The sunset shadow of Mount Whitney drapes for miles across grey talus fields that descend into mossy stair step alpine meadows. When moonlight ices over the last traces of warm red hue, Whitney’s massive east face towers in silver above, a frozen slab of vertical granite that shrinks you smaller than a star against the black night sky. Nowhere in the continental United States does a peak rise higher, and nowhere does the brushstroke of the Milky Way stand as bright against the universe’s canvas. Yet, somewhere in the breath, the echo or the vast silence of the place, even a blind man would not mistake that he stood in the presence of a monster.
Our goal was the summit via the historic East Face route, which, astonishingly, was first climbed in 1931. Though not difficult by today’s standards, the route is known for circuitous route finding, breathtaking exposure and, of course, climbing above 14,000 feet.
But before any of that, you have to get to the base.
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