Guyot-Young-Hale 2018 3.5 days, 36 miles, 9,798’ ascent, 13,231’ descent

This summer I spent three weeks doing off-trail routes where I only managed to climb a few peaks. It is now the middle of October, the first light snow has melted, sunny days are forecasted, and I need to escape Los Angeles, so I head out for a semi-aggressive trail-based trip to hit several peaks in the Whitney high country, starting at Horseshoe Meadows, going over Cottonwood Pass, following the PCT, and then the JMT over Whitney Col and down to Whitney Portal.

The view from the Lone Pine ranger station is always a good barometer of conditions; clear with no snow or smoke. I can’t wait to get up there.


The road up to Horseshoe Meadows has always struck me as a rather brutal incision in the hill. Efficient but perhaps indefensible.

Yellow aspens are a feature of September and early October trailheads; it is now late enough in October that much of the vegetation now takes on a darker golden hue.

Cottonwood Pass. The temperature is 21 degrees, and the wind is 35 mph. My wind chill calculator figures the effective temperature to be 1.5 degrees. Even with my shoulder-season thicker gloves and the buff I wear over my face, there is some pain.

Oh yeah, even in the middle of the day, water collection becomes an issue. I regularly have to break ice to get water.

The photos need no adjustment; on a sunny day in October the light is less intense and more colorful than the summer.


First stop- Mt Guyot, 12,283’, a class 2, 1 mile, 1,400 ‘ ascent off the PCT.

There are some larger rocks at the top and a few false summits.

The day is clear and the views are great. The Kern Canyon looks impressive.

Off to the northeast, it is all there: Whitney, Muir, and my next two peak destinations, Mt Young and Mt. Hale.


View looking back at Guyot as I travel north on the PCT.

I make it to the west end of Timberline Lake, which situates me away from the other Whitney-bound hikers and in good position for the morning ascent.

DAY 3: Timberline Lake. I gather water from the stream, but must still crack ice to get it. The night is bloody cold and windy, and convinces me that my notion of spending the next evening up on Mt. Whitney is ill-advised.

The first person on the trail gets to see the most animals.

I walk to the base of Mt. Young, but wait until the sun comes out to climb, as it is just too cold and unpleasant. My day will be long: climb 2,300’ up to Mt. Young and Mt. Hale, drop 2,307’ to Guitar lake, climb up another 2,224’ to Whitney Col, and then down another 1,500’ to Trail Camp.

The dots show the prominent mountains that are part of the trip and view. From left: Young, Hale, Russel, Whitney, Muir. Two years ago I failed reaching the summit of Russel, and I still carry some trauma over the experience. I also failed climbing Muir the last 50 feet, and had considered a second go this time, as I will pass close by it. However, several internet posts about Muir confirm my previous sentiments; it has some class 4-worthy exposure, and the last part of the ascent is variously described as “spicy”, “saucy”, and “stiff”. Alright, I will return with a rope next time.

The scree is reasonably firm going up Young.

Interesting rocks near the summit of Young.

The summit.

Best view of the giants on the trip, right to left: Whitney, then Russel-Carillon Pass, Russel, Morgenson, and then the last peak on the left is my next destination, Mt. Hale, 13,494.’ Curiously, the hut on Whitney is not visible even at this height vantage.

The register has not seen much traffic. Bob Burd’s ascents are well known on the internet.

Next up, Mt. Hale, 13',494’. Awesome day.

Oddly precarious rock.

View north, Tyndall, Barnard, Trojan and Williamson.

Up to Hale.

The register on Hale, with Morgenson and Russel in background.

Only seven entries this year.

I drop to Guitar Lake, it is 4 pm, and I contemplate climbing another 3 miles and 2,200’ before the sun sets at 6:30. I don’t want to get stuck at the top, so it will be an all or nothing effort to go over and down to Trail Camp. I fuel with Tang, Snickers and maltodextrin and charge up.

Yes, it is cold and the temperature is dropping.

I make it to trail crest and feel good.

I stop to put on all the clothes I brought, the sun sets, and temperature drops super-fast.

The 1,500’ descent to Trail Camp is nearly all snow/ice, but is nicely diced up by all the micro spikes that passed by that day.

DAY 4: From trail camp I see the endless procession of Whitney hikers climbing up the hill to the left, all through the night and starting around 5 the next morning. I take off on the long descent to Whitney Portal.

On the drive home I visit Pearsonville, the “Hub Cap Capital of the World”. My lady friend is still there but could use some TLC.