August 2004
Backpack trip to the top of Mount Whitney
14,496 feet elevation - Highest spot in the 48 contiguous States

Day 5 Aug 23 5 miles and 3,000' up to the TOP OF MOUNT WHITNEY 14, 496'. 
15 miles total for Don & Doug for the day to Crabtree Meadows
(John Cole & Dr. Len did a 20 mile day to Rock Creek!)

The next morning was clear and a cold 28 degrees with frost on the meadow. As we walked up the trail on the west side of Mount Whitney, I enjoyed the beauty of the sunshine slowly descending the rock walls west of us, reflecting into the alpine lakes below, giving them the hue of burnished gold. I ascended at a measured pace, accelerated by excitement, breathing deeply. At points the western wall would come down to the trail, giving views of both the east and west sides of the precipice. The last stage was a moderately steep boulder strewn field, leading to the summit where I found a rectangular, stone building with a chimney and bearing a plaque ascribing its construction to the Smithsonian Institute, 1909. There were about thirty people at the top: kids, as young as 12, with clever hats that made them appear to be a chimera of human and raccoon or wolf when they inclined their heads; men in their 60’s and one man 70 years old; an ICU nurse from Michigan. There was a thieving marmot, and begging sparrows. Don, John and Doug arrived soon after; Don sounding his trumpet, for which he was already famous for throughout the wilderness. At the summit we rested in the sunshine, took pictures holding the American flag, made cheese and salami sandwiches, washing them down with Heineken beer, taking care to protect our food from the marmot, and indulging the sparrows. We surprisingly only had cell phone contact using Verizon (can you hear me now?).  Using the cell phone required a direct line of sight from the edge down to the town of Lone Pine, 10,000 ft below.  Was great to share our moments at the top of the highest point in the 48 States with friends and loved ones.

After an hour we descended. John and I hurried ahead as John had to get back in two days, and I felt strong enough to go with him. We planned to camp that night at Rock Creek, a total of 20 miles for the day. We worried what we would do if asked for a wilderness permit, as this was in Doug’s possession, and he and Don were several hours behind. Once when Rob Pilewski the ranger and later when his wife, Laura, asked for our permit, we told them we were with Doug & Don with the bugle. They replied, “Oh, the one with the tuba?” and everything was OK.  (Tuba?)  Don indeed had become famous in the wilderness!

YUP - that is snow in August!

Kathy, an ICU nurse from Michigan was doing her 1st ascent.

These two 16 year olds made it to the top

Traditional pictures at the top with flags and Heineken beer!

Doug at 65 (wearing his OLD GUYS RULE T-Shirt) was not the oldest guy up at the top.  Here he is with a 67 year old who made it.

What a view!

Bench mark dated 1928!


John taking a rest ON the edge!

Can you hear me now?
Only Verizon cellular seemed to be working from the top.  We made calls all over - from Florida, to Connecticut, to Chicago, to California.

Don, a Dr. Pepper fan carried it all the way to the top.  After about an hour at the top we headed back down.

Met Dick Wells.  First timer going up and on his 70th birthday!  Don bugled Happy Birthday for Dick!

A LONG way down.  No slipups allowed.

Some view!

Tromping down past the through the SNOW again. (in AUGUST no less!)

Dr. Don

Rocks, rocks - everywhere rocks.


Another healthy gal heading up to the top.

On the trail from Guitar Lake back to Crabtree we met two more ladies going to the top for their 1st time.

Day1 - Day2 - Day3 - Day4 - Day5 - Day6 - Day 7

Back to Table of CONTENTS