6 days, 22 hours in…
I woke at 12:30, having only 3 hours of sleep, but excited with adrenaline. I was hoping that by the time I hit Guitar Lake–where most people camp before Whitney—that it may be 3 AM when most hikers start.
Around 2:30AM, I saw some other headlamps going up the switchbacks, but never did see Guitar Lake. I had about 3 Probars left for food–I had measured my food at 1.4 lbs per day until the top of Whitney and expected to be hungry for the 11 miles down. “For now, I don’t need to worry about food. Get to the top!”
The switchbacks are haunting in the night—especially to see headlamps bopping above me. We were ghosts in the night–or fireflies. The switchbacks are not steep at all and slightly frustrating after I’ve gotten used to the Long Trail with its merciless uphills.
I caught up to the others in headlamps and passed two of them after Trail Crest. I hiked with one of the guys, who had a fantastic headlamp that clearly had not been nighhiking for many nights in a row like mine. The trail became slightly exposed then and it was fun to look down through Whitney’s notches and see thousands of feet below. There was even a bit of snow on the trail.
I made it to the top at 4:51 AM—6 days, 22 hours, and 51 minutes after I started. I stayed in the small hut until the sun emerged gloriously over the mountain.
Around 6:30, I descended and was shocked by how many people I saw on the switchbacks! It was crazy town! I’ve never hiked Whitney up the regular route, and when I’ve descended via the trail, it was in October or May–the off season that is less busy than August.
I got into Whitney Portal 5 minutes after breakfast was served, but got a burger instead. I sat at the Portal for about an hour with another JMT hiker, a guy from Germany. After many cars passed us—mostly tourists driving up to see the base of Whitney and then driving back—we found some climbers and they were able to give us a ride.
The crazy part, though, was that they had seen me in Yosemite Valley when I started at Happy Isles and had asked how long it would take me to get to Whitney Portal. When I said less than week, they hadn’t believed me. And here I was now…getting a ride from them!
Liz "Snorkel" Thomas
Liz Thomas is a well-traveled adventure athlete most known for breaking the women’s unsupported speed record on the Appalachian Trail in 2011. She has completed the Triple Crown of Hiking–the Appalachian Trail, the 2,650 mile Pacific Crest Trail, and 3,100 mile Continental Divide Trail–and has backpacked over 15,000 miles across the United States. While not on trail, Liz lives in Denver, Colorado.