I woke up with a pressing need to urinate, as usual, stood up, found a tree, then grabbed my bear can from the locker and jumped right back in my bivy, making breakfast and eating it in the warmest conditions available. Yes, my bag and bivy have a little food smell around them, but if that hasn't accumulated anyway over 760 miles, I'd be very surprised. It was worth the minimal risk just to be warm. Just as I was finishing up, Charlie (Navigator) exited his tent and took a similar walk. He also disappeared back into his tent, and Carol (Pit Stop) emerged a few minutes later. She walked over and said that Charlie had been dizzy and lightheaded all night, and had nearly fallen when standing up. He's the kind of guy who will suffer in silence until a problem is too big to ignore, so this worried us both. Elevation seemed most likely, though other theories included inner ear/sinus issues, blood pressure drop due to his meds (which may have become unnecessary at a sustained elevation of 10k or so), or a pinched nerve in his neck, since there seemed to be a correlation between lying on his right side and the symptoms in the night. Regardless, I decided to stick with them until the issue could be resolved; I could run for help or assist Carol if necessary. I'd brought eight days of food, anyway, since I wasn't sure of my own altitude tolerance, so I was in no danger of running out if it took an extra day or two. And this is why plans are fluid, man.
To be honest, I have no problem taking a little extra time in this beautiful area. I walked a mile and a half to Rock Creek ranger station, left a note for assistance, returned to camp, then hiked fairly slowly (for Charlie, who was still ahead of us even with these symptoms) up a couple of passes with them to Crabtree Meadow. Water is everywhere up here in comparison to all the trail behind me. Deer were grazing as we entered the clearing. I hiked packless and in my sandals up the mile and a half creekside trail to the Crabtree ranger station and left a note there as well. On my way, Pockets and Hugs were gutting a lovely golden trout they'd just pulled from the river on a segmented Japanese fly rod. I'd like to pick one of those up immediately! Gods how I miss fishing. I asked the girls (Pockets and Hugs) if they'd teach me how to use a fixed line fly rod and they seemed excited to show me if we ever get the chance.
Back at camp, Charlie was feeling alright, so we planned to all hike slowly to Tyndall Creek tomorrow, then get him over Forester Pass the next day, since, at 13,200', it is the lowest elevation exit point for us now. Cottonwood Pass is too many miles back to be an option. If all goes well, we will take the Onion Trail through Kearsarge Pass to Independence the following day. Hopefully one of the rangers will respond in the meantime and get him something for the altitude sickness.
Now, I am watching seven deer and an equal number of marmots spread themselves over this huge meadow. Through the bivy mesh, there is just enough distortion to wonder if I'm watching young bucks or mule deer with very large ears. The creek is rushing below me, filled with colorful fingerling golden trout. Stark outcroppings surrounding Whitney backdrop the whole diorama, and I will try tomorrow to take a picture that can do this place justice. My only wish at the moment is that I could be enjoying this place under better circumstances. It is wonderful, but I am worried about my friend.