JMT - Day Nineteen

August 11, 2015
11 miles today, 195 total
Bubbs Creek to Tyndall Creek

Courtney and I, knowing we had a difficult pass to summit this morning, got up at 5:30am to beat the heat. The wind howled through our tent, making it difficult to pack up in the darkness. Nonetheless, we were on the trail by 6:30am, much earlier than usual for us, and early enough that none of our campmates were awake, yet.

It was five miles to the top of Forester Pass and we took it slow, though the first few miles were pretty gradual. In fact, compared to Glen Pass yesterday, this hike was a piece of cake. The hard part was the wind: it was gusting at what seemed like hurricane speeds, making my nose run, my face freeze, and buffeting me so hard that I was continually trying not to fall off the mountain. As we ascended higher and higher, the trail grew narrower and the wind fiercer. At several points Courtney and I had to crouch against the wind because it threatened to toss us over. We successfully reached the top in 2.5 hours and celebrated with lots of photos.

The wind and the cold being still brutal, we hurried down the south side without waiting for the others. At the bottom of Forester Pass we sat to wait for Andrew, marveling at the terrain. It was so different on the south side, as though Forester were the wall that separated the mountains from the desert. The trail here was flat and dusty, and ran straight into the mountains where it suddenly soared 13,000 feet in the air.

When Andrew caught us, we hurried along the next three miles, which were flat and sparsely populated with the beautiful red-barked Foxtail Pine trees.

We stopped at Tyndall Creek for lunch at noon and then went the last mile to our camp. Since it was only 1:00pm we considered trying to cover a few more miles, but we wanted to wait on the girls and see how they were feeling. Since we were so close to the end of the trail we didn’t want to leave them.

When Heather, Jennifer and Chris caught us it was 3:30pm, and they were exhausted. We agreed to stay and pitched our tents in a little copse of trees. We made dinner, shared another dessert, and went on a little side hike to a small pond. We stayed up late talking about our plans for Whitney – we debated between summiting at dawn (a feat that would require us to get up around 1:00am) or just hiking up midday. The pros of summiting at dawn were that we would have more time to hike out the ten miles to Whitney Portal (rather than camping halfway down, which we heard was a bad idea), but the cons were that we would have to get up very early and hike the brutal four miles to 14,500 feet in the dark.

L to R: Chris, Heather, Jennifer, Brittany, Courtney and Andrew

L to R: Chris, Heather, Jennifer, Brittany, Courtney and Andrew

Heather and Jennifer decided they wanted to just wake up normally and summit, potentially taking another day to reach Whitney Portal. Andrew, Courtney and I were still debating when I read an interesting tidbit in one of our JMT guide books: there was a bivy campsite halfway up Mt. Whitney! This would allow us to cover half the climb the night before, and we wouldn’t have to get up so early to summit at dawn. Andrew and Courtney agreed this sounded like the best course of action, and we went to bed excited yet lamenting the fact that our trip was almost over.