere. The two experienced hikers in our group made the call that anyone with Micro-spikes and Yaktracs were allowed to continue, and those who did not have it was would not be able to continue. This was a safety call. Only six of us were able to continue, and the rest turned around. It was too risky for someone without Micro-spikes or Yaktracs.
Now we were down to six. The 99 switchbacks were tough. There was not much space to put our feet, and there was a lot of sliding even with the micro-spikes and Yaktracs. (Side note: I was wearing Yaktracs with Brooks Puregrit 2 trail shoes.) Once we got up the 99 switchbacks to the top of the chute we could see the other side of the mountain. And boy was it beautiful! Probably one of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen. At the top we stopped for a quick snake snake before we continued on to the summit. At this point I realized I ran out of water. Thankfully one of the other hikers gave her me extra water bottle. Without that I do not know what I would of done. Once we got to the top of the chute I could not stop shivering! I was so cold.
From the chute to the summit was a long trek because few people in our group were starting to get altitude sickness.
Once we got to the summit we were not up there very long because there was a storm coming in. We did not want to get stuck in it so we started to head down the mountain. I have heard stories where people had to stay in the hut at the summit because they were stuck from a storm.
The hike down the mountain was a lot easier than going up. Not because it was down hill, but because the snow was smelting and was more slushy. This made it easier to step in the snow. The way down was slow. People in our group were having issues with hips, knees, and just from being on our feet all day. The last 3 miles were in the dark. We were all joking about how we were all "seeing" things that were not there. One person on the hike kept seeing pizza on the ground! Being dark, and tired does not help the imagination.
About half a mile from the bottom we ran into a few people from our group who went down earlier. They came out on the trail to check on us and walk with us back. They had made us soup and brought us waters!! It was heaven! That made me smile so big seeing them, and having warm soup never tasted so good!
All in all it was a beautiful hike! I would suggest for beginner hikers to get a permit later in June to avoid snow. I definitely want to do it again! So if anyone wants to go let me know!