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    ryan williams reviewed Mount Whitney via Mount Whitney Trail

    6 months ago

    This was a surreal and at times scary experience. I summitted alone on November 1st, 2016.

    I started at 9AM and camped the first night (Halloween) at Consolation Lake. Despite being a few hundred feet from the lake, due to the fresh snow, I steeped on a seemingly solid area that broke and put me past my boots in freezing water. I moved my camp and removed my boots and socks, both of which turned to ice shortly after. It was definitely good that I brought extra socks! That night was very cold and windy, making it difficult to sleep. Despite this, the sky was clear and I saw the best stars I had ever seen since it was a new moon and I was at high elevation.

    The next day I waited a while until the sun came out, trying to warm up my boots. Getting out of Consolation Lake to the switchbacks was more difficult than I had expected and I was at times up to my hips in snow. Once I got to about the area where the cables are, a person who had summitted Rainier told me they were turning back due to the conditions. Another group of two people also decided to turn back at this point.

    Around the corner where the cables were, was where the footprints ended. I continued with my entire pack (35lbs) all the way to Trail Crest. Once I reached it I decided to go for it without my entire bag. There were many steep sections that really made me plant my boots (with microspikes) and poles well. I summitted late in the day (about 3PM). The most surreal part was when I actually made it to the top, at that point a propeller plane flew to my left and I saw the faces of the people in the plane. I didn't hear it coming, it was a surprise I couldn't have imagined, a bit too coincidental since I hadn't noticed any planes like this, that or the previous day.

    Due to the sun setting sooner at this time in the year, I had to descent most of the switchbacks in the dark with a headlamp. I had intended to make it back to the trailhead at night but in the dark, the footprints in the snow went off in too many directions. I ironically ended up back at Consolation Lake, probably because I ended up following my own footprints. I ended up camping here that night, which was less cold and windy.

    The next day I found the trail back from Consolation Lake and descended. I didn't get phone reception past Lone Pine Lake and there was no one on the way up or down past the roped area. I really had expected people but I am happy I had so much of the mountain to myself. This is probably because I went at the end of the season, during Halloween and on a Tuesday.

    I don't recommend doing this trail alone with snow up as deep as your boots like I did. I did see some small animal's footprints on some of the steep sections and used those as a guide when it wasn't clear where to go. I didn't expect it to take 3 day but the late start, confusion of where to go after the switchbacks in the dark and deep snow made it necessary.

    See my photos and other parts of my story here: