Sunday, July 19, 2009

Mt. Whitney - The Summit

This post is a continuation of Mt.Whitney - Day 2

When I finally reached the summit, I heaved a huge sigh of relief. Without stopping to read signboards or exchange pleasantries with other hikers, I rushed straight to the rocky ledge at the extreme end of the summit to soak in the incredible vista. It is not very common to see a 360 degree panorama of snow clad peaks, but here in the Eastern Sierra, the view was simply magnificent. The air was still, there was not even a speck of cloud in the clear blue sky and visibility extended for miles. In some ways, I felt the weather was making up with me for being so harsh the previous night. Elevated above the mean world below, I felt I was in an ethereal world in the company of sublime rocky peaks.

However, after few minutes of this bliss, my excitement quickly evaporated. Firstly, I was not the only one on the summit; there were atleast 15 other people and quite a few with grey hair. This was a grim reminder that my achievement was in no way extraordinary. Secondly, there was cell phone coverage at the top of the mountain. This completely squashed my wilderness experience. On most trips like these, I pride myself on shutting myself completely out of the mundane world – news/email/phone and everything else. The constant chatter of people and the occasional ringing of phones was symbolic of how technology and humans have obliterated the concept of “wilderness”. I even overheard an idiot talking to his chiropractor about his appointment in LA.

Lastly, it dawned upon me that my task was only half done. I still had to descend 11 steep miles before daylight fades away. I tried to convince my friends to shorten the scheduled break at the summit and head back, but to no avail. After taking a few pictures of my friends, and gleefully posing in a few others, I resigned myself to an extended halt and settled on a rock to take a power nap. When my friends had satiated their eyes and camera lenses with the outstanding scenery, we all sat down for a lunch. Here, I regained my appetite on some really tasty cilantro jalapeno hummus, courtesy Trader Joe's. At 14,500’ even plain bread tasted great!

The 11 mile descent to the bottom was completed rather uneventfully and in a much hurried fashion. Our first major halt was at the trail camp to pack all our belongings and head further below. We were relieved to find that the marmots and chipmunks had left all our equipment untampered, and more importantly they did not pee on our sleeping bags :) Once packed, we made a swift descent to the finish. In all, it took us about 7 hours to descend the 6300 ft, but we were in town before sunset.

Looking back, the entire trip was very unique. I went in completely unprepared. For most part of the trip, I wasn’t super thrilled, worst at times, it was frustrating and very strenuous. At most times, I didn’t feel anything special about this trip at all! However, when the dust finally settled, and I started revisiting the moments, and the trip started growing on me. It was definitely more strenuous than my half marathon effort or the hike to the bottom of Grand Canyon in 100F. We had been on the trail trail for 34 hours, hiking for about 15 of those 34 hours!

Having visited the Sierras before, I was pleasantly surprised by the breathtaking scenery. As I look back at the pictures, I cherish this trip evenmore. By the time we had finally made our way to the humdrum of Los Angeles, everyone in the group acknowledged it to be a very memorable trip. Like an aging wine, this trip feels better with every passing day. Today, I no longer revisit the trip as a checkmark, but rather as a very special experience.

The END.


Gautam said...

Nice.. Kind of in lines of Jeffrey Archer's latest book. Any links to Pics?

Point 5 said...

Hey Gautam..thanks..ya..I'll post the link to pics soon