18th July 2019

Mount Whitney and Forester Pass

Back to the place where it all started. Two years ago, I drove through the Sierra Nevada and while I was there I hiked part of the Mount Whitney trail. I didn’t summit, but vowed to come back to do so. Then and there is where the idea of hiking the PCT was born. Now as a PCT hiker, I followed up on this promise to myself and summited the highest mountain in the contiguous USA.

Hollywood and I left camp around 4 am, while it was still completely dark out, to start our 8 miles hike to the summit. The first part was pretty easy going, relatively flat and no snow. Before the sun was up we hit the first snow patch and the micro spikes were put on. Eventually the rising sun uncovered the gorgeous views.

As the trail transformed from snowfields to switchbacks, the real climbing began. We also hit some sketchy snow-chutes, but these were doable with our ice axes and micro spikes. Switchback after switchback brought us closer to the summit. Every step being a new record high hiking altitude for me.

After 5 hours of hiking, the emergency shelter came into sight; the summit (at 14,505 feet, 4,421 meter) was just a couple of meters away. As this mountain had started the PCT-spark in me, this was a special moment that were cause for some tears of joy. We spent some time on the summit, enjoying the 360 degrees view before heading down again.

Exhausted from the climb, we hike about 5 more miles after getting back to our tents. The next day would bring us back up to 13,153 foot (4,009 meter) going over Forester Pass, the highest point on the actual PCT. This pass is the most feared pass on the trail as there is a sketchy snow chute with a massive drop.

On the way there we ran into Lightning, Dizzy and Bigfoot. Hollywood already met these hikers, so we grouped up for the pass. As we got higher and higher up in elevation, the dirt made way for snow and more snow. Then it was time for the last climb and the snow chute. It wasn’t nearly as bad as people made it out to be, but still exciting to do.

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By the time we got over the pass, it was noon which meant the snow would be slushy going down. The miles to camp were exhausting, so when I finally set up my tent I fell asleep very fast.The following morning, my group, the newly formed Sierra Squad, made it out of the mountains and into the town of Bishop for some deserved beers and real food.

Our group decided to stick together for the coming stretches, of which the first would see us over four 12,000 feet passes. More on these passes and the miles beyond to Mammoth Lakes in my next post.

In the meantime, follow me on Instagram for more photos.

Happy trails.

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