TRIP TO MT. WHITNEY, part 3 - Mt. Whitney

July 16

Leave camp in charge of Sport, the dog, and start at daylight for the summit of Mt. Whitney. Ride the horses about __ miles to base of mountain and picket them by a small lake. Then, having been misdirected, we attempted the ascent from the north side, and failed of course as it is an impossibility. And though by this mistake we thought we had lost a day, we were well repaid in the end, for we saw what was as much to us perhaps as Mt. Whitney itself.

The old Mt. Whitney Glacier, which has been travelling down the north side of Mt. Whitney for ages, and now lies at her base, drops large slabs of ice from time to time into the lake just below it. And looking above, one can follow the trail of this once massive body of ice for half a mile, where the solid granite is ground and polished under its weight until it glitters in the sunlight.

The remains of the Mt. Whitney glacier The remains of the Mt. Whitney glacier The remains of the Mt. Whitney glacier

This being new to us all, we lingered for a couple of hours, and then returned to camp, tired and weary. They boys shot several chipmunks about camp, and an animal very much resembling the Southern California badger.

On the north side of Mt. Whitney

July 17 - Sunday

At 8:30 AM we leave camp once more for the summit. Stake horses as before and ascend from the south side. Clarence and Archie catch some fine specimens. (Butterflies)

From the base of Mt. Whitney proper it is one steady climb to the summit, mostly over loose rock, but sometimes between high ledges that seem to have no outlet, and always at an angle of more than 45 degrees. At a lower elevation the climb would be difficult, but it is doubly so here at 14,000 and 15,000 ft. where a climb of twenty steps requires all ones breath. So we made many stops on the way, which is really only a couple of miles, but seems to be ten at least. After a rest the boys would say, "Let us ass-end-upwards!"

Approach to the summit

All along the way, even to the very summit, grew bright colored wildflowers - white, red and blue - sometimes within a few feet of snow and ice. And without any soil at all; nothing but rock and pulverized granite.

At 3 PM we reach the top, and there is no question but that it was the grandest view that any of us had ever beheld. There are few like it in the world.

View from the summit View from the summit

Over sixty lakes are visible from there, and twenty mountain peaks that are over 12,000 ft. elevation. Lone Pine lies below, 12 miles air line. Pistol shots re-echo twelve or fifteen times. A stone thrown straight east from the summit will drop 1/2 mile before striking.

View from the summit View from the summit

The Sierra Club has left a register there encased in a copper cylinder, in which we registered names, ages, date, and condition of weather.

At the summit

At the summit

At 5 o'clock we commenced the descent. I, having started on ahead, took the wrong direction and lost my way, causing some delay and anxiety to the boys.

Facing down from the summit?

One peculiar thing we noticed was that two of us a half mile apart on the south slope, the one above could hear every step on the rocks, but the one below could not hear a pistol shot.

Arrived at camp at 8:00 PM, all very much worn out, Frank and Archie suffering with severe headaches from the altitude.

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WWW page updated by William J. Watson, <williamjwatson AT yahoo DOT com>, January 25, 2002 (relocated page, updated email address).