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[pct-l] Mount Whitney, The Zoo, a story...

Another view about the Mt Whitney Trail:

  I agree w/ much of what Jeff said.  Whitney has become the Everrest for
the inexperienced hiker-a sort of ultimate test for those who don't hike
much, but want to experience this sort of challenge.  It is as my friends
and I call it, an interstate hwy in the mountains.
  Nevertheless, in my two times up to Whitney and one time up to Mt Muir, I
have had some of best outdoor experiences in my life.  It's nice to hike w/
and among other people once in awhile.  I often hike/backpack  and most of
the time I go alone and I ususally don't see a soul all day(or days, as on
my last PCT section hike when I saw no one for three days).  Even when I go
on more popular trails, I often see less people than I might expect.  It's
refreshing to hike w/ other people, even if there are many of them out
  I disagree w/ Jeff concerning the people.  In my experience, most everyone
says hi and many love to stop and talk about their hike, what they've seen,
where they're from, etc.  It can be one of the joys of hiking-sharing a
common, challenging experience far away from home.  I've met people that I
still talk/write to on the Whitney Trail.  I think that you have to realize
that this trail is NOT for seclusion, but for the communal-like experience
of hiking a challenging peak.  So if you want to hike Mt Whitney and not
come into contact w/ others, then don't take the Whitney Trail.  But if you
would enjoy getting up in the dark, looking up and seeing headlamps
scattered along the mountain, talking to others about the trail as they come
down, meeting new friends w/ shared passions, I would definately recommend
the Whitney Trail-it's a once in a lifetime experience not often found in

My .2,

Michael G.

  I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. It is
surprising how contented one can be with nothing definite-only a sense of
existence...no run on my bank can drain it, for my wealth is not possession
but enjoyment.

             Henry David Thoreau

>From: Jeffrey Olson <jjolson@uwyo.edu>
>To: pct-l@mailman.backcountry.net
>Subject: [pct-l] Mount Whitney, The Zoo, a story...
>Date: Sat, 24 Aug 2002 05:44:57 -0600
>I was going through old e-mails looking for a story about chronicling my
>discovery of a cougar print 6" from where my head had been resting while
>sleeping up in the Enchantments and ran across this vignette of my last
>day on a 1992 JMT trip.  Enjoy...
>Jeff Olson
>Laramie, WY
>At the end of a two week hike on the JMT my last day involved going over
>Whitney Trailcrest.  I'd camped at Wright Creek and was "booking".  On
>way up the switchbacks on the west side, from Guitar lake up, I met no
>coming down and passed a couple parties in less good shape than I.  One
>fellow, about a half mile from the top of the trailcrest, was having a
>rough time, walking for 30 feet, sitting down, head in hands, breathing
>with difficulty, incoherent.  The altitude was getting to him.  His
>"friends" had gone ahead and he didn't know where they were.  That's a
>scary stretch of trail, cutting across fairly steep slopes, scree trail,
>etc.  He had been stumbling along it.
>I got to the Trailcrest and asked if anyone was with this fellow and a
>couple "guys" went running down the trail to help him.  They looked
>suitably guilty.  What I also found at the 13,800' crest was about 20
>people.  During the 15 minutes I spent taking pictures and marvelling at
>the view, as many came and left.
>I'd already hiked 15 miles or so and a "grizzled veteran" who was
>a group of inner city teens said there was no way I could make it to
>Whitney Portal in less than four hours.  I didn't much care how long it
>took.  There were just too many people.  As beautiful as it was, the
>wilderness experience had left.  I took off down "99 Switchbacks"  and
>another 30 or so people coming up, and passed as many going down.  I'm
>exaggerating the numbers.
>I got to the upper campground, with its giant outhouse and tents on
>piece of dirt, and couldn't believe it.  I'd hiked up Whitney in 1971
>there hadn't been the zoo then.  I was glad I was headed "through" it
>As I walked through the "campground", I met four fellows hiking up the
>trail, all dressed in olive green shorts and shirts, with identical
>backpacks, three of whom were carrying guitars.  I asked them if the
>forest service had hired them to entertain the campers, and they looked
>me with puzzlement, asking with thick German accents what I meant.
>I passed the spot where in 1971 I had camped and torn up three packs of
>Lucky Strikes, made a little pyramid, and burned the tobacco.
>I passed the lower campground with it's city like alienation, people
>avoiding eyes, igoring each other.  I'd started ignoring people myself
>the way down 99 Switchbacks.  I'm sure there were lots of stories, and
>lots of interesting people, but it would have been like stopping someone
>on the streets of downtown Seattle.
>One of my resupply points was Parcher's Camp on the other side of Bishop
>Pass.  On my down I met a woman in her late 70s who was hiking up from
>South Lake to Bishop Pass to put a wrap on a part of her life she felt
>slipping away as she got older.  She was old money from San Francisco
>her husband had died, and they'd spent their honeymoon in the 1940s in
>Dusy Basin.  She was high in a way that made a deep impression on me.  I
>could feel an "otherworldliness" flow through her.
>My recommendation is if you want to climb Whitney, do so as part of a
>backpacking trip and come at it from the west side.  That way you'll be
>able to experience the wilderness as well as the views...  By the way,
>took about 2 and 3/4 hours and 1200 mg. of ibuprofen to get to Whitney
>Portal from the trailcrest...
>Jeffrey Olson
>Seattle, Washington
>PCT-L mailing list

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