Wednesday, October 9, 2013

John Muir Trail (Part V: Mt Whitney Summit)

Day four (our third FULL day) on the trail begins as we awaken at Guitar Lake. We are just a few hours hike from Trail Crest (the top of the ridge which then takes you either to Mt Whitney OR down the other side towards Whitney Portal trailhead). The sun comes up over the eastern mountains around 8am, and we are up and moving, preparing for the day.  After another quick breakfast we break camp and are on the trail.

 That's Greg WAY ahead of me, having already passed the un-named tiny lake (above Guitar Lake). We are headed towards Trail Crest, which is the low-spot in the ridge almost directly above Greg in the sun-beams.

  Looking back towards the way we came (east), and Guitar Lake where we spent the night. The Onion Valley/Kearsarge Pass and Forrester Pass are all WAY WAY WAY back that-a-ways.
 The trail gets steep as we ascend towards the ridge. The land is quite desolate up here, nothing but rock.

  And there it is: Trail Crest! Hooray! Elevation: 13,600'. Greg has already passed that spot and has started towards Whitney Portal (thinking we were NOT going to summit Mt Whitney). However it's like 11am, what else are we going to do today? We aren't hiking out until tomorrow. So I set off after him, catching him at the top of the switchbacks. We discuss our options and decide that a Whitney summit is indeed in order. So we ditch our packs right there and grab what we need, and head off for the summit.

 This is the trail towards Whitney. I winds along the ridge, thru some breathtaking rocky scenes. Most of this trail you wouldn't want to fall off, as there is a long way down on either side. That's actually part of Mt. Whitney on the this picture it looks like a giant scree field, and the wild rock outcrop in the middle of the picture is blocking the view of the summit.
 And now you can see Mt Whitney, along with Mt Muir. Whitney is again on the left, just above the solid rock face (very non-summit looking), where-as Mt Muir is the pointy outcrop in the middle of the picture (Mt Muir is also over 14,000 feet).
 Looking back the way we came, Trail Crest is seemingly forever back along the ridge. That is Mt Muir on the left (the outcrop). We are on the final ascent  towards the Whitney summit, heading up the humongous scree field which is the entire western side of the mountain. The eastern side is just a cliff (as you can see from Mt Muir).

 Looking down (zoomed in quite a bit) at the 99 switchbacks trail that descends from Trail Crest towards Whitney Portal. This part is where it isn't so steep, further up the trail (blocked by the peak on the right) is where the switchbacks go nearly straight up the face to the top of the ridge. We'll be on this section later today, trying not to destroy the knees as we descend with full packs.

 And here you see the final summit push. It's a very non-assuming summit, kind of a yellow-brick-road if you will. The rock hut was made long ago, and is a nice little shelter if you happen to be up here when it's cold (right now it's probably in the high 40's/low 50's. You can see the gathering of hikers at the "summit".

A better view of Mt Muir, and the trail heading back towards Trail Crest on the backside thru the scree field. Just above Mt Muir's peak (in the far background) is another peak sticking up, which is also very unassuming. It's more of a flat-top rounded thing, with the left side being slightly higher. That is Mt. Langley, which is also a 14'er. Greg and I summit-ed that one a few years back when we camped/hiked in the Golden Trout Wilderness.

And here is the obligatory summit photo. No, it doesn't quite have the same oomph as an Everest summit I know...but this IS the highest point in the continental United States. Elevation: 14,505'.

That will have to do it for today...I'm SO busy at home just now. Our granite counter-tops arrive on Monday, and to save us a thousand $$ I have been doing the prep-work myself (removing our old counter-tops). This involves not only removing them, but removing the old sinks (both master and guest bathrooms AND the kitchen) all the way down to the bare open cabinets. Then I set the plywood back on and set the sinks back in, and then finally hooking them back up again until Sunday night so we can live. Also I needed to remove the old backsplash (which tore up the drywall pretty good), so I've been working on that for a few days now. In fact, the reason I have some time tonight to work this new post is that I sprayed the "orange peel/knockdown texture" on the spackled/sanded areas that will be visible above the new backsplash, and it takes a while to dry before I can paint it...I'll do that (paint) tomorrow.

