Dan's Outside

I go, I see, I do, I walk, I think, I like…

Closing a Circle on Mt. Whitney Comments

At the risk of a dangerous level of inter-blog circular referencing…

Tom Mangan (Two-Heel Drive) posted an excerpt from and comment on a recent post of mine about climbing Mt. Whitney from the west, in which he wrote:

Possible disadvantage: after a week in the High Sierra, you’ll wonder why you bothered to summit Whitney. It’s not like it’s the only place with a good view.

Indeed!

As much as Whitney is a very high place with wonderful panoramic views and is the object of many hikers, I would certainly not call it my favorite place in the Sierra… in fact, not even my second-favorite place. As far a peak climbing goes, my climb of nearby Mt. Langley actually made a much bigger impression on me.

And, as Tom has apparently figured out, on each of my Mt. Whitney From the West adventures the approach was much more memorable than summiting the peak. In fact, on one of the two trips the descent was more memorable… but that’s a story for another time.

On my second Long March to Mt. Whitney, we came from Onion Valley via Kearsarge and Forrester Passes. One minor goal for me on this trip was to hike across a very short section of the Muir Trail that I had somehow missed on several other journeys in the area – the section between Tyndall and Wallace Creeks. (How I missed it is also a long story… and also for another time.)

For some reason, as I considered this section of the trail during the years when I had yet to hike it, I imagined it being one of those sort of boring “gotta’ go there to get between the interesting places” trails.

Boy, was I wrong! It is hard to identify the precise causes, but from time to time in the backcountry you have moments when everything simply comes together and every painful grind up a pass or soggy afternoon spent plodding in the rain is forgotten because the present moment is so good and you feel so connected. I had one of those moments on the high point of this section of the JMT near Tawny Point. I remember the feeling more than the specific details, but I do recall dropping my pack, almost without thinking about it, and simply heading up a nearby low ridge to soak up the panorama.

And even though I summitted Whitney a few days later, this hour spent near the JMT at Tawny Point is way higher on my list of memorable Sierra moments.
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October 29, 2006 - Posted by | Commentary

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