mt. whitney

After high school I and my friend, jerry, decided to be heroes. We left southern calif. at 6:00 am. and took turns driving and playing bongos for the hot 5 and a half hours to reach Lone Pine. We filled up the air mattresses before starting up the grade. As we went up the air pres­sure became less and less, and the mattresses began to puff up and groan. We let air out to keep them from bursting. As we went con­tinued, the car got hot and began to develop vapor lock. At Whitney Portal we un­packed, cooked lunch [our only successful meal]. We started the 4 mile hike to Mirror Lake. It began to rain and we wondered if we should continue. After a while it let up. There were many switch backs. We met people who told us what to expect. Everywh­ere there was beautiful scenery, sheer rock wall faces rising thousands of feet, gushing streams and brooks that gurgled underground and emerged from nowhere, lakes that were completely frozen over [in July], and weird ice formations that looked like flowers.

My pack gave me trouble and we had to fix it often. We arrived at the lake at 6:00 pm. There were a lot of mosquitoes there so we moved up the hill. We cooked dinner. Jerry’s bread was good, the rest was fair. It was getting dark, so we washed our dishes and laid out our bedroll, by digging up the ground and lying our bedroll on top of the soft dirt. [mistake] The wind began to blow. It was very cold, coming right off the snow. We had no tent and so buttoned our sleeping bags up to the top. This didn’t keep the wind out, and whenever we shifted positions we touched a colt spot. All night it seemed we were on the verge of shivering. Every time we dozed off, we’d shift a little, touch a cold spot, and begin shivering. Also the ground was draining the heat from us. We didn’t sleep well.

We crawled out at 5:00 am the next morning. I put my clothes on over my pajamas. We decided to skip break­fast and take extra food to get an early start. We didn’t need water as there were streams along the way. We passed Consultation Lake which was almost frozen over. It was above the timber line. From here on it seemed as if the whole mountain was made of rocks. As we hiked higher, slopes that towered above us when we camped were now far below us.

We reached the pass, which is the half way point at l:20. A sign said if you haven’t gotten here by l:00, turn back.

From here one could see both sides of the sierra nevadas. It was spec­tacular. I you walked 20 feet to the right, you would tumble for

thousa­nds of feet as the whole range had been lifted from the left. To the left the mountain sloped off bottoming out in a green valley which then rose to smaller mountain ranges.

We had to walk through snow occasionally that covered the trail in July. We had to stop and rest more often now at l0, ll, l2,000 feet.

Jerry had been life guarding all summer and hadn’t used his legs. They began to give him a lot of trouble. I had a headache from the altitude which got worse. I felt I was getting altitude sickness. Our progress became slower and slower. The last mile was very bad and we began to wonder if we were going to make it. After going through more snow and walking along the top of the ridge, we finally made the summit – l4,380 feet. There is hut there made of stones. with a book for your signature. The view was tremendous, but we just laid down. I became very dizzy and lost my break­fast. I felt better then, and had lunch. We took a lot of pictures – unfortunately in black and white. Then we picked up a couple of rocks and started down. We made it back in 3 l/2 hours compared to the 6 up. At Mirror Lake we rested, packed and started the rest of the way down. As soon as got down to the timber line and other lakes, the mosquitoes welcomed us. We crossed and recrossed the stream many times, and again the slopes and cliffs that had been way below us, were far above us. We were glad to be back at the car, as we had hiked 22 miles. We ate a small dinner as it was getting dark fast.

We slept there and the next day treated ourselves to a decent breakfast on the way home. On returning my mother snuck down to the local paper and soon an article proclaimed our achievement. [What else are parents for?]

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