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The alarm went off at midnight. Although we barely slept a wink, it was time to crawl out of our warm and cozy sleeping bags. No one was in the mood for a small chat while packing, thanks to lack of sleep and chilly air. In half an hour we were ready for one of the most anticipated moments on this 9-day backcountry excursion – ascending Mt. Whitney in the dark to catch the sunrise at the summit. The full moon lit the trail, and we hardly depended on the headlamps. Before reaching Trail Crest, we saw a string of headlamp lights slowly snaking up the trail all the way from Guitar Lake. We left our heavy packs at the crest, as most JMT’ers do, and continued our ascend carrying sleeping bag, seat pad and snacks for breakfast only. When reaching the summit at 4:15 am, we were the first ascending that morning, according to the register. While the sunrise was still about 1 ½ hours away, the harrowing wind was almost unbearable. So, we hurtled into the summit hut without hesitation. Inside we were greeted by three backpackers who had spent the night. We were told that they had finished the thru hike the day before but decided to spend the night there to catch the sunrise. Out the window we saw a glimpse of the sunglow start seeping through the thick layer of clouds hanging just above Inyo Mountains. We promptly marched out of the hut and found a spot near the edge of the summit cliff. While bundled up in our sleeping bags, we patiently waited. And as promised, Lone Pine in Owens Valley was slowly waking up again as the sun rose over the clouds never seemingly dissipating.

Inyo National Forest, CA

  • Canon EOS 5D Mark III
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM
  • 35mm / 2.5 sec at ƒ/22 / ISO 100
  • Taken 8/19/2016

© 2017 H Peter Ji


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