Mount Whitney and Forester Pass

Three days after entering the Sierras from Kennedy Meadows, we camped out at the base of Mount Whitney at Guitar Lake (11,500 ft). The next morning at 5:20am, we climbed approximately 3,000 feet over 4.6 miles to the summit of Mount Whitney (14,405 ft). This is the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States. It was Day 36 and I was about to conquer this cloud-piercing mountain.

Rabbit and I lucked out having the summit completely to ourselves. We made it to the top at 8:00am, taking 2 hours and 40 minutes to make the ascent. After signing the logbook at the top and taking some above-the-cloud pictures, we began our descent at 8:30am, making our way back to camp at Guitar Lake in 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Climbing this amazing California peak was my second blue-blaze sidetrip since starting the trail on May 14th, the first being San Jacinto peak near Idylwild. Mount Whitney serves as a junction for the John Muir Trail, which the PCT actually shares all the way to Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park. There were numerous JMTers as well as PCTers summiting shortly after I made it down to the bottom.

After climbing Mount Whitney, we broke camp and hiked over the snow-covered Forester Pass that same day. This was no small task! This involved a lot of boulder-hopping, post-holing, and what we have come to call “marmot-blazing,” whereby a hiker cuts switchbacks down a mountain due to snow and ice barricading the trail. Glissading is also another technique employed by us amateur mountaineers to descend down the snowy mountains on our hind parts.

Taking one cautious step at a time on the ice-slicken Sierra cement, Rabbit and I made it over the saddle and down to the lush paradise of Kings Canyon on the other side full of green mountain meadows, refreshing waterfalls, and endless alpine lakes. The top of Forester Pass (13,124 ft) serves as the boundary marking the exit of Sequoia National Park and the entry into Kings Canyon. This was to be the first of many mountain passes to complete the Sierra section of the PCT.

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