When life doesn’t afford you the time to go out for a multi-day through hike backpacking trip, you can always rely on your friends to get some logistics out of the way. I had work the night before our first day on a trail up Mount Whitney, and through Kings Canyon National Park out at Kearsarge Pass. I knew I was up for a long night and morning, covering the Angels in Anaheim the night before. The games usually end around 10 pm, so I would be able to leave right after on a 4 hour drive to Lone Pine. My friends Luke and Haley, along with my wife actually headed up earlier that day and had another days worth of activity themselves. Leaving straight after work around 4 pm and caravanning their cars to really have this through hike worked out. I am very grateful that they were able to set this up.
Before I set off from Anaheim, I filled up a liter bottle of soda so I could have enough energy to drive to Lone Pine on my own accord. I usually hate driving in the dark, there isn’t any visual stimulation and I’m usually bored out of my mind. But the drive wasn’t bad enough from stopping at the Alabama Hills, right outside of camp and getting a few photos of Mobius Arch and the Milky Way. This may have been a bad idea, but I usually sacrifice my sleep for the images I want.
And the Milky Way leading to Mobius Arch.
We had a really early wake up call, usually people would be off on the trail around 4 AM. But since I arrived really late, my group wanted me to get at least a little bit of rest before summiting Mount Whitney that day. So after roughly three hours of sleep, we were up at 7 AM and ready to embark on our journey through the Sierras. This would be my first through hike with Melody, and Luke’s with his wife Haley. The men really weren’t holding their own by the end of the day. But off on the trail we went!
I ended up lagging behind a little, just to get a few shots of our group from afar. Here is, from left to right, Haley, Luke, Hannah, Wyatt, and Melody.
And another, before I decided to catch up. The Sierras are so majestic, the rugged mountains and pines make you feel like you’re in another world. It’s amazing to just get out of the city and really enjoy the nature around.
I ended up catching up with the group as we entered into the John Muir Wilderness.
I ended up blazing ahead, since there is a spot I really wanted to photograph with the group. The trip to Whitney Portal a few months back gave me a few ideas of where I would want to photograph. I am usually for some reason either in the very front or the back of the group just to document, and that sometimes doesn’t allow for time to actually stop and take pictures. The documentary side of you takes over and photos and opportunities are just made instead of setup. Here I am, above the group as we hiked practically straight up to the peak.
The water crossing that I wanted to capture. I admit, it wasn’t the best opportunity. The lighting was especially bad, but maybe next time we do this trip we can plan it out a little better.
We then slowly climbed up, here we entered the Whitney Zone where permits were finally required to summit.
And up we go, the flora became more sparse with large boulders of granite lining the way.
Water was quite abundant on the trails, with the last of the snow melt still slowly trickling down, providing a lush environment.
And there was this one waterfall as well, just interesting to see in a somewhat desert and barren environment.
Our first stop, I was already feeling the effects of both the altitude and lack of sleep. Usually I feel a little ache in my head and legs, but I was especially tired and felt the exhaustion. But we really had to push on to get to guitar lake for the night. Here was Luke, standing with the jagged ridge line behind.
And Wyatt, also with the iconic Sierra mountain range behind him.
Luke, Haley and Hanna, taking a break.
And off we went, able to see Whitney above us with just the 99 switchbacks and altitude holding us back from the summit.
Melody walking up the well marked trail toward Mount Whitney.
And it was all uphill from here. Luke and Haley ended up falling behind, there were signs of altitude sickness in Luke’s face. He did become a little pale, and we checked up on him often but we all slowly trudged on.
A little bit of snow still covering the group as we headed up the trail.
And a few of what the 99 switchbacks look like. Just straight up.
These purple wildflowers lined the walkway, flourishing from the snowmelt from a few weeks prior.
And the ruggedness of our trail, after passing the tree line.
As we headed to the split, we ended up dropping off our bags and took the quick 2 mile hike up to the peak.
Melody, headed toward Mount Whitney.
We made it! I was really tired, just making it up for a nap. But Melody was excited and ready to joke about how easy it was!
After a quick nap, and a group photo we headed back down to camp at Guitar Lake only a few more miles on the other side of the mountain.
The light came in and I had to get a few photos before sunset. Haley and Luke as we approach camp, and Haley with a little extra baggage helping out the “Men” of this trip!
And Melody, with Guitar Lake in the background.
Melody again, this time I wanted to get a bit of the clouds in the shot.
Time to setup camp, cook, eat and sleep until the next day.
Our camp, not the most organized, but when you’re exhausted and ready to pass out, I’m ok with a jumble of mess.