August 17 – Horseshoe Meadow to Cottonwood Lakes
August 18 – Mount Langley Summit
August 19 – Miter Basin
August 20 – Mount Whitney Summit
August 21 – Arctic Lake and Iceberg Lake
August 22 – Iceberg Lake to Crabtree Meadow
August 23 – Crabtree Meadow to Rock Creek
August 24 – Rock Creek to Chicken Spring Lake
August 25 – Chicken Spring Lake to Horseshoe Meadow
High mountains, including the highest in the U.S. outside of Alaska, were the theme of this trip. We summited two 14000-foot peaks on this trip. Mt. Langley was new for both of us. But both of us had already done Mt. Whitney twice, once together in 1995 when we spent the night on the summit. All other times we had approached the mountain from the west side on the John Muir Trail. This time we were going to try something different, approaching from the south, where there isn’t a trail. We spent two days after summiting seeing other sides of the mountain that we hadn’t seen before.
The trip started and ended at Horseshoe Meadow, out of Lone Pine, CA. We traveled on both sides of the Sierra Crest, crossing it at least six times. We spent parts of the trip in the Golden Trout Wilderness, John Muir Wilderness, and Sequoia National Park. All in all we covered about 50 miles over 9 days. High point was Mt. Whitney at 14494 ft. and low point was Rock Creek at 9600 feet. The trailhead was around 10000 feet.
The route followed the trail from Horseshoe Meadow to Cottonwood Lakes, where we spent our first night in view of Army Pass. We then headed over Army Pass the next day and up to the summit of Mt. Langley, which is 14042 ft. elevation. There is no official trail, but a pretty good use trail can be followed most of the way. Then we descended into Miter Basin using a much less popular route (used mostly by bighorn sheep it seems), and ascended up Miter Basin to Crabtree Pass. We skirted around the upper end of the basin containing Crabtree Lakes and up sandy Discovery Pass where we met the Mt. Whitney Trail just before Trail Crest at 13600 feet. We took the trail up to the summit of Mt. Whitney. It was here we decided to break our route after not being comfortable with what we saw on the upper part of the Mountaineer’s Route. Instead we descended the trail down to Hitchcock Lakes where we spent the night and evaluated our options for the next couple of days. We decided to head up the Arctic Lake drainage to check out the route to Wallace Creek, where we were originally planning on going after descending the mountaineer’s route to Iceberg Lake. We decided not to do the traverse over to Wallace Creek either, instead opting to head down to Iceberg Lake for the night. Next day we backtracked back down past Arctic Lake to meet the John Muir Trail near Guitar Lake. We were then pretty much back on our original plan once we reached the Pacific Crest Trail at Crabtree Meadow. We followed the trail south to Cottonwood Pass, then back to our trailhead from there.
This trip was more populated than trips of the past few years. Mt. Langley was pretty popular with around 20 people on the summit, Miter Basin was almost empty, and then of course the Whitney trail was swarming. Nobody in Arctic Lakes drainage, but a few folks at Iceberg Lake coming up from the east side. Crabtree Meadow was pretty popular, but surprisingly we saw very few people on the PCT south of there until near Cottonwood Pass. Wildlife included lots of marmots, and some squirrels and chipmunks. Weather was great again (one of these years our weather luck will end), with a storm rolling in right as we were leaving the wilderness. A major fire near Santa Barbara kept blowing smoke around the southern end of the Sierra and up the Owens Valley. It obscured our views to the east, and we smelled heavy smoke one night, but other than that didn’t impact our trip.