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July 2001 

 

Fresh from our climb of Mt. Ritter two weeks earlier, the gang (EB, Liz, Griffin and I) drove back over Tioga Pass to Highway 395, this time headed for Lone Pine and the summit of Mt. Whitney, the highest summit in the lower 48 states.  

 

On the drive in, we experienced rain from the outdoor bar at the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite (a standard stop for pre-hike bloody mary cocktails), all the way through to Bishop on the eastern slope.  Although the rain let up eventually, the clouds did not, and the forecast for Saturday -- our climb day -- was mixed at best.  Having driven seven hours to get to the teeming metropolis of Lone Pine, CA, we were disappointed that our hike could be called off due to possible thunderstorms.  Nevertheless, we woke early at our hotel in Lone Pine and hit the trailhead by 4:00 am.  Our plan was to hike up towards timberline and "take a look".  If the weather looked electrical, we would turn back.  Otherwise, we would press on.  Here is our story.

 

Note:  clicking on any photograph will present a full screen version.

Sunrise.  We started down the trail at 4am in the darkness.  There was a full moon out, but that did us little good under the dense cloud cover.  We hiked up the ridiculously twisty switchbacks above the portal until we reached the junction near Lone Pine Lake.  Unbelievably, just as we topped out above Bighorn Park at the meadow near Outpost Camp, the clouds completely lifted, giving us an incredibly colorful sunrise.

Pinnacle Ridge.  From the Lone Pine Junction, we continued up through Bighorn Park.  Walking through the desolate rubble and boulders, we experienced the strangest flat light from the combination of clouds, full moon and rising sun.  It was as though we were walking on the moon.  We stopped for breakfast at around 6am at Outpost Camp.  This shot was taken right at sunrise looking northwest up towards Pinnacle Ridge from Outpost Camp.

Outpost Camp.  A similar view up to Pinnacle Ridge taken about 10 minutes later, and you can see that although the clouds lifted to the east, the western sky still looked dark and gray.  We were gambling that the blue sky would follow us westward.  We were wrong.

Rest at Outpost Camp.  The gang (rich, griffin, eb and liz) take a breakfast break at Outpost Camp.

Thor Peak.  Continuing on up the trail, we were further encouraged by the weather.  The clouds were packed into the portal and the Owens Valley below, but the sky above was breaking clear.  This shot was taken from above Mirror Lake.  Notice the fog and clouds drifting up through the trees at the base of Thor Peak (at left).

 

Rich Above the Clouds.   Here I am above Mirror Lake, enjoying the "airplane window"-like view.  The shoulder of Thor Peak comes down behind me.

 

(Photo by Griffin Golamco)

Falls at Trailside Meadow.   Trailside Meadow just above Mirror Lake, with Lone Pine Creek spilling down.  It was at this point that we thought the clouds would not lift from the peaks.  In the background, notice the really dark clouds sitting on the ridge.

Looking back down to the Portal.   View eastward, this time from higher up -- just below Trail Camp.  Although the sky above looks promising, the clouds are definitely moving up the valley towards our position.

 

 

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