If you haven't already, read Part I here.
Day two of Kensie-goes-camping started off pretty groggily since I didn't sleep at all Friday night, but I perked up after a delicious campfire breakfast and waterless shower (oh hey, Ban wipes). Then we went for a short but brutal 3-ish mile hike where I crept my way across a giant log hovering over rocks and rushing water (my biggest fear being that my phone would get wet and I would lose all my photos-I have priorities, folks). It was on this hike that I officially decided I was going to die on Sunday because it was nearly impossible for me to breathe and I felt like I was the most out-of-shape mofo in the universe. I was so stoked to sit in the mossy grass by that lake up there and eat my PBJ, reflecting on my life thus far since it was sure to come to an end in less than 24 hours. Luckily there were some dudes there with me who assured me it was the altitude and not my lungs failing me. I still wasn't totally convinced, but I headed back to the car to move on to our next campsite anyway: Whitney Portal.
This campsite was far less windy and there was a barrage of rocks you had to climb over to get from my car to the camping area. We ate some awesome food, packed lunch and supplies for the impending 3am wake up call and sat around the fire before spending the rest of the night obsessing about whether I would be able to hike 22 miles in one day or not. After several hours of visualizing myself at the top of the highest summit in the lower 48 states with a big old smile on my face, it was time to start hiking.
The first four miles were all ooh-look-at-the-sun-rising, it's-so-beautiful and omg-this-is-a-piece-of-cake despite the constant incline, loose rocks and layering and delayering of clothing. It was just gradual enough that even at 10,000 feet up I wasn't feeling short of breath. We were keeping a pretty steady 30-minute mile pace and even by mile 7, after climbing up a very snowy patch, we got cocky. We started thinking about how we were going to be back at the car by 3pm and how we would have time to crack open a bottle of wine and soak in the hot springs on the way back. We laughed at the marmot trying to get at our granola bars and took a bunch of photos amongst the snowy rocks and trees. We had no idea that the next four miles were going to crush our spirits and laugh in our faces as we cried into our snow axes.
We muscled through the next three miles like a bunch of disabled tortoises feeling more and more exhausted, motivated only by the thought of being at the top and the few people we passed who had made it and were going back down (unlike the many people we had already passed who were suffering from severe altitude sickness or felt that they couldn't get through the icy parts without sufficient shoe spikes). We held onto a cable and slowly walked through the most narrow ice/rock combo I've ever seen, we scrambled up rocks that were not guaranteed to stay still, we went back and forth on 99 switchbacks and got prematurely excited when we "only" had about a half of a mile left.
It was at this point that we could see the top, but we could also see just exactly how awful a half mile straight up rocky switchbacks looks. It was beyond disheartening and my legs felt like they were going to fall off, but my adrenaline took hold and I forged on through to the top leaving the boys behind (they caught up a few minutes later). At the Mount Whitney Summit I found a bunch of other adventurers napping on the rocks and eventually the one celebrating his 21st birthday shotgunned a Budweiser up there because America! I was so happy to be at the top (14,490 feet up!) that I didn't even bother to take off the very large men's sweater I was wearing for photos. I even realized I got service up there, so I went ahead and called my mom to let her know I didn't die. It was a pretty great moment for me, but after signing the guest book (one person wrote "I regret everything." and I lol'd pretty hard) it was time to hike another 11 miles back down.
By the time we returned to those rocks where we gleefully observed marmots and made hot springs plans, about seven hours had passed and my adrenaline rush was fully depleted. On the way back I stumbled over icy patches, hit my donk on a bunch of rocks (I've got a giant bruise) and agonized over whether I could handle my bathroom business on a mountain. I didn't once take my phone out for photos on that hike back, my left hand's fingers looked like straight up sausages and by the time we got back to the car everyone was pretty miserable. It was 9pm and pitch black out, but we survived--22 mother effing miles. I was back at my apartment at 3:30am and up for work at 6:30am, so I'm still recovering, but it didn't take long for me to minimize the traumatic second half of the adventure in my mind and now I'm ready for the next one.
Who's ready to go on an adventure?