Today was the craziest and most adventurous day yet. We woke up at midnight from our awesome granite slab cowboy camping spot. We packed up our gear in the dark. You could see the star-lit sky and little red dots moving around the woods like fireflies...those are our headlamps. It was dark out, real dark. I didn't really have an idea of where we were going exactly except that we were going up. Way up. We started ascending in the dark past guitar lake and across miles of suncupped ice fields. I was the lead hiker for the first few hours. I'm learning I have a knack navigation and finding disappearing foot tracks from previous hikers. It was cold but the climbing made me sweaty.
The moon lit up the snowfields, giving us some guidance. I could see massive dark shadows in the distance and all around us...towering over us...those are the cathedral peaks that barricade the base of Whitney. Like an ancient fortress.
When we finally reached the switchbacks of Whitney we had to cut up through a lot of them because they were harried in snow. Righteous and Earwig started cutting an ice path straight up the wall. I was out of my comfort zone. The air is thinning and I can't catch my breath. One slip and I'll end up like that poor woman who passed on this climb just a few weeks ago. I trust my footing and keep climbing.
As we got within a 1,000 ft of the summit the sun began to rise and light up the earth. Wow. I've never seen the sun from this position. I've never been this high. After 12 miles we reached the summit. It was 6:30am.
When I reached the top my mind and body were spent. I was feeling loopy from the low oxygen. I started to cry hard. I was so happy I made it, and so rushed with emotions. I made it here when I never really believed that I could. It was a lot to process.
Everyone got to the top and took photos, laughed and made some coffee. I quickly realized this wasn't a good place to hang out. My limbs were going to freeze and fall off. The summit is the only place in the High Sierra where you get cell service so I took advantage. I called my mom and Jessica and then started heading down the mountain.
I thought the day's battle was done until we tried to get down. Those miles of ice fields and suncups were now slushy bear traps. We had to frustratingly navigate through them to get below Guitar Lake. It took several hours cooking in the sun before we got back to base camp. Big Daddy decided to glisade and had a yard sale on the slope.
After some discussion with the crew we pressed forward down the valley to get back to the JMT junction. Remember, we are technically not on the PCT at this point. Whitney is a side route. We pushed through lower elevation forests and more snow to get to Wright Creek. A ford was in the cards for today and it was getting late. I crossed with a few others and we camped on the other side of the river.