Ascent of Mount Whitney on 2003-06-18

Climber: Patrick Shannon

Others in Party:Luna
Special Agent
Date:Wednesday, June 18, 2003
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Whitney
    Elevation:14498 ft / 4418 m

Ascent Trip Report

From my 2003 PCT Trail Journal (

2:10 a.m. - I am crazy. What on earth am I doing up right now, getting ready to climb the highest mountain in the lower 48 states in the dark? What was I thinking? To make matters worse, Special Agent woke me up two minutes early! I tried to reason with him that I needed my last two minutes of sleep, but he would hear none of it and said that no deals were going to be made here. I feel so cheated! Oh well, got to pack up.

2:30 a.m. - All packed and ready to go. It is dark, it is cold, and I am crazy.

4:58 a.m. - I am on top of the world! Okay, maybe not, but to be on top of the contiguous United States is still pretty incredible. We had to rush, but we made it just in time for sunrise. This is awesome!

6:00 a.m. - What an amazing sunrise! I think I have taken an entire roll of film since being up here. The sun rose bright red and slowly shone over all the mountains I can see from here. The lower mountains to the east were nothing but silhouettes. As the sun rose higher, Mt. Whitney cast a shadow in the sky to the west. It was very cool to see. Along with Luna, Special Agent, Leprechaun, and me, were Jason and Amy, a couple on the trail that joined us for the sunrise. They camped up here at the summit last night. What an incredible morning! A little later, Ender and Filthy from the Ewoks showed up. Pretty soon I will start heading down again to meet the rest of the clan.

The hike up wasn't bad at all. We lost the trail a couple of times early in the climb and had some snow to cross, but the moon was bright, and for the most part, the trail was obvious. We hustled the last mile and a half when we saw how light the eastern horizon was through the ridge.

It was 30 degrees when we got up here, so, needless to say, I was chilly. The wind isn't bad, though, so now that I have all my clothes on and am in my sleeping bag, I'm nice and toasty!

Evening - What a day! I am exhausted enough that lifting my fingers to type seems to take more energy than I can muster right now. It was such an amazing day, though, so I'm going to give it a shot anyway.

After writing my journal entry on top of Whitney this morning, I got my sleeping bag and pad out, and took a nap right there on top of the mountain. The ten or so other hikers up there did the same. When I got up a little over an hour later, it was quite comical to see sleeping bags strewn about the peak of the highest mountain in the lower 48 states! I started down the mountain to meet the group that was starting at dawn. I actually didn't get as far down as I had expected before I reached them. Potato Picker and Navigator were nearly to the top, and Chance wasn't far behind. Just a little futher down trail were Teatree and The One making their way up. I joined them for the last half a mile or so back to the peak. It was very cool to be with both of them as Teatree overcame her fear and as The One worked through the physical struggles of being sick and having asthma. Everybody at Guitar Lake last night made it to the peak, which was great to see.

I had some more granola bars on top and rested. I even went to the bathroom in the highest toilet in the United States (considering it is right out in the open, it probably has the best view of any toilet in the country as well)! Then, just as we were packing up to leave, we all got a surprise.

I met Jason and Amy for the first time in Kennedy Meadows. I had heard from other hikers that they were very cool people and I should get to know them. At the barbecue on the second night at Kennedy Meadows, I had a long talk with them about various outdoor activities. They were very interested in my orienteering and letterboxing. I have talked to them a couple times since.

The past couple of days, Jason had been hinting about this big thing he was going to do on top of Whitney, but he wouldn't tell anyone what. Just as everyone was packing up, Jason pulled Amy away from the group and talked to her for a few minutes. Various ideas had been floating around among the hikers, and somehow everyone knew that this was the moment. Though some had guessed it (Special Agent for one), Jason's secret became clear to everyone else when he pulled the ring out and presented it to Amy. What a cool place to propose! She said yes, thank goodness. Wouldn't that have been an awkward moment!

After congratulating the now engaged couple, we all started down the mountain in the early afternoon. I hiked with Special Agent, The One, and Teatree. It wasn't long before my high from yesterday and this morning ended with a crash. I suddenly could barely put one foot in front of the other! I think this may be the first time ever when I felt more exhausted coming down a mountain than going up!

Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:2898 ft / 883 m
    Distance:12 mi / 19.3 km
    Route:John Muir Trail
    Trailhead:Guitar Lake  11600 ft / 3535 m
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Snow on Ground
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Cool, Calm, Clear
Ascent Part of Trip: Pacific Crest Trail 2003

Complete Trip Sequence:
1San Jacinto Peak2003-05-09
2Mount Baden-Powell2003-05-22
3Mount Jenkins2003-06-09
4Owens Peak2003-06-09
5Mount Whitney2003-06-18
6Half Dome2003-07-01
12Mount McLoughlin2003-08-20
14Mount Thielsen2003-08-25
15South Sister2003-08-30

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