Peregrine and grouse at Precipice Lake and again, fast flier, over the Big Arroyo, wind from Little Five Lakes almost blowing me off the granite nose. Spiral cypress survivor bursting up into the cerulean sky out of a crack in the rock.
Lake jumps and river dunks and happy grownups at play in this wide precious wild world.
Nutcrackers, little yellow birds and the lark-y small ones so high up. Raven, paired, and mallard and chickadees teasing “cheese-burger” three days in.
Sage and twinberry and bigelow of course, nodding over the dippers working the river.
Long weightless cool of an afternoon swim at Morraine then the hot springs deep in the Kern River Gorge then the cool river again upcanyon. After dark on the blocky granite perch breathing I’m alone in the wild warm wind watching Scorpio settle on the ridge, nothing but space all around.
Hawk again, almost a year later, over Big Sandy Meadow to greet me (my heart replies!) and a pair of nuthatch whirlygig amongst the foxtail to land chit chattering spiral chase up around a fat one. Such sweetness in that meadow, the deep green rolling out toward the Kewehas on the horizon, again capped with cumuli promising a storm in the afternoon.
Then we are there, under Whitney, at Guitar Lake for a quick cold swim, a light dinner, and early to bed eying the impossible basin wall.
Up at 3 AM walking by 4, like some Everest movie, only the sound of our breathing and the small space of the headlamps. There were others up earlier, their passage marked by slow rising stars zig zagging up the mountain.
The lightest thing in the landscape at that hour are the lakes, something about the reflected starlight. At some point though, stopping to catch your breath in the thin air, you realize the lakes are suddenly the darkest thing, a flat slate. In this way the coming day is invisible still but hinting at its arrival, graying up the landscape just so. The color comes slowly after that, sepia and pastel, the shadow of the earth finally showing itself dusty periwinkle under the rose band of the first bend of light around the horizon.
We were up there in time, amongst the cockscomb peaks and notches, when the tangerine dawn burst all over us and the east faces of the highest southern sierra peaks. Breathless, and amazed.
I dedicated my ascent to Marla Reyes and Claudia Cook Boer. One recently victorious and the other just beginning the work to heal from cancer. When I got tired or overwhelmed on the way up I just paused, thought of them, took a deep breath and the next step. Their names are in the Whitney Register.
High Sierra Trail - 75 miles, 18,000′ elevation gain, 7 Days
Full pics here.
Itinerary (the most challenging hike I’d yet attempted):
Sunday Aug 11th
Drive to SEKI from Lone Pine approx hit trail time noon.
Wolverton trailhead to Nine Mile Creek, 8.5 miles 3,400 foot gain/3070 loss. Not the classic trailhead but much more scenic and less crowded. Likely to see bears on this stretch as well as in camp. Bear boxes at camp.
Monday Aug 12th
Nine Mile Creek to Precipice Lake,
8 miles 4,625 gain/2016 loss
One of the most gorgeous lakes in the Sierra - the reason I came on this trip.
Tuesday Aug 13th
Precipice Lake to Moraine Lake
10.5 miles 2000 gain/2900 loss
Another good swimming lake, warm and glassy. Great sunrise and sunsets.
Wednesday Aug 14th
Moraine Lake to Kern Hot Springs
6.25 miles 216 gain/2668 loss
Camped short of hot springs on the Kern, avoided the crowds and mad a short trek to the spring to soak.
Thursday Aug 15th
Kern Hot Springs to cabin on Kern River 9 miles 2200 gain/153 loss
Cool old three sided cabin in camp along the Kern River
Friday Aug 16th
Cabin on Kern River to Guitar Lake
11 miles 4117 gain/1621 loss
Highest camp, amazing sunrise and sunsets again.
Saturday Aug 17th
Guitar Lake to Whitney Summit to Whitney Portal (beer and food!!!)
13 miles 5169 gain/8328 loss! Whew! 5 miles without a pack.
Stayed in Lone Pine at the Dow Villa again Sat night, filet mignon for dinner, drove to get cars Sunday morning the 18th and forever home.
Grateful to Paige for inviting me on her special birthday trip, to Rosanne for being my main hike buddy and my new friendships forged on this trip: Sarah, Todd, Michael, and Barbara (heart!)