Leaving Santa Barbara at 5:00 a.m we arrive in Lone Pine just before 9:00. After a quick stop at the visitor center for a permit, we head up the Whitney trail. This part of the trail is warm and dusty, crowded with people making their way up to Lone Pine Lake. Feeling the usual impatience to be high on the mountain, I push the pace a bit but M is far ahead of me.
Above Lone Pine Lake, we enter the Whitney Zone. The crowds drop away; I can hear a marmot's high pitched whistle from the rocks above the trail.
The meadow below Outpost Camp is strikingly beautiful; my feet dance a little on the trail. Seeking safe passage, I add a stone to the others in the Yoni beside the trail.
Mirror Lake (10,640) is the last of the 'easy' section - after this, the trail climbs steeply. Above the treeline, I am feeling the altitude now - every step an effort.
M is waiting at Trailside Meadow (11,400) where the trail is lost under an enormous wall of snow and ice. Despite wearing cropped yoga pants and an ancient pair of trail runners, I am (foolishly) in favor of post-holing up the wall - "just to see what's up there". We confab. M mentions a study that supposedly proves that bare hands, plunged into the snow for 2 minutes, will feel pain equal to that of childbirth. Having experienced childbirth twice I am somewhat sceptical.
Fortunately, we then realize the trail actually ascends through the rocks to our right, away from the suicidal wall. But only for a short distance. A second wall of snow and ice turns us back just below Trail Camp; a thunderstorm is gathering and by now my head is pounding relentlessly from the altitude (12,000)
Then back to my room at the Dow Villa, where a towel packed with ice and wrapped around my head finally brings relief.