Started up the trail at a nice easy pace, and made it to Lone Pine Lake in just over two hours. Filled up our water bottles again (I tried the Potable Aqua with the neutralizing tablets - got rid of the orange color and all of the iodine taste!). Found out it was quicker and easier to use the PUR water filter, so the tablets never came out again.
Took our time getting to Trail Camp, enjoyed beautiful views at Big Horn and Mirror Lake, and met the ranger at Trailside Meadow. She gave one fellow a citation ($150.00) for being up there without a permit. Spent a somwhat restless night at Trail Camp and got up at 5:30 for our summit attempt. The wife was not feeling too well, so she stayed in camp, while Mark and I had some breakfast (oatmeal and coffee for him, power bar and water for me), and hit the 99 switchbacks (I didn't count, but the ranger assured me it was 99. Whatever).
Seemed like forever, but we finally made Trail Crest. How disheartening!!! After all the climbing to get to the crest, the first thing we did was descend! That's OK - what a beautiful view! The Kaweahs and the Great Western Divide, and especially Guitar Lake. Went through the windows, which didn't bother us as much as we thought they would.
Made the summit by 10:45 and met an Army veteran named Bob who came up carrying nothing but an American flag. Mark and I got some good summit poses with Bob and the flag, then did the obligatory summit register sign-in, took the photos with the summit marker and the geodesic survey marker, got some good shots of Mt. Langley and Big Willie (hope to do one of those next year),called home (that would be Maryland) from the top of the mountain (great cell reception!), refilled our Camelbacks, and started down.
Got back to trailcamp in two hours and took a nice long nap. Got up and had a fine meal of freeze-dried beef stew (those Mountain Home meals are excellent! Highly recommend the chicken teriyaki! All they need is a little Old Bay - that's a Maryland crab spice that goes well with just about everything). Met a young man from Japan who had hiked down from Yosemite and ran out of food. He had been out for three days! We had one extra dinner, two extra breakfasts (yeah, we definitely overpacked), and several power bars, which we gladly gave him, and he was thrilled! A little American hospitality.
Got up at 5:30 the next morning, took our time getting back to the portal (thanks to Earlene for letting me bum a smoke when we got there), bought the "I climbed Whitney" polo shirt, and waited around till 11:00 to get the best cheeseburger I've ever had. Topped it off by going into town and cleaning up at Kirk's Barber Shop and Public Showers. Not a bad deal - a shower and a towel for $4.00 a person! Spectacular weather the entire time - brilliant blue skies every day, not too cold at night (30 degree bag was quite comfortable). I could go on and on (afraid I already did), but what an experience! Absolutely the greatest recreational experience of my life!
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