JMT - Day Twenty

August 12, 2015
13 miles today, 208 miles total
Tyndall Creek to Mt. Whitney bivy camp

Courtney and I left early and made it eight miles along the flat, rolling terrain before taking our first break. The environment is much different here at the southern end of the Sierras, much drier and sparser.
Courtney and I reached Crabtree Ranger Station early in the morning and went down to the meadow to find the privy and have lunch. We took the time to repack our packs and waited for everyone else to catch up. Usually Andrew reached us in less than an hour, even if he had left camp much later than us, since he was a fast hiker. But hours went by with no sign of them. I got worried that they had passed us on the trail without stopping, so I went back up to the junction and wrote their names in the dirt, pointing toward the ranger station. Even so, it was another hour before Andrew finally caught us.

Together the three of us hiked up to Guitar Lake; it was a grueling trail in the afternoon heat and the swim in the lake was a much needed reprieve. We had lunch by the water, Mt. Whitney hovering closely behind us, and waited for the girls. My stomach was giving me trouble today and I picked at my food, not very hungry.

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

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

Guitar Lake was swarming with campers and people ready to summit Whitney in the morning. We finally found the girls on the far side of the lake, trying to find a decent campsite among all the granite. Courtney, Andrew and I were still sticking with our plan to bivy camp on Whitney tonight, so said goodbye to Heather, Jennifer and Chris, not knowing if we would see them again. We were planning on hiking all the way to the portal tomorrow, and they weren’t sure if they would have time to make it. We hoped we could meet for a burger at the end of the trail. After goodbyes, Andrew, Courtney and I and took to the trail at 4:00pm, headed up Mt. Whitney in the setting sun.

 Photo courtesy of Andrew

Photo courtesy of Andrew

The switchbacks were easier than expected, particularly after the trials of Glen and Forester Pass the past few days. But it was still very steep and gained altitude quickly, so we took it slow. After two miles we reached the bivy camp just below the Trail Crest junction. It consisted of a small, flat space dug out into the side of the mountain, surrounded by slabs of granite that other hikers had piled up around the site. We reached it just as the sun was going down, and the view of the valley from 13,000 feet was spectacular. Instead of pitching our tents, we decided to cowboy camp, though Courtney and I laid out our tent like a bivy to help keep us warm.

 Photo courtesy of Andrew

Photo courtesy of Andrew

We watched the magnificent sun set and then crawled into our sleeping bags dressed in all our layers. It was shockingly cold at this altitude, but wrapped in my jacket, sleeping bag, and tent, I was very cozy. The Perseids meteor shower was tonight, so not only did we get an amazing sunset, but we stayed up watching the shooting stars above us as we drifted off to sleep. It was one of the best evenings of my life, and I tried to stay awake to savor it, but sleep claimed me.