So, I’m going to get to a quick run down of all the hiking in this last section, but first …
We summited Mt. Whitney on Wednesday morning ( 5 minutes after sunrise, but it was still ridiculously beautiful) and got engaged the same day. So really, best day ever.
We have lots of photos of the summit and tons of stories to tell from the last section, but I am currently updating this from my cell phone in a coffee bar because the local library and internet cafe apparently don’t have normal weekend hours. I didn’t imagine we’d have this much trouble getting access to a computer along the trail. I need a sherpa to carry my laptop. And while he’s at it, he can carry our packs, too. :) My phone seems incapable of playing nicely with this blog, but we’ll see what we can do.
Its amazing what a difference getting to the Sierras made. We went from sleeping in shorts and a tank top with our bags half zipped to literally wearing every layer we own at night including pulling the bag over our faces to keep from freezing solid. The elevation certainly contributes to this, but even at one of our lowest camps (Bubbs Creek, under 10,000 feet), the still ponds froze overnight. So you won’t hear us complaining about the heat for a while!
The climbs have been killer (which we were expecting) but the views have been incredibly rewarding. The morning we summited Mt. Whitney we woke up at a little after 2 am. We had only slept for about 4 hours so we nearly scrapped the sunrise idea but decided to soldier on. We left our camp at Guitar Lake at 2:45 and started the climb. It was strange hiking by headlamp but I think it helped – you couldn’t see far enough in front of you to know what kind of torture was coming. About 2/3 of the way up, the wind began to blow in earnest. It was so cold we couldn’t stop to rest without starting to freeze. When we reached the summit at 5:30, we managed to take a couple photos and one quick video before calling uncle. There is a small shelter at the summit that was fortunately open, so we quickly found ourselves in there trying desperately to get warm. We made use of an emergency blanket and some foam padding left there by previous hikers who presumably tried to vamp at the summit and insulated ourselves the best that we could. I’m sure I’ve been that cold at another point in my life but I really can’t remember when.
Before too long, we were joined by another two thru-hikers also seeking shelter. They mentioned that there was another girl headed up who was in pretty poor shape who would be need to be warmed up pretty quickly. By that point, we’d shrugged off the emergency blanket and were both thawing out, so it was all set for her. When she hadn’t shown up within the next 10 minutes, the other two went back to make sure she was OK. They found her laying on the trail in her sleeping bag, having decided that she couldn’t make it to the top and that it would be best to wait and warm up. She was definitely in the initial stages of hypothermia, so once they got her into the shelter, there were jackets, aleeping bags, and the emergency blanket all employed to warm her up. She is totally fine now, and lucky she had hiking buddies who knew something was wrong when she hadn’t arrived. We ended up spending several hours in the shelter waiting for the wind to lie down a bit and for the sun to fully rise. It was miserably cold but ended up being a fun bonding experience with yhe other hikers in the same boat as us. All part of the adventure I guess! At any rate, the weather put a damper on E’s plans to propose at the summit, but he popped the question back at base camp and it was perfect. I am a lucky, lucky girl.
Since then, we’ve been enjoying the amazing scenery around Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Kings Canyon is Edwin’s favorite and it’s easy to see why – it is absolutely stunning in a way I can’t begin to describe. I will have a lot more pictures as soon as I can get our camera hooked up to a computer. I’m hoping for better luck at Vermillion Valley Resort in about 4 days. We’re wrapping up two nights of rest and celebrating with yummy champagne, wine, and sweets mailed to us by our amazing parents. We’re moving a little sluggishly on out way back to the trail today but we’ll get there! :) Thanks for reading and putting up with the limited pictures and typos. Fingers crossed for better computer access soon!