Mt Whitney Summit from Crabtree Meadows Past Guitar Lake – John Muir Trail, Day 13

  • Day13/13
  • Distance (miles)18.4
  • Final SummitMt Whitney
  • Summit Elevation (ft.)14,495

As I woke up at 4:00 am, I knew today was going to be an incredible day. Don and I plan to summit Mt Whitney before noon to avoid getting caught in a thunderstorm. We had a good breakfast and hot coffee to fuel our bodies. We’re both feeling strong and motivated today.

From Crabtree Meadows, we hit the trail and were making quick work of the hike to the summit as we passed Guitar Lake. The threat of a thunderstorm leaves us little time to truly appreciate the views from the trail.

Hiking to Guitar Lake from Crabtree Meadows.
Hiking to Guitar Lake from Crabtree Meadows

Mt Whitney’s Summit

That changed once we hit Mt Whitney’s Summit. Standing there on top of the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states looking out from 14,495 feet was amazing. The vast and beautiful landscape was an inspiring sight to behold. Taking a moment to reflect on the past 13 days and 210 miles of our journey on the John Muir Trail, I felt an immense sense of gratitude for all the experiences we had on the trail, the physical and mental challenges we faced, and the amazing people we met along the way.

Standing on top of Mt Whitney looking east.
Me and Don looking east from Mt Whitney (14, 495′)

Soon, however, storm clouds started to gather, and we knew it was time to head down to Mt Whitney Portal to end our adventure. We still had one problem to solve before we left this mountain, though – we needed a ride from the portal parking lot back into Lone Pine where my truck was parked.

But Don had a plan. He had been plotting for the last two weeks and saw his opportunity when we passed a group of three women on our way down. Without hesitation, he asked if they would mind helping us out with a ride. They were initially reluctant but quickly gave in. Who could pass on giving a couple of homeless-looking, unshaven, smelly backpackers a ride?

Dramatic skies above the summit of Mt Whitney.
Dramatic skies above the summit of Mt. Whitney

Mt Whitney Summit to Lone Pine

The storm finally hit when we were about halfway down to the portal. First, a flash of lightning, followed by a loud clap of thunder. We even caught a few minutes of hail before it turned into a cold downpour. We made it back to the parking lot before the storm broke and the skies were starting to clear.

The five of us piled into a small Acura sedan, with Don and I basking in the glory of an air-conditioned ride. An hour later, we arrived back at my truck, parked at the Lone Pine Golf Course where we had left it 13 days earlier.

Strangers truly are amazing. The three women who gave us a ride were kind and generous, and we were immensely grateful for their help. Within minutes, Don and I found ourselves sitting inside an empty Mexican restaurant in Lone Pine, ordering a beer and reminiscing about our incredible adventure.

The chips, salsa, and guacamole tasted like magic, and as I eagerly awaited my burrito, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. Life was good.

Looking Back on our JMT Backpacking Trip

The journey on the John Muir Trail was a remarkable experience that tested us both physically and mentally. But with the right perseverance and determination, we were able to conquer each challenge along the way and reach the summit of Mt. Whitney. From Happy Isles in Yosemite to summiting Mt Whitney today, the memories we made and the people we met along the way will stay with me forever.

Campers sitting around playing a game of cards.
Hiking the John Muir Trail. Don (left), Matt, Mark, and Alan (Right)

For anyone considering hiking the JMT, or any section of it, or summiting Mt Whitney, I highly recommend it. The stunning scenery, physical challenges, and sense of accomplishment are truly unmatched. What an adventure it has been!

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