Finishing the John Muir Trail: Days 13 & 14

wiped out JMT

Chris and I hiked over 200 miles on the John Muir Trail and we’re telling the story through video, photos and written posts. This is the conclusion of our 14 day journey. Click here to read about the beginning of the trip: Day 1 on the John Muir Trail. Keep reading this article to hear our story of finishing the John Muir Trail.

Day 13: Forester Pass to Guitar Lake

The morning of Day 13 we woke up south of Forester Pass in a big valley above tree line. We were pretty exposed but made it through the night with very little wind. I hear Paul say, “Wow. Guys we’ve got to get going, there is a huge storm building up.”

I crawled out of my tent to find dark clouds covering the canyon to the east. The clouds appeared to be building up for what looked like a nasty storm. We packed everything up quickly and left camp without taking time to make a hot breakfast. I needed to eat my Cliff bars anyways, they’re heavier than the oatmeal packets.

Finishing the John Muir Trail

We had climbed our final pass the previous day and had a relatively easy day ahead of us. We dropped about 1,000 feet to Wallace Creek then up to around 11,500 feet for Guitar Lake. The trees in this area were huge and following the creek up to Timberline Lake and Guitar Lake was beautiful.

I knew we were so close to finishing this adventure and it felt really good. It had been over 2 weeks since I left my home and I was looking forward to seeing my family and taking it easy. The end was so near.

 JMT trees

We arrived at Guitar Lake by 1pm with 13.5 miles covered. We picked a nice campsite with views of the lake then Chris and I headed down to the water for a swim. The storm we saw in the morning never materialized but the skies were mostly cloudy in the afternoon. Since this was the last campsite, I jumped in the lake without hesitation. The water was cold but refreshing. I washed my clothing and sat by the lake hoping for more sunshine to warm us up.

Guitar Lake

Guitar Lake from Above

We enjoyed a long afternoon and evening of relaxing around the lake and the campsite. We knew that civilization was just on the other side of Mount Whitney. We went to bed early knowing that we had to start early the next morning to summit Whitney before the afternoon thunderstorms would arrive.

Day 14: Guitar Lake, Mount Whitney and Whitney Portal

At 4:30 am the alarm went off. I reluctantly crawled out of the tent and started packing up. It was cold and foggy. We could see a line of headlamps winding their way up the switchbacks and we knew we had to get moving.

Out of camp we climbed through a rock filled landscape. There was just enough light to hike without the headlamp but it was still dark, cold and dreary. We reached the trail crest as it started to rain. The sign told me I was only 8.5 miles from the Whitney Portal and I was excited about finishing this journey, but first we had to climb the final 2 miles to the summit of Mount Whitney.

Mount Whitney Trail

We passed a group of Boy Scouts, put on our rain jackets then pushed on to the summit. Everybody was leaving their backpacks at the Trail Crest but I’d been carrying mine for almost 200 miles so I decided I might as well drag it to the summit.

The trail zig-zagged past rocky cliffs. As the boulders got larger so did the rain drops. Then as we arrived at the summit the rain turned into snow. I laughed about how the snow added a dramatic effect for the official ending of a long hike.

Mount Whitney Summit

We took some summit photos then I dug to the bottom of my backpack to retrieve my gloves for their very first use on this journey. There is a small hut at the summit of Mount Whitney. We went in to get warm for a few minutes. Soon the Boy Scouts arrived and the hut was standing room only. With that our long descent to Whitney Portal began.

To reach the parking lot at Whitney Portal you have to drop 6,000 in just 10 miles. We quickly climbed down to Trail Crest then headed for the Whitney Portal. The weather cleared up a little and I was feeling really good about being so close to finished. The three of us were singing songs, hooting and hollering and walking very fast down the tight switchbacks.

This party atmosphere quickly stopped as it started to rain harder than before and the miles started to catch up with my sore feet. We continued on knowing we were so close to the end. After hours of hiking I spotted a parking lot in the distance. Soon my drenched body had pushed all the way to Whitney Portal.

John Muir Sign

We’d hiked over 200 miles, seen amazing sights and successful made it into Lone pine without any serious injuries. It was a success. We had pushed our limits and finished the John Muir Trail. We had a warm and dry hotel waiting for us and soon enough we’d be eating dinner at a restaurant.

Did you catch the whole story?

Days 1-3
Days 4-6
Days 7-9
Days 10-12

Coming soon: Final Thoughts on the John Muir Trail

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Andy Hawbaker
Andy is a hiker, backpacker, snowboarder and outdoor fanatic. When he isn't exploring the Rocky Mountains with his wife and daughters he shares his adventures here on the Sierra SocialHub.

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