Mile 767 to 755
I had set an alarm, but no bother. The four girls camped next door wake me with their headlamps, clanging and loud whispers. Their goal is to leave soon after midnight. I had warned them that would be too early, to which two agreed and two did not. Apparently tie goes to the early climber. Surprisingly there is another group of three already climbing. At least I can see three headlamps zigzagging up into the darkness. After the girls leave I start watching seven headlamps, in my own version of dot watching. Totally awake, I wonder if they all know something about how long this will take. I reluctantly get up and gather my gear. My headlamp is a pathetic little thing which barely lights up my feet. I look over at the half moon which is now setting over the ridge. This may be more exciting than I thought.
As long as the trail directly at my feet looks like a trail I am fine. But of course occasionally it does not. I lose the trail several times and have to backtrack to find it. A few times this requires my smartphone GPS and Guthook’s PCT map application. It is now so dark that there is no horizon or ridge. The seven dots above me are indistinguishable from the stars. It is very disorienting. There are several scrambles and ledges that Brian would probably describe as “sketchy”, but I simply cry out to myself “You have got to be kidding”. I end up passing the girls, but never catch the first group.
At the top I feel totally vindicated. It is way too early for sunrise, and we are all now freezing in our sleeping bags, in a top of Mount Whitney slumber party. A woman in the shelter comes out saying her friend has altitude sickness and is throwing up all over the place. She asks if we have any anti-altitude sickness medicine. I offer the same advice as on Forester Pass, go down in elevation.
After watching the sunrise, eating snacks and taking pictures, I go back down. On the way I see Loran coming up. He is happy and carefree, but surprised to see me. He has been taking his sweet time in the Sierra range of light – swimming, relaxing and figuring we are all long gone.
Whitney conquered, my only goal now is to get into a good position to see Terri tomorrow. I am exhausted from lack of sleep, but I keep pushing. Several times I stop at streams to soak my feet or have a snack, only to fall asleep. I think of them as power naps, but in reality they are lack of power naps. I finally stop and camp about five miles from the Cottonwood Pass trail split.