Along with the new counter tops we got all new sinks and faucets (the kitchen is a double-bay cast iron/enamel BEAST. If you've ever lifted one of those, you know what I'm talking about here). I also had to remove all the hot-water shut-off valves as they were all corroded open (had to shut off the whole house water supply at the street to do that). It's been quite a job, and I can't hardly wait until it's over. However it won't be quite over for a while yet...we still need to install new backsplash's (we didn't buy granite ones, we will put in our own using ceramic decorative tile). But we can't even really pick that out until the granite is in and we can color-match. I know it will be wonderful when it's all done.

Also I get to do all the new plumbing for all 4 new sinks/faucets. Good thing I'm kind'a handy around the house...though I must admit that plumbing is my 'weak spot' in home can't fake actually have to KNOW things or you can easily make a situation into an emergency (when it involves water flowing somewhere into your house that you can't stop). You don't get points for trying in plumbing, that's for sure. But so far, so good (no emergency plumber calls...yet).

And so...have a great week/weekend! Summer is past, Halloween is coming FAST! After that it's all downhill into the cold and winter, darn it. Come on SPRING!



  1. Cathy Mehl-- congratulations! Katusha: J-Rod, Moreno, what fun! I would love to hear how you got there and am glad you look forward to the role.

    Matt, I never knew that those outcrops were named -- I thought of them as the 'Whitney Pinnacles'. Mt. Whitney has grown some 11 feet since I climbed it, it seems. Must have made up for the rock I took from the top as a memento. (Don't know where that is now; I have rocks from many hikes and trips and can't identify the Whitney one anymore!)

    The day I was on the summit, there was a congressman named Jerry Lewis there introducing himself to everyone (except me, must have been my Cincinnati Reds jacket? I didn't think he looked at all like Jerry Lewis!) He had climbed up with an elderly woman who was noted for having climbed yearly for umpteen years. Maybe I should try to beat her record -- give me something to look forward to in retirement!

    I empathize with you two with the sink/counter redo. Sounds like you have it well under control though. I have been in kitchen renovation purgatory since late June! Delayed mostly due to my decision paralysis over the counters. Did you and Jeannie have a hard time choosing, or did you know what you wanted immediately? I changed my mind on material about 6 times, partly from trying to economize, and mostly from plain indecision. (That was after taking a few weeks to choose a color for the cabinets, and now looking ahead to choosing the paint color....)

    Oh, and I made the mistake of allowing my brother to try to redo the surprise oak floor that we found under the original 1941 linoleum. Now waiting on the counter installation and floor re-re-do. I am SO looking forward to cooking on the stove and getting water from a kitchen faucet again!

    I don't mind simple plumbing jobs, though, I just don't do anything that requires a torch. I got burned one time too many with plumbers who broke something extra then wanted to charge me to fix it. So, I have installed a dishwasher, garbage disposal, faucets, shower fixtures etc. Just Sunday I repaired my dripping outdoor frost-free faucets (Lime-away FTW). Electrical, in this old house, now THAT makes me nervous!


    1. Hey Cathy...I always thought Whitney was 14,994', but on Wikipedia they now show it as 15,005...maybe it IS still growing taller...

      Sorry to hear you are in kitchen purgatory...that wouldn't go well in our house...not having a kitchen sink for just 1 night was bad enough...Jeannie wouldn't be very happy if it were much longer. We actually had a very easy time picking out our granite...we had a sample of our tile floor (that I did a few years back...took me 2 years to do the entire house)...we picked a granite out of China...Gisallo Fantasia or something like really complements our floor...and now we (mostly Jeannie) has picked out a Travertine package that we will do the backsplash's the kitchen I plan to lay a row of 4" pieces horizontally that are on the bottom (meeting the granite countertop), then I'll shift the same tiles to a diagonal lay that goes up all the way to the bottom of the cabinets...and to be 'artsy' every so often I'll lop off an inch or so of each of the 4 corners (the diagonal meeting point) and put in a small piece in that spot to break up the otherwise boring should look GREAT! We both bought off on the color...Jeannie has brought home at least 5 or 6 samples...some too light, some too dark, and finally she got the one that was 'just right'. I'll take the final measurements tonight and likely we'll order the tile and grout tomorrow (on Saturday).

      All I know is that it's been a BUSY couple of weeks for me with the countertops...all I have left is the backsplash and I can rest a while...I'll post pics sometime when I get a chance.