John Muir Trail- Tyndall Creek to Guitar Lake
Mileage- 10.7 miles
Elevation Gain- 2477 feet
Elevation Loss- 2036 feet
Our seventh day on the John Muir Trail in California was supposed to be our “light” day, as our itinerary had us traveling from Tyndall Creek to Crabtree Meadow and only covering 8.6 miles and just under 1600 feet of elevation. But, ever the group to ALWAYS finish our trips a day (or two) early, we recalculated and decided to make our final destination for the day Guitar Lake. By going to Guitar Lake we were making the decision to summit Whitney the next morning and hike out in the same day, which would make our last day close to sixteen miles. But we were feeling grizzled and chiseled and felt confident in our ability to travel 27 miles and conquer 6500 feet of altitude two days! Ha! There were certainly many pros and cons to this idea, but as a group we believed the pros certainly outweighed the cons. And it is a really funny thing how not being able to talk to family for eight days motivates a person. We each had tried throughout the previous week to get a signal, but we never could get one. I believe that each of us just wanted to phone home and let everyone know that we were all doing great and to let them know that we love them. So we pressed on to Guitar Lake this day… and it was a glorious day.
I know I regularly make this claim and I feel like I really mean it when I say it, but this next section of trail is one of my favorites of any trip. Of course at the very top of my list are Fifty Mountain in Glacier, this sweet spot on the Escalante Route before Hance Creek in the Grand Canyon, a day hike spot on a mountain in Denali, and Mt. Eielson summit in Denali, but I have to add this section to the list. After climbing out of the boulders and sequoias and passing Tawny Point to the east, the Bighorn Plateau is a very special place. It has the appearance of a desert with yellow scrub that almost perfectly matches the ground beneath it, all perfectly complementing the spacious blue skies. I stopped in this vast, open area and just took it all in. There was this tiny little pond completely out of place, but adding perfectly to the completeness of the area. I loved this area for many reasons, most of them aesthetic, but there were so many subjective reasons I loved it as well. I could stand in a single spot, turn 360 degrees, and it was perfect all the way around. You can even see Whitney towering above everything else in the distance. This is one spot where I shot some video as well.
From Bighorn Plateau the trail descends below the treeline, where there are some pretty magnificent Sequoias, and makes it’s way down to the junction with the High Sierra Trail. It’s at this point where the High Sierra Trail joins the John Muir Trail to the top of Whitney. It is also at this point where you will be at the lowest elevation (10,435) before summiting Mt. Whitney. It’s all pretty much up from here. The remaining trail to Guitar Lake took us over diverse terrain and a series of ups and downs. Even seven days into this hike we are still captivated by the beauty of the Sierras. Any direction we look could easily be a masterpiece hanging on a wall. It’s funny as this particular day wore on how we kind of fell into this “hiker’s delusion,” that every turn we would make or every ridge we would approach had Guitar Lake on the other side of it. Maybe we were tired and just ready to set up camp and get on with our evening routines. Or, maybe it was our anticipation of summiting Whitney early the next morning. Either way we just wanted to be at Guitar Lake. With everything we heard about it and everything we read about it, we were excited to see this lake sitting at 11,500 feet. It certainly did not let us down. I included some video below that I took while lying on the grass by the lake. I think I may have fallen asleep there after I shot the video.
The next day would be our eighth and biggest day… summiting Mt. Whitney and exiting at Whitney Portal.