Old hands know how fast the weather can change in the Whitney zone, but I figured I'd post a few photos for those browsing & doing their due diligence/research to demonstrate just how fast conditions can go from perfect to whiteout.
Guitar lake - 7:40am
Not a cloud in the sky. The day before, the Sierra had let loose with all the works - thunder, lighting, hail, wind & rain - around 5pm. I had set up my camp across the creek from the Crabtree RS not a moment too soon before the action began. I knew I wanted to get an early start, but the way Guitar looked, it seemed like the mountains had already vented its fury.
3rd keyhole looking @ Hitchcock lakes - 10:45am
OK, just some puffy clouds. Not too much worry since I knew I'd be heading down around noon. Based on the day before, I figured I would be safely down @ Portal if the same 5pm timeline held.
Trail crest - 1pm
I got to the peak @ 11:15am, and hung out for around 45 minutes. I was planning on leaving @ noon anyway, but the clouds began to get really dark, so I decided to seriously get the heck out of there. I was walking pretty fast with another guy, but I said good-bye and started jogging back to the junction to get my pack. Sure enough, some light snow flurries started to fall, along with the temperature. Got back to the junction @ 1pm, grabbed my pack, and walked back with the person pictured. She had wisely turned back even though her group tried to continue. You can see how it's now 'get out of Dodge conditions'. She followed me down to the cables, then I jetted.
Trail camp looking up @ Whitney - 2:15pm
This is where the whole thing goes to hell. Hail/snow was beginning to stick to my windshirt, so I dropped my pack and quickly pulled out my poncho. At this point, visibility & temp are dropping, and it's hailing like crazy. A few people @ Trail camp where packing their stuff in a hurry as everyone wanted to get out.
Looking back up at the peak, it's the one place no one wants to be. Soon a little thunder & lighting began, and I can only imagine everyone just going into survival mode to get out. I didn't get a picture of the trail, but of course it was soaking wet, so everyone had to deal with wet, slick granite. (Just the type of conditions that caused the Langley fatality two years ago.)
I was completely wetted out by the time I got to Lone Pine lake a little before 4pm, but the weather finally cleared and I had actually dried out and warmed up by the time I got to Portal @ 5pm.
Hopefully this little pictorial will help reinforce the old saying, "Yes, Victoria, take layers of clothing & rain protection even on sunny days". Ah, another wonderful couple of days in the "Range of Light".
Btw, I posted my account of traversing Forester the day before over @ HST http://www.highsierratopix.com/community/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=11167.
Here's a quick pic:
Snowfields begin 2 miles north - thank goodness for micro-spikes: