Five of us out of a total of seven (two dropped out last minute due to injuries sustained in training which started 6 months earlier) summited on 9/25. It kicked our butt but we overall we are ecstatic for the experience and closer as a group for it. I was the oldest at 50 (hiked Halfdome 4 years ago with same group of friends) and the rest of my friends were in late thirties buddies from HS. The super athelete among us was 43. He set the pace and managed to look like GQ model regardless of how cold it was or how tired we were.
Mammoth Lake Inn: We started on 9/22 staying overnight at Mammoth lake inn (9000 ft) since we were all driving from the Sac/Bay Area. We picked up permits the next day 9/23 at Lone Pine Ranger station and drove to Horseshoe meadows for our first night of camping at 10,000 ft. We set up camp and played flag football at HM and then drove back down to Lone Pine for dinner at Totems cafe. We were anticipating it getting cold so changed into base layers at the cafe bathroom and tried to eat and have one last beer. We could not eat much the nervousness and anticipating was growing. Called family and let me them know we are a go for the next day and would not have cellphone coverage.
Horsheshoe Meadows: Spent one very very cold night with almost no sleep due to 16F weather. Woke up to ice condensed on the sides of the tent and the bivys. We threw most of our stuff together and drove down to LP asap to escape from the cold. At night I did have regrets about not having Diamox since some of the sleeplessness was perhaps caused by elevation.
Lone Pine: Repacked everything at LP. Breakfast at Lee's frontier Inn. with a huddle up to decide on if we were going to go on the hike and drove to WP with decidedly mixed feelings and tiredness from lack of sleep and dreading the cold. Had one Diamox and Imodium (not a wag bag fan) at WP and decided to hike to our destination Trail Camp. If we we made in time and were still good to go we would attempt to summit otherwise we would not and turn back.
Trail Camp (12 K): Started at 11 PM an hour behind schedule and almost right away started running into Day and Overnight hikers talking about how cold it was the previous night. Ranger checking our permits just before WZ said her water tube from the hydration pack was frozen overnight. But she said weather was clear and supposed to be warmer by 2 deg. The hike itself was beautiful and was gradual and not as steep as we had trained for/anticipated. We got into TC late 6.30 PM as sun was setting. We set up camp and thanks to the more experienced among us we set about getting water and cooking. Had dinner and hit the tent again at 9.30 PM. We were listening and looking at few of the hikers coming down the switch backs till late at night and thinking wow thats crazy. This time I had I think 7 layers on and double socks. Had one Diamox. Slept fitfully but better than before and woke at 6 AM ready this time to attempt the summit. But pushing ourselves out of the tent took some decidedly heroic effort.
Summit: Had one more Diamox and started up the Switchbacks in good spirits. Made it past Trail Crest and then past the JMT intersection and into the rougher areas of the trail. Then the combined effect of lack of sleep , food and elevation started getting to me. We were about 5 hours and 4 miles in at this point. I was seriously running out of energy and started slowing down. My younger fitter friends waited for me (love my brothers) and pushed me till the top. Decided to leave my heaver backpack at about 1 mile from the summit and just took water. Made the summit at 1.00 PM. I was out of it. Foggy thinking and lack of energy and lack of appetite read AMS. My group was fine and enjoying the phone calls to family. I did too and then after one final group pic and video started the way down.Had one more Diamox for good measure. No headaches just fatigue and foggy thinking. Jokes my friends were telling me were just not clicking in my head (sigh). Weather was clear no storms and it was just crystal beautiful where we could see for miles
Down to Trail Camp: Started down and narrowly averted disaster. Fell and broke my pole when it slipped off a rock. Scrapped knees and hands. Thankfully nothing serious. But the look on the face of the couple making their way up was priceless a mixture of shock and pity. Made light of it but was very very careful after that. Made it up the JMT portion and down the switchbacks and into TC by 5.00 PM.
TC to WP A couple of our super athletes went ahead and set up water filter and within about 30 mins we had noodle soup, broke camp were back on the trail at 5.50 PM. The goal was to try and get down to WP by 9.00 PM for Pizza and Monday nite football. Alas try as hard as we could we could only make it by 10:30 PM mostly because I was just dragging. Drove around LP and eat some cold pasta at a gas station(only place open) and hit the bed at WP Hostel. Drove home the next day with a lifetime of memories condensed into 48 hours.