Day 13 - August 23rd
Was it worth to watch Sunrise at the tallest summit in the contiguous lower 48 states? YES!
Today is the day! We both had a decent sleep and was quite awake at midnight. The full moon at 11,000ft was not that bad either. We broke down our tents, had breakfast/coffee and were ready to summit around 2am. We planned to be at Summit around 5 am. We gave ourself plenty of time to hike 4 miles with 2500ft in total darkness. We were already seeing the little tiny shining headlights from hikers moving up along the trail. Hiking at night at such a high altitude was the experience of the lifetime that I would not ever forget. I particularly was so bumped up to reach the summit. All my concerns about altitude sickness went away. I did not experience any altitude sickness symptoms. I have been at Whitney Summit 10 years ago. I did not have issue on the way up but did have headache and started to feel nausea on the way down. I guess going SOBO did help since most of the hike during the last few days was over 10,000ft. This might give me enough time to acclimate.
We arrived at the summit around 5am. It was very cold. I was surprised to see a few hikers spending the night in the shelter (Whitney Hut) which they were not allowed. We decided to blow my whistle (10th time) to celebrate our summit but hoping that we did not wake them up. I had four layers on me but they barely kept me warm. I did not feel my fingers after awhile. I was not sure why but i did not want to take out my quilt to keep myself warm. I guessed the excitement for waiting to watch the sunrise made you forgot your discomfort. People was questioned about what was the point of watching the sunrise at Mtn Whitney. I did not know what my answer would be but I knew now. It was well worth it. We hiked over 200 miles to get here and if the opportunity for us to climb to the highest peak in the lower 48 states and watched the sunrise was one of the lifetime experience, we should do it. The photos that we took did not disappointed us. Something about watching sunrise and sunset that mesmerized us all. Watching Sunrise on top of Mtn Whitney is a must do!
The official JMT at the Southern terminus is at Mtn Whitney mile 210.5. We now descended more than 6,000ft with 11 miles down to get to Whitney Portal where Cyndi parked her car two weeks ago. Hiking down to Whitney Portal was pleasant. We met a lot of hikers which their solely objective was to climb Mtn Whitney. They were surprised that we came down so early but they did not know that we had been on JMT for the last 13 days. One lady complimented me that I looked so "fresh" and "happy". In a way I was since I rarely wore my convertible pants for the last 13 days so my pants looked so new. I guess i was so happy and cheerful because i just accomplished something that i want to do for so many years ago.
A burger and french fries was the favorite Lunch for us at Whitney Portal store. We have been eating out of our ziploc bags with freeze dried food for the last 12 days so greasy Burger/Fries sounded heaven to us! The plan was to drive up to Tuolumne Meadows to access the fire situation and figuring out how to hike the first section of the JMT that we missed due to Ferguson fire. We stopped by Long Pine Supermarket to buy food for breakfast and to carry with us for tomorrow's hike. We ran out of food! We arrived at Tuolumne Meadows Wilderness Office just after 5pm so it was close. All campgrounds in Yosemite Valley were full. Everything went so smooth for the last 13 days, we began to think maybe today everything would go wrong! The only available campground was at Tuolumne Meadows. We decided to drive over the campground, stayed there for the night and drove to the Valley to start our hike early in the morning. Unfortunately the Park Office campground also closed. Luckily the campground caretaker told us to go ahead and camp. We could pay tomorrow when the office open at 8am. So the plan of early hike tomorrow from the Valley was no longer work. We told ourself to be flexible for this long journey. Today was the day to be very flexible. We got this far and we wanted to finish the entire JMT. We both went to bed early for much needed a good sleep since we were up at midnight the day before. Tomorrow would be a longest hike but also excited because we would finish where we started at - Tuolumne Meadows!
Happy ending! Oh way....we have to drive back to Yosemite for some more hiking!