The highlight: Summit at 3pm
The not so good: night hike back from trail camp to portal
Details: We were group of 4 guys who have been hiking together for months. mostly limited to hikes in the bay area - 8- 15 miles with max elevation of 4300'. not the perfect preparation .. I know. I had done 3 weeks of trekking in the Himalayas getting upto 19000' ft. But nothing comparable to the elevation gain we were going to face in Whitney
Got lucky with a permit a week before the attempt. Did one last practice hike at mt. diablo the weekend before the trip.
we reached portal at noon, did a practice hike to lone pine creek switchbacks, got about 5 hrs of sleep in the parking lot. The whitney area had seen storms on the previous 2-3 days but the day of the hike was forecasted to be clear. we met couple of hikers returning from trail camp who indicated that they ran into a snow storm the previous day and it was miserable. We hoped for the best for our hike.
Hit the trail at 230am. there were about 20-30 other hikers starting in the hour after we started. initial part was slow going. then we split into pairs and hit the stride.
reached mirror lake around the time of first lights and then trail camp around 845am. refilled water and reduced some food load (we were slightly over loaded on food) and then hit the switchbacks at 945.
The other pair from our group were far behind at this time and we guessed they may not be able to make it beyond trail camp knowing that one of them was struggling at the elevation.
There was snow about mirror lake and accumulation was couple of inches at trail camp. the 99 switchbacks had decent amount of snow. luckily we had read the reports in this forum and had taken microspikes. the switchbacks got really hard after the 70th one. one trick that helped us thru was targetting sets of 20 switchbacks before a quick 2 min break. got to crest trail around 12`15pm.
the switchback cables section was tricky with the snow and steep incline. microspikes would have been good at this point but we didnt want to break the rhythm till we get to crest trail.
took a 10 min break at the saddle and put on the microspikes. that trail from that place of has significant accumulation, getting the microspikes was the best decision.
the hike for the last 1.9 miles was the toughest, the hut seemed so far off and we thought would never reach it. felt like almost 5 miles instead of 1.9 as the marker said. The trail got tougher with the snow, ice and boulders on the way. had to clamber over many boulders and trails disappearing at some places.
At last we were about 10 mins from the hut and got a second wind to push us towards it. Summit at 3pm. it was the sweetest moment of the who trip so far. very rewarding great views and just a slight wind
the weather so far was picture perfect, clear blue skies, bright sun and a slight breeze with an occassional gust on the ridge.
spend 15 mins on the summit, rested in the hut and after the formalities started the way down at 320pm. we had been trekking 13 hours at this point. there were only one other group which got to the summit after us, so we knew we were pretty late. didnt want to get caught in late afternoon storms and temp was dropping. hence we rushed down towards trail camp. reached camp around 615pm. it was already getting dark and fog was descending. refilled water and restarted around 7.
it was dark and the trail was not as well defined. this was the most tricky part of the hike, walking in the dark with just the headlamp , downhill thru the rough trail and not many markers. progress was slow and we ended up spending searching for the trail at many points. got down to outpost camp around 945pm. From that point on we knew the trail was well maintained so we were more confident, making progress at a good clip.
at last reached the parking lot in portal at 1230am - 22 hrs after we started. Had a celebratory drink and drove down to Lone Pine where our buddies had booked a room for the night.
what a hike and the taste of success was worth it.
AMS Related: we had taken half a tablet of diamox the morning and previous morning. not sure if that helped or not but we didnt have any significant AMS related signs.