Seanr: I also enjoy running into interesting people in the mountains.
Two days before Whitney, I had hiked up to Kearsarge pass on Thurs 5/28 for a little exercise and gain some acclimatization. While I was having lunch by myself (a few inbound PCTers had taken off) and enjoying the perfect day:
a completely naked PCTer (Sunshine) comes around the corner up from Bullfrog. Without missing a beat, I remarked that "naked hiking day" wasn't until a few more weeks. Then, moments later, one of his friends showed up in the same state of nature. They both dropped their packs and put their clothes on as two more (clothed) members of their group arrived. (Turns out they had jumped in Bullfrog and were so cold they just grabbed their packs and charged the grade in order to warm up.)
We ended up chatting for awhile - the kids were all bright & personable - including some information on backcountry conditions. When I mentioned what I was doing, Sunshine & Legolas said they had climbed Whitney Mon 5/25 (ie after the weekend snow storm). They had ice axes and were pretty nonchalant - they weren't bragging, but were quietly assured. (I knew from the Portal web site that no one had summitted from the east during the the prior 2 weeks due to conditions. Our guide had been forced to turn back two weeks before @ the notch due to soft, chest high snow in the gully that completely wiped everyone out after the climb up from Iceberg.)
Anyway, they took off for the TH, and I followed shortly afterward, but peeled off to go fish Flower & Gilbert for a bit. I wasn't that interested in brookies, and since it was beginning to do the afternoon cloud up, I figured I could go run some errands and get prepped for the trip. (I also wanted to check out the Taboose TH - I hadn't been there in years and wanted to check the road conditions.) When I got to the Onion TH, there wasn't a soul around, so they had managed to get down the mountain. I grabbed a coke @ the store in Independence and pulled out to go north, and there they were in front of the courthouse trying to hitch to Bishop. I pulled over and said, ok jump on in.
To make a short story even longer, it was a beautiful afternoon drive up the 395 with even the White mountains still holding a lot of snow. The kid next to me (Legolas) was interested in the Palisades, etc, while all of them were excited to finish their re-supply and hit the trail the next day. I dropped them off @ the hostel and said good-bye. End of story.
Well, since a lot of these kids blog, it turns out Sunshine is a physics student who took the spring semester off, while Legolas is in medical school and was cramming in just the section between Walker & Sonora pass. The reason they were able to do Whitney in tough (trail) conditions is because they have experience hiking, running & climbing in snow:
Dragontail Peak, on a 19 mile mountain run through The Enchantments in Leavenworth, WA.
Legolas - hike gone bad, but safely recovered
http://mountainlessons.com/mountaineeri ... on-attempt