Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Day #3: The Night and then the Hike Out

The night starts out as the previous night. We crash at 8pm and pretty much instantly fall asleep. I don't know how long I slept, but it started to get really windy and then started to rain. Though much of our gear was still in the tent, our packs were out in the rain exposed and we really didn't want them all wet or any of the stuff in them all wet. Right about when I was going to decide to get up, get dressed go outside and secure the packs, the rain stopped. I drift off to sleep again. Sometime later (I have no idea how much time elapsed here), it starts really raining. This isn't going to stop quickly. I put on my fleece and head outside to drag each pack in under a corner of the rain fly on the tent. We had garbage bags I could have put over the packs, but the rain fly looked like it would keep them mostly dry and this was a lot quicker. I dive back into the tent brush off my bare feeet and jump in the sleeping bag to warm up. The rain and wind continued for awhile. I look outside at one point (I think around 4:30am) and see the first light of sunrise off to the east underneath the storm clouds. I'm thinking about taking a picture of the colors, but before deciding to do so, I doze off. Because of the clouds, we don't get the early morning sun on the tent and we're able to sleep in a bit more and we end up getting up at about 7:30. The rain has stopped and it's now clear overhead, but it's clearly still raining off to the east. By about 8:00, we get some sun that starts drying things out.

We cook some breakfast (oatmeal) and start the process of getting the whole camp site into our packs. It takes a little while and by 9am we're finally ready to go. I take one last picture at the camp of the two of us (camera on self timer propped on a rock) and then we start the hike down.

Last Look at the Whitney Peaks Before Hiking Out

Marmots Looking for Our Food

The Two of Us Ready to Start the Hike Out

Much like the descent from Whitney, this descent is mostly just long and arduous, but not particularly noteworthy. We stop for a break at Outpost Camp (2000' down), take a short break and assess our water situation and decide we don't need more water. This time people going up the trail are asking us about the top and we're happy to relay our experiences. We find a gentleman on a day hike (just hiking, not trying for the top) that asks us if we've seen his wife and daughter because he doesn't know if they're up ahead of him or turned around and went back. We explain that we haven't seen them on our way down so he turns around and starts down behind us. It seems odds they would be that separated. We talk to several other groups that don't have crampons or ice axes and figure they're just going to go to Trail Camp and not try for the summit. As we're hiking down on a Friday, it seems like there's a lot more traffic coming up the mountain than there were the previous couple days. I'm also surprised how many people there are that are just out for a casual day hike, just to go part way up the trail. One gentleman explains that he's just going as far as he can get by noon, then turning around. We even see a trail runner coming up the trail in front of us carrying a single bottle of water. He glances at his watch and then turns around and starts running down.

We run into another guy who's been camping at Lone Pine Lake (just below the Whitney Zone where you need a permit) and he says the fishing there is really great.

Mostly we're trying to just pass the time and get to the bottom. It's not hard. It's not taxing on the lungs. Our packs just feel really heavy and we want to be done. Unfortunately for us, you can see the road at Whitney Portal from a long ways out. What looks like it should take about 20 minutes to reach takes an hour and finally at about 12:30, we hit the trailhead.

We head for the car, drop our packs off and my first order of business is to get my boots off. We change into some tennis shoes, stow our gear in the car and walk over to the Whitney Portal store where we order veggie burgers and fries with a large gatorade and we sit outside savoring the best tasting burger we've ever had. Wow, that was good. The Whitney Portal store has a small shower in the back and we pay for two showers and each get cleaned up a bit before our long drive home. By around 2:00, we're on the road. When we get down to Lone Pine, we call Steph and let her know we're OK and give her an idea when we'll be home. The drive home is uneventful and we arrive home at about 9:30pm.

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